Davide Valsecchi topped the times on the third and final day of the Abu Dhabi young driver test at the Yas Marina Circuit.
The reigning GP2 Series champion, who was running with Lotus, posted a 1 minute 42.677 second lap, which put him 0.150 seconds up on his closest rival. The Italian did 86 laps in total, while working on what the Enstone-based outfit described as a 'comprehensive' programme.
“It's been a really good experience for me. I was very pleased with my sessions and followed everything the team asked of me without making any mistakes,” Valsecchi remarked. “I took it very easy in the morning so I could get used to the car and soon became more confident, meaning towards the end I was much better in terms of pace.
“The team listened to my feedback and made the changes I suggested, particularly towards the end of running. I want to say thank you to Lotus F1 Team who have been really good; the engineers and the mechanics have all been brilliant and it has been a great day for me.”
“The final day's running with Davide has been a good end to our Young Driver Test this year,” added Lotus race engineer, Simon Rennie. “In the morning we completed additional aerodynamic work and looked at further evaluation of our DDRS, providing us with enough data to make an informed decision at a later stage in Enstone.
“Before lunch Davide completed performance runs as he became accustomed to the set up and quickly explored the limits of the car. Obviously the step from GP2 to F1 is not enormous, but we were impressed with how quickly he was up to speed by this morning.
“For the afternoon session, we looked at developments of our front drums and then completed a tyre programme which gave Davide the opportunity to try out the various compounds.
"We ran the hard, medium and soft tyres and he found good improvements in terms of grip with each step in the compounds. All in all it's been a good day, and Davide did a great job.”
Kevin Magnussen was 'best of the rest', back in action for McLaren after running on the opening day. His quickest effort was a 1m 42.827s, 0.176 seconds slower than the top time he posted on Tuesday, which incidentally was the fastest of the three-day test
In total the Dane did another 51 laps this afternoon running through a 'series of mechanical balance changes aimed at unlocking tyre performance'. The mileage he completed is sufficient now for him to be able to apply for an F1 Superlicence. Oliver Turvey meanwhile ran in the McLaren MP4-27 in the morning, before handing the car over to Magnussen. Turvey finished up fifth as he continued the evaluation of a new front wing.
“This week's test in Abu Dhabi was extremely useful for the team,” summarised McLaren sporting director, Sam Michael. “Gary [Paffett], Oliver and Kevin all drove with great discipline to enable us to gather a considerable amount of data, collectively racking up more than 1500km.
“In addition, all three days were trouble-free, which is a great testament to the ongoing resolve of our mechanics and engineers, many of whom have been away from home for several weeks, and who travel directly on to the USA for the final two races of the season. They are a credit to our team.
“Gary and Oliver are outstanding team players and continue to deliver strongly for us. In Kevin's case, his pace, consistency and engineering feedback were all excellent. Given his performance, he certainly didn't look like a guy who had never turned a wheel in a modern F1 car before the start of this week!”
Sauber test and reserve driver, Esteban Gutierrez came in third, adding another 80 laps to his tally, and improving his time to a low 1m 43s effort.
“I think today's programme was very useful,” said the Mexican. “Not only for me, but also for the team because we were able to test and analyse a lot of different things. I tried to give precise feedback over the day and in the end I was pushing a bit with the soft tyres, but I must admit I didn't manage to make use of the peak of the tyres' performance. Nevertheless I am very happy with how the two days of testing went and I want to thank the Sauber F1 Team for all its work.”
“Day three of this test was also a very productive one, as we got all the work done,” chipped in Sauber's head of track engineering, Giampaolo Dall'Ara. “Overall we are very happy with the mileage we covered here in Abu Dhabi and also with the feedback from the two young drivers. Today Esteban started with some more aero evaluation. We were running on high fuel, did some set up work and brake tests.
“Over lunch we changed the front suspension to test some new items. For the afternoon session we then gave Esteban some fresh tyres – one set of hard, two medium and one set of the soft compound.”
Behind, Robin Frijns got another chance out on track this time using the Red Bull RB8, his reward for winning this year's Formula Renault 3.5 series. The Dutchman's morning was spent on aero work but in the afternoon, around some mechanical testing, there was time for some performance runs and he ended the day fourth on a 1m 43.233s.
“It was a long day and we tested a lot on the car. I think I did a good job for the team and team worked hard with me so I'm pleased with how it all went,” said Frijns, who drove the Sauber C31 on Tuesday. “In the morning I was driving a little in cruise control as we were doing some aero work and the team needed accurate data with the flow-vis. In the afternoon there was some mechanical work, which was good and I think the team gathered a lot of useful data.
“I'd like to thank Renault for the opportunity to come to Red Bull Racing for this test in the RB8. It's the quickest car at the moment, so it was a real pleasure to drive for them today. Thanks also to Red Bull Racing for giving me this opportunity to drive the car.”
Luiz Razia and Alexander Rossi were the only other drivers on track, the former running for Toro Rosso and managing 68 laps in total, despite not feeling 100 per cent. Rossi in contrast did 85 tours for Caterham, but was more than a second slower, unable to do any quick laps due to an oil leak.
“It was tough for me today, because I've been running a fever, although it didn't stop me completing the programme,” Razia stated. “Like on Tuesday, the team had plenty of work for me to do and I was happy that I was able to find a good balance on the car and also had more confidence when it came to changing settings from the steering wheel while I was driving.
“Overall, these two days in the car have been a great experience for me and I really enjoyed working with an Italian team, as everyone at Toro Rosso made me feel very welcome.”
Rossi added: “It's been a great day in the car and I want to thank the whole team for giving me the chance to drive in Abu Dhabi. I last drove this car in FP1 in Barcelona back in May and it's definitely come on a long way since then.
“The plan today was mostly focused on running through setup options. With such limited time on Fridays at a GP this was a chance for us to work through a whole range of different setups and I'm sure we've helped give the team a lot of information that will come into play at the last two races of the season.
“It's obviously not ideal that we had to end the session early, but when I boxed after my 14th run there was oil on the garage floor so the engineers had to call the session over. That meant I didn't have the chance to do any performance runs and I'm sure if I did my laptimes would have been close to the race drivers, but issues like that are just one of those things. They'll take a proper look at what caused the problem and I'm sure it won't affect the team's preparations for Austin or Brazil.
“Despite that it's been a great day and another step in my development as a driver. The next time I'll be in a race car will be in Jerez for the GP2 test with Caterham Racing and I'm really looking forward to picking up where we left off in Barcelona as the quickest car.”