Young Dutch driver Henki Waldschmidt completed his first official Formula One test with two days at the wheel of one of Panasonic Toyota Racing's car as the team tested alone at the Bahrain International Circuit.
The 20-year old, a member of Toyota's Young Drivers Programme, raced in the F3 Euroseries in 2008 and was given his chance to sample F1 power at the team's penultimate test of 2008. Having progressed through the Formula Renault ranks to reach F3, the test in the TF108 was a major step up in performance for Waldschmidt, but he completed 128 laps and improved continuously throughout Wednesday and Thursday, before finishing with a highly respectable 1min 33.430secs lap, putting himself within 1.5secs of team leader Jarno Trulli's fastest time in qualifying for the 2008 Bahrain Grand Prix.
"I am very grateful to Panasonic Toyota Racing for giving me this opportunity to test a Formula One car for the first time," the Dutch driver said, "It has been a fantastic experience and I have learned a lot. The performance of the TF108 is incredible compared to the cars I am used to driving and the experience of handling the power, the brakes and the downforce will be very helpful to me in my career.
"I was not particularly familiar with the Bahrain circuit, so it was a big learning curve on Wednesday, but I am very pleased with my performance. I was very impressed to see how professional the team is and I can understand why they have made so much progress in the last year or so. They gave me a lot of useful information to prepare me for each day and helped me to improve my understanding of the car."
Trulli was also on track in Bahrain, gathering more data on the new Bridgestone slick tyres and a low downforce aerodynamic configuration to help the team prepare for the 2009 season. The Italian also tested the RVX-08 engine with a view to the regulation change which extends engine life next year, while trying out a new gearbox and other mechanical devices looking ahead to the 2009 season. He enjoyed three trouble-free sessions, completing a total of 258 laps over the three days and setting a fastest time of 1min 32.463secs.
"It has been a productive test and we have achieved what we set out to," reported test team manager Gerd Pfeiffer, "The good weather conditions here have helped us to complete a full programme aimed at gathering as much information as possible to help our preparations for 2009. Lap times were not our priority. Of course, this was Henki's first full F1 test and he has made a good impression; he has been very professional and has made a lot of progress over the two days."