Abu Dhabi test field could thin further

Having already seen three teams opt to conduct their annual young driver test at Silverstone in the week after the British Grand Prix, the number expected to turn out at Abu Dhabi as originally planned could reduce further after whispers of an alternative in France surfaced at Hockenheim.

Locally-based Williams and Marussia, along with Spanish minnow HRT, all opted to remain in the UK between races in order to run their prot?g?s, with the remainder of the field expected to wait until the now familiar session at Yas Marina towards the end of the season [see story here]. F1's big guns - Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes - were all though to be committed to running at the ultra-modern facility, despite the calendar congestion that marks the end of the 2012 season, but it now appears to some may be having second thoughts, with suggestions that some may opt for Magny-Cours in the week after the Italian GP at after Monza.

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"We were discussing this for a long time," Toro Rosso's Franz Tost admitted when asked why teams couldn't agree on three days in the year to test together, "One of the main arguments against Abu Dhabi for some teams was that the mechanics would have been out for five weeks, so then we decided to split the test with Silverstone, because teams that are situated in England wanted to do the test at Silverstone. Now a third race track, Magny Cours, has come into the plan. Normally, we would say okay, let's do the test altogether, three days at the end of the season, but you know we are in a democratic world and therefore it was decided to split it."

Marussia's John Booth confirmed that the extended period away from home at the end of the season - 'we didn't feel that we had the necessary manpower or human resource or parts for the car to conduct that kind of the test' - had been the motivation for the Banbury-based outfit to run at Silverstone, but the majority of teams still appeared committed to Yas Marina when questioned at Hockenheim.

"We will test in Abu Dhabi, I think so," eponymous team owner Peter Sauber insisted, "I hope we can do the test there with three different drivers - and with Esteban Gutierrez of course."

Tost also indicated that, while his drivers were undecided, Yas Marina remained his preference, as did Caterham's Mark Smith, but Mercedes Norbert Haug, however, admitted that the Brackley team may be wavering.

"It's probably not finally decided," he conceded.

Once the summer break comes to an end at the start of September, the F1 schedule takes the teams to four pairs back-to-back races - Belgium/Italy, Japan/Korea, India/Abu Dhabi and USA/Brazil - with only Singapore, on 23 September, standing alone.