Max Chilton admitted that his F1 debut proper with Sahara Force India was the realisation of a dream after a strong showing from the Brit on his first day of running in Abu Dhabi.
The GP2 racer had previously taken part in straight-line aero testing for the Force India team, meaning the first day of the Young Driver Test was his first opportunity to sample F1 machinery in a proper testing environment.
Carrying out data collection for the team while also testing the 2012 Pirelli tyres, Chilton ended his first day of running this week with the sixth quickest time and will now spend a day on the sidelines before returning to action on Thursday.
“I had been looking forward to this moment all my life and it definitely exceeded my expectations,” he said. “The performance of the car is just amazing, especially the downforce and traction, which are mind-blowing. The design of these cars is incredible and it's left me wanting much more. It's scary how quick you can go through the high-speed corners, but the car is really well balanced and it feels very calm.
“The morning session flew by really quickly while I was getting used to the car and the systems, but in the afternoon things settled down and we managed to do some good testing. Working with such a big crew was also a new experience for me and it makes life so easy because there's a person for every job and you can change things really quickly. I want to say thanks to the guys for a great day and I can't wait to jump back in the car on Thursday.”
Oliver Knighton, race support and strategy engineer, said he was impressed with Chilton's performance.
“A positive first day of testing and I'm very pleased with the way Max integrated himself with the team,” he said. “There were no mistakes, he was very consistent and he quickly got the hang of the control systems. The morning was spent acclimatising Max to the car and we also ran several test sensors to gather some more data with a view to Brazil next week and for 2012. In the afternoon we ran through a 2012 tyre programme, which has given us some interesting information for the rest of the week. We had a KERS issue in the afternoon, which took the edge off Max's final lap time, but it was still a very good day.”