Gary Paffett proved the value of experience as he led the way on the second day of running during the special F1 young driver test at Jerez in southern Spain – but a number of the 'rookies' caught the eye once again.
On a day affected by a cold start and midday shower, long-time McLaren-Mercedes test driver Paffett focussed his efforts on vibration tests, aero calibration tests, a baseline run, a brief look at some suspension modifications and a 2010-style heavier fuel load simulation – looking at the impact on car balance and tyre degradation, the results of which the team revealed proved encouraging. The Bromley ace will return to the cockpit on the third and final day, as will World series by Renault front-runner and former McLaren/Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year
F1 2010 debutant and reigning runaway GP2 Series Champion Nico Hülkenberg lapped second-fastest for Williams – albeit the best part of half a second adrift of Paffett's marker, with British F3 Champion Daniel Ricciardo an impressive third for Red Bull Racing, who continued to get to grips with the Renault-powered RB5 whilst conducting tyre comparisons, aero and brake testing and heavy fuel load runs ahead of next season's refuelling ban. The Australian will remain in the car on Thursday.
“I found it a bit easier today,” he reported. “I knew what to expect this morning and the procedures were easier to understand, so I was able to concentrate on improving my driving and hopefully giving my best in terms of providing the engineers with good feedback.”
Next up was DTM race-winner Paul di Resta in the first of the two Force India VJM02s, covering 58 laps during the course of his morning stint. After completing installation runs and some initial set up work, the 23-year-old Scot went on to run a range of 2010 development items and conduct some fuel system evaluation, lapping second-fastest of the pre-lunch brigade.
“Yesterday the programme was to get comfortable in the car and to see how everything worked,” affirmed the West Lothian ace. “I was able to get to a reasonable level quite quickly after one run, so I felt prepared and had progressed enough for the team to be able to use me to test some development items, which will of course help them in 2010.
“We had quite a structured programme this morning of running back-to-back set-up for 2009 and 2010 and both long and short runs, but it went pretty well. I'm up-to-speed now and I understand what I can do to improve my own performance. Equally, [on] each run we are doing something different so I need to keep learning and giving feedback so the team can get the information they need too. I hope they feel they can use me now.”
Reigning Indy Lights Champion J.R. Hildebrand took over in the afternoon, and the Californian ran through a similar programme to di Resta, winding up just over a second slower in eighth as the cooler conditions and rain counted against him.
“When we first started running we were testing different brake settings, which really didn't work very well for me,” the 21-year-old confessed. “The first couple of runs were really spent working on that and then getting to grips with the track again, particularly as the grip had improved. Coming into this test I was concerned I wouldn't be able to maximise the high-speed cornering of the car, but I was able to get the most out of the two high-speed sections of the track so I was really happy with this progress.