Friday's FP1 session at Sao Paulo resembled last week's young driver test at Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina Circuit with a number of future F1 hopefuls all getting a chance to impress on the big stage.
The drivers in question included Toro Rosso's French young gun Jean–Eric Vergne, Lotus' Brazilian local boy Luiz Razia and Renault protégé Roman Grosjean, who technically doesn't qualify as a young driver/rookie after his previous short-lived stint with the French team following the unsavoury debacle which saw the Frenchman replace Nelson Piquet Jr during 2009.
All three seemed positive after their morning's work, which entailed a fair amount of development running in a number of areas.
Local favourite Razia unsurprisingly maintained he felt comfortable right from the off given his young driver running from last week's Abu Dhabi test. The Lotus driver carried out 'a busy programme' during the morning while posting a time good enough for 20th, a proud moment for the Brazilian.
“I'm really pleased with how my session went today," he said, "It was a very proud moment for me to be back on track in Interlagos, this time in an F1 car, a real dream come true, so I want to thank the whole team for the chance to drive here today. I'd had a good run in the car last week in Abu Dhabi so I felt comfortable pretty quickly, and I think my lap times showed that.
"We worked through a busy programme, including comparisons with the new rear wing the team has brought here against the previous spec we used in Abu Dhabi. I could feel immediately what a good step forward that is and I'm pleased I could play my part today in helping the team keep progressing, right up to the last race here in my home country.”
Toro Rosso's Vergne, who incidentally has been tipped as a potential driver for the team next season, was getting his first taste of the Sao Paulo circuit. The Frenchman, like Razia, carried out the necessary Friday running for his team, along with a fair amount of experimental running, obligatory for this time of the season. The young French ace finished just two positions up the road from Razia in 18th.
“I have enjoyed the brief time spent driving Friday mornings for Scuderia Toro Rosso," said Vergne, "The main purpose has been to give me as much F1 mileage as possible, while also working on the team's normal free practice programme. The start of today's session was quite tricky, on a track I didn't know with a surface that was a bit dirty at first, but the track itself is great fun to drive.
"I did my first run on the medium tyres then, for the next two, I used the experimental hards that Pirelli brought here for us to try out. Myself and [STR team-mate] Jaime [Alguersuari]also worked on an aero programme. I ran with low downforce and I found it difficult as I clearly lacked grip, but that does not matter, because it produced useful data for the team, which I hope will help them get a good result this weekend. I also want to thank them and Red Bull for giving me this opportunity.”
Grosjean, a veteran compared to Vergne and Razia, admitted his on-track experience during the morning's session didn't disappoint, despite his running being cut short due to an issue with a developmental clutch part. The GP2 champion, as expected finished much higher up the order, setting a time good enough for twelfth.
“I was looking forward to jumping in the car again this morning and the experience did not disappoint," he confirmed, "I loved every minute of it. It's a track I particularly like; a fantastic old-style circuit, with lots of fans in the grandstand too. We have seen some interesting data on the technical side, which the team is already looking at for next year. I want to spend as much time as I can in the car, and I really love getting behind the wheel – it's a job I love.”
Czech sportscar ace Jan Charouz also participated in FP1 for backmarker team HRT [see story here
]. by Simon Evans