France will have an increasingly strong presence at next week's 'Young Drivers' F1 test in Abu Dhabi with the news that GP2 Series racewinner Charles Pic will join Marussia Virgin Racing during the three-day session.
Pic, who won twice for Barwa Addax Racing en route
to fourth overall in the 2011 GP2 standings, will join current reserve driver Robert Wickens and GP3 frontrunner Adrian Quaife-Hobbs at the Yas Marina test, which runs from 15-17 November.
The Briton will get the test underway on Tuesday morning as reward for being the best classified Marussia Manor Racing driver in the 2011 GP3 Championship. After carrying out two straight-line aero tests for the team earlier in the year - in Idiada and RAF Cottesmore - the test will be Quaife-Hobbs' third foray behind the wheel of the MVR-02, but his first in the car at an F1 circuit.
Pic, who has yet to taste an F1 car, will take over the reins on Tuesday afternoon, with a further day of running on Wednesday, before Wickens - who ran in Friday morning's FP1 session at the Abu Dhabi GP as reward for winning the World Series by Renault - will join the test on third and final day.
“I'd like to thank Marussia Virgin Racing for this opportunity to test an F1 car for the first time," Pic commented, "It's going to be a very special moment for me, one I have been waiting for my whole racing career! F1 is my goal so I will be putting everything I have into the test and look forward to the experience of working with the team and learning as much as I can from them.”
Pic's confirmation goes some way to explaining a story which appeared in French sports newspaper l'Equipe
earlier this week, which claimed that the youngster had signed to race
for the team in 2012. Timo Glock is already confirmed for next year, while current team-mate Jerome d'Ambrosio is understood to be in talks to continue, but may need to bring backing.
Team principal John Booth is hoping that each driver will follow in Wickens' footsteps, after the Canadian impressed on his FP1 debut by lapping just tenths shy of regular race pilot Timo Glock.
“We're delighted to be able to offer Adrian, Charles and our reserve driver, Robert Wickens, seat time in the MVR-02 next week and, in return, we look forward to some convincing performances from all of them," Booth noted, "The Young Driver test is a fantastic opportunity to see the cream of the next generation of talent in action for the various teams and to enable them to demonstrate that they have what it takes to progress to the highest level of motorsport.
"In the meantime, of course, we've also had Robert in the car for free practice [in Abu Dhabi] today and it's been very rewarding to see him in action. We'll be keeping a close eye on all of them during the week ahead.”