One of the joys of in-season testing for Formula 1 is that teams will opt to run young drivers, either their reserve or test/development drivers, during these occasions. That gives a bit of variety as opposed to just writing about the 20 primary race drivers.
It was an interesting day for the four youngsters afforded that opportunity today in the first of two days for the Bahrain in-season test.
Antonio Giovinazzi was still eligible by way of only competing in the first two Grands Prix as a fill-in for Pascal Wehrlein at Sauber, with Wehrlein confirming his fitness wasn’t up to scratch but then exceeding expectations in a good drive in Sunday’s Grand Prix.
Importantly for Giovinazzi, getting a day back in the new Ferrari SF70H was key after his nightmare second weekend in China, when he crashed both in qualifying and the race. He ran 93 laps and finished second on the timesheets with a best time of 1:31.984.
“I enjoyed every single lap,” Giovinazzi said, via the Ferrari website. “To drive the car that won the last race and is leading the world championship, working with the Scuderia Ferrari engineers and mechanics, is not just a great feeling, it’s a dream I’ve had since I was little and racing in karts. And today it came true.”
Down at Toro Rosso, Indonesian driver Sean Gelael had his first day in the Renault-powered but as yet unbadged engine car. The Formula 2 veteran, who’s also dovetailed a bit in sports car racing with his Jagonya Ayam branding (Indonesian KFC), had his first day in an F1 car. He did 78 laps and posted a best time of 1:33.885; he’ll return in Hungary later this year.
“Today is a day I will never forget – to finally drive a Formula 1 car is something every driver dreams of, and to do it with Scuderia Toro Rosso makes it even more special,” he said. “What an amazing feeling! This year’s car is a beast, it’s so quick! I settled in nicely throughout the day and we definitely made progress. I was able to complete plenty of laps and get used to the car quickly.
“The power and overall grip is amazing and, compared to the Formula 2 car I drive, the grip under braking and the kerb riding are two of the biggest differences I felt. Honestly, it’s really fun to drive and I’d like to thank everyone who made this possible! I now can’t wait to drive the STR12 again in a few months’ time at the test in Hungary.”
Sahara Force India test driver Alfonso Celis Jr. had yet another day in the car. The Mexican driver has run a handful of FP1 sessions and today ran 71 laps with a best time of 1:33.939.
“It was a straightforward day for me and I completed more than a race distance,” he said. “There have been a lot of changes since I last was in the car in Barcelona and the first few laps were a bit of a learning process. Fortunately the aero program at the start of the day gave me some time to get used to the car again.
“We were able to complete some performance runs in the afternoon, but I ran into traffic each time so I couldn’t really take everything out of the car. The temperatures out there were much hotter than I’ve ever experienced on these tyres and it was useful for me to understand how to manage and look after them. All in all, I felt pretty comfortable in the car and I am happy with my performance.”
The going wasn’t so good for Oliver Turvey, McLaren’s test and development driver, in his first day in the car this year. A power unit change was again needed for his McLaren Honda, which provided the Englishman a firsthand look at the struggles faced by the team this season for its two full-season drivers, Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne.
Nonetheless after the change, the team rallied to complete another 17 laps.
Turvey has been a McLaren regular over the years but this marked his first time actually in a car in two years. He competes regularly in the FIA Formula E Championship.
“I’ve been looking forward to getting back in the car – it’s been two years since I last tested – so I’m really grateful to McLaren-Honda for giving me the opportunity to drive here in Bahrain. It’s frustrating to have had an issue this morning which cost us a lot of track time, but, for me, every lap in a Formula 1 car is beneficial and it was great to be back in the car,” he said in the team release.
“I got a few laps in at the end of the day and managed to get enough of a feel for what the car is like to be able to go back to MTC and contribute to the correlation between the car and simulator, which hopefully will help with the development back in the factory. I do a lot of work in the simulator so being able to correlate between there and the track is really important. I still feel we achieved something today despite the limited running.
“The guys have been working extremely hard in the garage and I want to say thanks to them for helping me to get back out on track. Today for me was about getting a feeling for how the whole package – car and tires – works together. This is my eighth season with the team as a test driver, and I last drove for McLaren-Honda in 2015, so the car feels completely different. It’s hard to compare from year to year, but any time and knowledge I can pick up from my time in the car is important Tomorrow I’m keen to follow Stoffel’s program, as I think it will be really useful.”