The final test of the year concluded this afternoon at Jerez with 16 young drivers driving for nine teams. Daniel Ricciardo completed his third day of running with Red Bull Renault, impressing once again and setting the fastest time of the week on a 1:17.418s best. The British F3
champion has impressed this week and has been linked to the second seat at Toro Rosso alongside Sebastien Buemi for next season.
“These last three days have been an incredible experience for me,” he said. “I would like to thank Red Bull for giving me this great opportunity, which has made me even more determined to make it into F1 one day. I know it was just a test, but seeing my name on the top of today’s timesheet was really something special.”
Paul di Resta and JR Hildebrand were again on track with Force India Mercedes with the former again proving the quicker of the two drivers - albeit 1.3s behind the flying Ricciardo - with the second and tenth fastest times respectively.
"It was a little interrupted this afternoon with one spin into the gravel and then an electrical issue that stopped us out on track so we lost some time in places," admitted the Mercedes DTM racer. "All the same the team ran through their programme and despite the stoppages we made progress."
Hildebrand also had a few issues behind the wheel of the VJM02 and was frustrated that he was unable record a lap time that he felt would have been more representative of his potential pace.
"Today was a little frustrating because we again lost our quickest outings when the engine saving mode switched on and then when we tried to re-run the new tyre outing the red flag came out when I was six-tenths up on my fastest lap," he explained. "That would have put us squarely in the thick of the front runners. Knowing I had the time in me and couldn't get it is in part frustrating, but I can only be so frustrated as I know how much quicker we really were."
Over at McLaren Mercedes, Oliver Turvey was back behind the wheel for the morning session conducting aerodynamic tests before handing over to test regular Gary Paffett to wrap up the day with a tyre evaluation programme. Paffett recorded the third fastest time, just a hundredth of a second behind di Resta’s similarly powered Force India.
Brawn Mercedes continued with both Mike Conway and Marcus Ericsson for the third straight day, recording the fourth and eighth fastest times. Conway, who is expected to resume his career in the IndyCar series next season despite high praise from Ross Brawn for his technical feedback, was naturally delighted with his test call-up. "I've really enjoyed the last few days in Jerez," he said. "The team had a great season and the chance to drive the championship winning car and experience its performance for myself has been amazing."
Ericsson, who won the Japanese F3 championship with Tom’s, was particularly impressed with the performance of F1 machinery. "The car is very impressive," the Swede said. "It's so quick and the biggest difference from the F3 car has to be the power of the braking. I feel that I have adapted well to the car this week and I'm very happy with the progress that I have made."
Having tested with Renault on Tuesday, Formula Renault champion Bertrand Baguette remained at the circuit and completed his week with a BMW Sauber test. The Belgian racer was sixth fastest just behind Nico Rosberg in the Williams Toyota and some 1.2 seconds quicker than he managed in the R29 and completed general setup work ahead of aerodynamic tests.
"I'm happy that I managed to get in a good lap time on my very last run despite a lot of fuel on board," the Formula Renault champion said. "The balance of the car was very good, I was able to work with the engineers and want to thank the team for all that I have learned today."
Lucas di Grassi had a busy day with Renault, putting in 123 laps if the Spanish test venue and recording the ninth fastest time as the team continue to evaluate components for the 2010 challenger. Ho-Pin Tung had a quick run of four laps in damp conditions for the team but was unsurprisingly the slowest of the 16 runners.
"We ran the car quite heavy in the morning as we did some work on the brakes and then in the afternoon we completed some back-to-back testing on the front and rear suspension," explained Renault Chief Race Engineer Alan Permane. "Overall it has been a successful week for us: the team has worked hard and we’ve come away with a lot of valuable data which will be useful for the development of next year’s car."
Ferrari took the opportunity of running the top three finishers in this year’s Italian Formula 3 champion with Pablo Sanchez Lopez, Daniel Zampieri, Marco Zipoli all sharing the F60 challenger. The trio took positions 11 to 13.
It was a split programme at Toro Rosso Ferrari with Mirko Bortolotti lapping in the morning before handing over to Brendon Harley in the afternoon. Hartley ended the day five seconds off the ultimate pace and 14th fastest just ahead of Bortolotti.
“Both drivers did a good job,” said team principal Franz Tost. “They are talented and if they do well in other racing categories in 2010, I think they have a good chance of being up to the required standard to make it into Formula One in 2011."
The testing restrictions remain in place until the end of the year, before the new teams join the action in testing in preparation for the 2010 season.
Jerez - 03/12/2009
1 . D. Ricciardo - Red Bull Renault RB5 - 1:17.418 (+ 0.000 ) - 77 laps
2 . P. di Resta - Force India Mercedes VJM02 - 1:18.736 (+ 1.318 ) - 53 laps
3 . G. Paffett - McLaren Mercedes MP4-24 - 1:18.746 (+ 1.328 ) - 59 laps
4 . M. Conway - Brawn Mercedes BGP 001 - 1:19.096 (+ 1.678 ) - 77 laps
5 . N. Hulkenberg - Williams Toyota FW31 - 1:19.226 (+ 1.808 ) - 106 laps
6 . B. Baguette - BMW Sauber F1.09 - 1:19.356 (+ 1.938 ) - 70 laps
7 . O. Turvey - McLaren Mercedes MP4-24 - 1:19.358 (+ 1.940 ) - 32 laps
8 . M. Ericsson - Brawn Mercedes BGP 001 - 1:19.382 (+ 1.964 ) - 49 laps
9 . L. Di Grassi - Renault R29 - 1:19.602 (+ 2.184 ) - 123 laps
10 . JR. Hilderbrand - Force India Mercedes VJM02 - 1:19.873 (+ 2.455 ) - 41 laps
11 . P. Lopez - Ferrari F60 - 1:21.068 (+ 3.650 ) - 39 laps
12 . D. Zampieri - Ferrari F60 - 1:21.279 (+ 3.861 ) - 42 laps
13 . M. Zipoli - Ferrari F60 - 1:21.725 (+ 4.307 ) - 41 laps
14 . B. Hartley - Toro Rosso Ferrari STR4 - 1:22.493 (+ 5.075 ) - 50 laps
15 . M. Bortolotti - Toro Rosso Ferrari STR4 - 1:23.271 (+ 5.853 ) - 34 laps
16 . H. Tung - Renault R29 - 1:32.477 (+ 15.059 ) - 4 laps.