Marussia Virgin team principal John Booth admits that he looks forward to next week's 'Young Drivers' test in Abu Dhabi as one of the highlights of his year, but remained coy when asked whether any of the three drivers slated to run with the UK operation had a chance of making the line-up next season.
The F1 backmarker heads into the test with one driver, German veteran Timo Glock, already confirmed for the foreseeable future, while this year's number two, rookie Jerome d'Ambrosio, waits to learn the outcome of talks after impressing on occasion in his debut season. The team has repeatedly claimed that it was not going to heap pressure on the Belgian by adding contract negotiations to the learning curve he was already facing after stepping up from GP2, but rumours have since started circulating about his future, both with Virgin and elsewhere.
The Yas Marina paddock was alive with talk of d'Ambrosio possibly making the switch to Team Lotus - or Team Caterham as it will become - in place of Jarno Trulli
in 2012, rumours which tie in with last week's claim in French sports 'paper l'Equipe
that GP2 frontrunner Charles Pic
has all but signed to partner Glock next year.
Pic, who won two races en route
to finishing fourth in this year's GP2 standings, is among three drives scheduled to test with Booth's team next week, but the team principal would not be drawn on whether the Frenchman or fellow testers Adrian Quaife-Hobbs and Robert Wickens had a chance of landing a race seat in 2012.
"First of all, it is my favourite time of the year, starting working with young drivers for the future," Booth commented, "I think we have got three very exciting young drivers, all proving to be competitive in the arenas in which they have been competing this year and it will be great to give them a chance of tasting F1. Maybe they can put themselves in the picture.
"As we said before, we are evaluating all our options and we will make a decision after Brazil. Jerome has done a great job all year, but, like I said, we have got three very exciting young guys chomping at the bit, so we will wait with anticipation."
Wickens got an early taste of F1 power when he took over one of the team's two cars for the opening free practice session at Yas Marina, while Quaife-Hobbs has previously carried out straight-lines tests as reward for his GP3 Series performances with Booth's Marussia Manor team. Pic, however, has never driven an F1 machine before, but has demonstrated his ability by running at the front in both GP2 and the World Series by Renault.
"In Timo, [we have] a guy with massive experience [who is] committed to the team's long-term future, so we have stability there already," Booth noted, when pressed further on the wisdom of looking at unproven talent, "I know the question you're referring to but, as I said before, we'll assess where we are with the drivers after the young driver test and they we will look to make a decision after Brazil.
"Jerome has been doing it all season, he's done a fantastic job all year in his rookie season, and I'm sure he will continue to do it in the last two races. If he keeps performing like that, he will put himself in the frame for a drive."