Thursday, March 4, 2021

Who is driving in the Abu Dhabi F1 young driver test?

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After teams agreed to abandon plans for a three-day test earlier this year to cut costs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a single day of running at the Yas Marina Circuit was put forward to close out the year.

It was initially listed as a “young driver” test, with the regulations citing that only drivers who have two grand prix starts or fewer may be permitted to take part.

But following the FIA’s decision to allow Fernando Alonso to take part, the door was opened for a number of familiar names to join the line-up, with the rules being widened to include any driver who didn’t race full-time in F1 this year.

Teams are permitted to enter two cars to the test on Tuesday. Here are the drivers who will be taking part in the Abu Dhabi F1 young driver test

Mercedes: Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries

Mercedes has called on its Formula E drivers to take part in the Abu Dhabi young driver test, naming Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries last week.

Vandoorne is one of the drivers to take advantage of the Alonso allowance, given he raced for two full seasons in F1 with McLaren in 2017 and 2018, and has made a total of 41 race starts.

Vandoorne has not driven an F1 car in an official event since his final appearance for McLaren more than two years ago, but came close to a comeback after Lewis Hamilton’s positive test for COVID-19.

2019 Formula 2 champion de Vries was a long-serving member of McLaren’s junior programme but never got the chance to drive an F1 car, making Tuesday’s test particularly poignant for him.

Red Bull: Sebastien Buemi and Juri Vips

Long-serving Red Bull reserve driver Sebastien Buemi is another driver whose entry to the test came as a result of Alonso entering, having made 55 F1 race starts for Toro Rosso in the past.

Buemi will be able to use the test to correlate the RB16 car between what he has worked with in the simulator, ending a busy year for the Swiss driver that saw him win the 24 Hours of Le Mans for a third time and race in both the FIA World Endurance Championship and Formula E.

Juri Vips is a driver whose presence fulfils the purpose of the young driver test. The Estonian driver gained an FIA superlicence earlier this year after completing 300km of private testing with Red Bull, and was a reserve driver at recent races.

Vips made eight appearances in F2 this year, and will race in the series full-time next season after a planned Super Formula campaign in 2020 was ruined by the pandemic.

McLaren: Not attending

McLaren is one of two teams who will not be attending the test, having opposed the decision to open up the test to non-young drivers.

McLaren does not have any junior drivers on its books at present, prompting it to decide not to enter the test back in October prior to the FIA’s change in ruling.

Zak Brown revealed last week that McLaren had been in support of cancelling the test altogether earlier this year to cut costs, only for some teams to point out they actually made money by running young drivers.

Racing Point: Not attending

Racing Point will join McLaren in not attending the test, meaning it has made its final outing under its current guise ahead of its rebrand as Aston Martin for next year.

Team boss Otmar Szafnauer was particularly outspoken about it, saying in Sakhir: “It’s a young driver test, and a two-time world champion almost in his forties to me isn’t a young driver.”

Although Szafnauer said Racing Point would “see what we do” if the test were to be opened up to all drivers in case Sebastian Vettel could make an early switch, the team decided many months ago it would not be taking part.

Renault: Fernando Alonso and Guanyu Zhou

After being the subject of much controversy in recent weeks, Renault got its way in the end by entering Fernando Alonso – 39 years old with 311 F1 race starts – to the young driver test.

Alonso will make his F1 comeback in 2021 after two seasons away, and has been gradually ramping up preparations this year, completing two long tests in a 2018-spec car.

He was able to complete a filming day in Renault’s 2020 car in Barcelona a few months ago, but will now get a proper run-out in Abu Dhabi.

Leading Renault Sport Academy driver Guanyu Zhou will also take part in the test, having raced full-time in F2 this year.

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Ferrari: Robert Shwartzman and Antonio Fuoco

Ferrari had hoped to try and draft in Carlos Sainz for the test if the FIA did open up the rules completely, but will instead field two of its young drivers.

F2 race winner Shwartzman tested a 2018-spec Ferrari earlier this year alongside Mick Schumacher and Callum Ilott, and was due to take part in FP1 in Abu Dhabi with Alfa Romeo before plans changed.

But he will finally get his first taste of a 2020 F1 car when he drives the Ferrari SF1000 in Abu Dhabi alongside Fuoco, who has been focused chiefly on simulator work this year for Ferrari.

AlphaTauri: Yuki Tsunoda and Marino Sato

AlphaTauri is still yet to announce Yuki Tsunoda in an F1 race seat for 2021, but he will continue his development with another appearance for the team on Tuesday.

Tsunoda gained his F1 superlicence with a strong end to the F2 season in Bahrain earlier this month, and completed 300km of running in a 2018-spec car at Imola in November.

It will give him a chance to get to grips with the AT01 car ahead of his anticipated F1 debut next year, going some way to make up for the reduced amount of pre-season testing.

Tsunoda will be joined by compatriot Marino Sato in the second AlphaTauri car, with the F2 driver set to enjoy his maiden outing in F1 machinery.

Alfa Romeo: Robert Kubica and Callum Ilott

Robert Kubica will cap off his first year working with Alfa Romeo as its reserve driver by appearing in the test, again benefitting from the rule change. The Polish driver took part in five FP1 sessions this year, and looks set to continue in the role next year.

He will be joined by Ferrari junior Callum Ilott, who finished as runner-up in F2 this year to Mick Schumacher, and was due to take part in FP1 with Haas at the Nurburgring before rain caused the session to be cancelled.

Ilott has already confirmed he will not return to F2 next year, making a season in a reserve or test role in F1 a potential next step.

Haas: Mick Schumacher

F2 champion Schumacher was announced in a 2021 Haas F1 seat shortly before his title victory, and got his first chance to drive one of the team’s cars in Abu Dhabi last week when he featured in FP1.

Schumacher will be the only driver taking part in the test for Haas. Future teammate Nikita Mazepin will not feature, although he had been linked to a possible outing for Mercedes, with whom he has completed a private testing programme in recent years.

Williams: Jack Aitken and Roy Nissany

After missing out on the chance to race again in Abu Dhabi following Lewis Hamilton’s comeback and George Russell’s return to Williams, Jack Aitken will finally be back in the FW43 cockpit on Tuesday.

Aitken was always due to enter the young driver test as part of his deal as Williams’ reserve driver, and would still be eligible under the original rules. In fact, he will be the only driver taking part in the test who has raced in F1 this year.

He’ll be joined by Williams development driver Roy Nissany, who took part in three FP1 sessions this year for the team alongside a full campaign in F2.

Abu Dhabi young driver test – full line-up

Teams

Driver 1

Driver 2

Mercedes

Stoffel Vandoorne

Nyck de Vries

Red Bull

Sebastien Buemi

Juri Vips

Renault

Fernando Alonso

Guanyu Zhou

Ferrari

Robert Shwartzman

Antonio Fuoco

AlphaTauri

Yuki Tsunoda

Marino Sato

Alfa Romeo

Robert Kubica

Callum Ilott

Haas

Mick Schumacher

 

Williams

Jack Aitken

Roy Nissany

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