Jean-Eric Vergne posted the quickest time for Red Bull Racing on the opening day of the Young Driver Test at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi.
The Frenchman, who has driven for Toro Rosso in Friday practice at a number of events this season, was the man to beat throughout the first day at the wheel of the RB7 and at one stage was more than two seconds clear of his rivals.
Although Ferrari's Jules Bianchi was able to bring that gap down in the afternoon, Vergne's best time late on in the afternoon was still good enough to put him well clear of his fellow Frenchman on the first of three days running with the championship winners.
“That was a fantastic day for me,” Vergne said. “Driving the World Championship-winning car is just great and I liked every lap I did out there. Knowing there are two more days still to do, just makes me smile more. It's a great opportunity from Red Bull Racing; I'm trying to learn as much as possible and get as much as possible out of it.”
Bianchi, who will also drive on all three days of the test, focused on aerodynamic testing on what was his first true run in the 150° Italia, while Robert Wickens was third fastest for Renault as the Canadian took up his prize drive for beating Vergne to the Renault World Series title.
Wickens, who will test with Virgin later in the week, was nearly two seconds off the benchmark time.
Fabio Leimer was an impressive fourth for Sauber ahead of a pair of British drivers, with McLaren test driver Gary Paffett and Max Chilton rounding out the top six – the latter having been given the chance to drive with Force India on the opening day of the test.
Chilton just pipped Valtteri Bottas to a place in the top six in the closing stages of the day, although the Williams driver lost time on track when his car developed a gearbox issue. Oliver Turvey, who shared the McLaren with Paffett, was eighth, with Sam Bird and Rodolfo Gonzalez rounding out the top ten.
Stefano Coletti was eleventh for Toro Rosso from the HRT of Dani Clos, with Virgin pair Charles Pic and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs rounding out the 14 drivers to take to the track on day one.
to see full times from the opening day of the test.