He had said that the pressure was on him to some extent, as driving the car acknowledged to be the fastest thing on four wheels in the F1 2010 World Championship, Daniel Ricciardo mused that he would be expected to be quickest – and as the special post-season FIA young driver test wrapped up in Abu Dhabi today (Wednesday), quickest Daniel Ricciardo comfortably was.
Having set the pace on the opening day around the Yas Marina Street Circuit, the 2009 British F3 Champion tried out some mechanical development parts for next year on the Red Bull RB6 on day two, as well as conducting some durability testing and evaluating different brake materials. The 21-year-old Australian – who had not piloted an F1 car since the similar test eleven months earlier – impressed as he bids to stake his claim to a race cockpit at 'junior' concern Scuderia Toro Rosso next season.
“It was cool to do this test and great to get so close to the big boys' times from the weekend!” enthused the reigning World Series by Renault runner-up after lopping one-and-a-half seconds off his Tuesday time. “It's very rare to get a perfect car, but I have to say this is very close. It's a pleasure to drive it – you brake and you turn and the car does everything as you imagine it would.
“I think I got most of my nerves out of the way before last year's test, so I was more relaxed this time, although you are always a little nervous getting into the car on day one. We did more long runs today, which went well – it's been a great two days and it would be fantastic to get the chance to drive in F1 full-time.”
“Daniel has done a great job for us in the car over the last two days and made no mistakes,” added the Milton Keynes-based squad's head of race engineering, Ian Morgan. “We're very happy with him. We completed our programme and got though everything as planned, despite losing some track time this afternoon due to a few red flags – although they weren't anything to do with Daniel!”
Second-fastest, after jumping from the Cosworth-powered Virgin on day one to Renault's R30 on day two, was the Enstone-based outfit's current test driver and prospective 2011 Virgin candidate Jérôme D'Ambrosio, exactly seven tenths down on Ricciardo's benchmark following 83 laps in the car.
“Overall it has been a fantastic day,” affirmed the 24-year-old Belgian. “Obviously I have some previous experience in F1, but this was my first full day in the car so it was a big step for me. It always takes some time to adapt to a new car, but I quickly felt comfortable in the R30 and we found a good balance early on.
“I'm really happy with how things went, and I have to say thanks to all the engineers, mechanics and the entire team who have helped me today. Working with these guys really was a great experience.”
“We ran Jérôme for the first time today and managed to do some productive work,” added Renault F1 chief engineer Alan Permane. “He improved with each run and showed very strong pace at the end of the day. Like yesterday we started off with some aero work early on and then concentrated on a suspension set-up programme in the afternoon. We were very impressed with Jérôme in and out of the car and his feedback was excellent – he's very precise on what the car is doing and what he wants from the car to make it faster.”