Despite his being a part of the team's GP2 Series off-shoot, the inclusion of Rodolfo Gonzalez among Caterham F1's line-up for the Mugello group test still raised more than a few eyebrows.
But there he was, strapped into the green-and-gold machine as the action got underway on Tuesday morning, and proceeded to spend what running was possible working through a series of set-up changes so that the team could collect valuable data, not only ahead of the arrival of race drivers Vitaly Petrov and Heikki Kovalainen for the remainder of the three-day session, but also for the start of forthcoming European championship swing.
"The weather played its part today in limiting the running we had planned for Rodolfo [but], despite that, he still did a good, solid job for us this morning, making no mistakes and putting in consistent lap times on every run he completed,” sporting director Steve Nielsen commented,
“He is developing as a driver and we can measure his progress over the last couple of years against the data we accumulated from his previous outings with us, at the Abu Dhabi young drivers' tests in 2010 and 2011, and in the way he conducts himself in and out of the car. He responds well to the instructions he is given and his technical feedback has improved markedly since he first drove for us in 2010, so overall we are pleased with the job he has done for us today, in what have been obviously frustrating conditions.”
Gonzalez enjoyed an advantage over some of his rivals in that he had previously raced – and won – at the picturesque Mugello circuit, and he insisted that he had got a lot out of the session, despite it being truncated by the persistent rain.
"Despite the weather, which was obviously frustrating this afternoon, I've had a good day with the team,” he confirmed, “I love this track, so getting back out in an F1 car this morning was a great experience. Obviously I'd have preferred a lot more dry running, but today wasn't about setting the fastest times I could, it was more about making sure I ran to the plan we'd set with the engineers, not making any mistakes, and continuing to learn as much as I could.
“After the morning session, I was happy with my performance, particularly considering how stop-start the session was, and while the running was pretty much meaningless this afternoon, it's still been another very valuable day for me. Every minute I'm with the F1 team helps me develop as a driver so, even though everyone at the test was affected by today's rain, for me this has still been another step in the right direction for my career."
The Venezuelan's results in GP2 this season have hardly been anything to write home about, but Nielsen is optimistic that the F1 outing will help.
“We want him to take what he's learnt back to his GP2 season with Caterham Racing and continue to develop his skills every time he is on track,” he said of a driver with two highs of 15th place in 2012.