19-year old Russian Daniil Kvyat has earned his FIA Super Licence, and is therefore permitted to race in Formula One. Kvyat drove a two-year old Toro Rosso car in Italy last Friday in order to gain the experience required before a Super Licence can be issued.
One of the ways a driver can earn a Super Licence is by driving at least 300km in fairly recent Formula One machinery. Kvyat covered just over 400km by completing 102 laps of the Misano circuit in Italy, which gives him more than the required experience. His Super Licence has thus been issued. In evaluating Kvyat’s Super Licence application, the FIA will also have taken into account his other racing experience – Kvyat recently won the 2013 GP3 championship, which will certainly have helped his cause to obtain a Super Licence.
Now that he is licensed to take part in Grand Prix weekends, Kvyat can begin to integrate himself into the race team at Toro Rosso. He will do that by taking part in the first practice session at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. He will also drive in first practice for next week’s season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton may have won Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix from pole position, but the drive of the day undoubtedly came from Sauber’s Sergio Perez.
Perez started down in 12th position, after failing to make Q3 in qualifying. While his grid position was not ideal, the young Mexican made the most of circumstances by choosing to start on the hard tyres, while those ahead of him were on the softer (and therefore less durable) medium-compound tyres. The choice of tyres proved to be inspired, as it enabled Perez to run long in his first stint. Running the medium tyre in the latter part of the race gave him a distinct pace advantage, and having fresher tyres than everyone else (due to pitting later) allowed him to push all the way to the flag.
Perez’s careful tyre management saw him move from the middle of the pack at the start of the race to second by the end. He passed both Ferraris like they were standing still and would have needed only a handful more laps to catch and pass Lewis Hamilton for the lead. As it happened, Perez ran out of laps and Hamilton took a well-deserved victory, but Sauber and Perez showed once again that they are capable of challenging right at the front.
A crucial part of Perez’s performance was his own driving style. The car is clearly quick and kind to its tyres, but it required sublimely smooth and controlled driving to preserve tyre performance throughout the race. Perez is only in his second season of Formula One, but is already showing remarkable maturity behind the wheel.
This is the third such impressive performance from Perez this season, the previous two being in Malaysia and Canada, where he also featured on the podium after smooth, measured performances. As a result of his consistent season, Perez is ahead of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa in the championship, which is significant given that Sauber is a Ferrari engine custome. From very early in the season, there was speculation that Perez could replace Massa at Ferrari for next season, and after this performance (if not before), Ferrari must surely be looking at the possibility with interest.
After a very wet Friday at Spa last week, it was with relief that 24 drivers took to the track at Monza in bright sunshine this morning. It was a morning of firsts, with Jerome D’Ambrosio participating in his first timed session for Lotus in place of the banned Romain Grosjean, and Ma Qing Hua driving for HRT to become the first Chinese-born driver to take part in a Grand Prix weekend.
For Michael Schumacher, however, there were no firsts, but rather the familiar (yet recently unusual) experience of being the quickest driver on track. Schumacher lapped the Autodromo three tenths faster than Jenson Button, with Nico Rosberg third in the second Mercedes. Interestingly, the top six in the session contained both Mercedes, both McLarens and both Ferraris, suggesting that over a single lap the advantage is held by those with the most horsepower. What remains to be seen throughout the rest of the weekend is the extent to which tyre degradation will impact race pace.
Felipe Massa’s weekend has got off to a good start. The Brazilian is under pressure to perform if he wants to keep his seat at Ferrari, and he has delivered so far, with a time just six hundredths of a second slower than team-mate Fernando Alonso.
At Lotus, Jerome D’Ambrosio is getting acclimatised in Romain Grosjean’s car. Having not raced since 2011, and then in an uncompetitive Virgin, D’Ambrosio faces a steep learning curve in a car that appears capable of victory, particularly alongside the extremely quick Kimi Raikkonen. D’Ambrosio ended the first practice session 1.1 seconds behind his team-mate, which is a fair start to the weekend given the circumstances. That gap can be expected to close as through today and tomorrow.
HRT’s Ma Qing Hua made history by becoming the first Chinese-born driver to take part in a Grand Prix weekend as he took over Narain Karthikeyan’s car for the session. Ma was just under two seconds slower than Pedro de la Rosa in the sister car, which is completely understandable given his lack of experience in Formula One.
This afternoon’s FP2 session will feature the option tyre for the first time this weekend, which should provide a better indication of the relative pace of the cars in advance of tomorrow’s qualifying. FP2 starts at 14:00 local time.