Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo set the pace on the opening day of the F1 young driver test in Abu Dhabi.

The championship winners continued where they left off following the title-winning season finale at the weekend by dominating the opening day of the two-day session, with Ricciardo being the man to beat in both the morning and afternoon sessions.

Having finished second in the Renault World Series standings this season, Ricciardo turned a quickest lap more than a second clear of Oliver Turvey, who was second quickest for McLaren with a lap run late in the day.

Ricciardo had admitted prior to the test that he was under pressure to be quick given Red Bull's success during the 2010 season [See separate story HERE].

Another late lap was good enough to leave Antonio Felix da Costa third as he made his F1 debut with Force India. Having taken over at the wheel of the VJM03 from test driver Paul di Resta, the Portuguese youngster tried out a range of set-ups and aero configurations before slotting into third spot.

"It was a good day, quite surprising, even for me," he said. "I adapted to the car a bit faster than I expected and that was very positive as I could do some real work to get up to speed more quickly and get to grips with the set up of the car. I think my lap time was good, only four tenths from the qualifying times of the Force India this weekend, so I am pretty pleased.

"It was just such an amazing experience today and I wish everyone could try it as it's so impressive, such fun. I have to thank the whole crew at Force India who worked so hard today, to my management and sponsors and I hope to have some more F1 experience again quite soon."

GP3 title winner Esteban Gutierrez enjoyed his second run with Sauber and was fourth quickest, despite the team electing not to use its F-duct during the test, while Dean Stoneman was an encouraging fifth for Williams as he took up his prize drive with the Grove-based team after winning the Formula 2 title.

Another prize winner, Russian Mikhael Aleshin, was sixth quickest for Renault with the World Series title winner happy with his day despite losing track time with a hydraulic leak.

"It was my first proper day in an F1 car and I have to say it definitely lived up to my expectations," he said. "It felt great to be part of the team, working with the engineers and the mechanics and we managed to do lots of different things during the day. By the start of the afternoon we had quite a nice balance with the car and it felt really good.

"The only issue we had was a hydraulic leak, which cost me some track time at the end of the day. That was a shame because it meant that I couldn't go out when the track temperature was low and when the track was at its quickest. But overall it has been a fantastic experience and I want to say a big thank you to the team and to Renault Sport because this was a great opportunity for me."

British F3 title winner Jean-Eric Vergne was seventh quickest on his debut with Toro Rosso, while di Resta was eighth having turned laps early in the day to set a baseline set-up for da Costa to make the most of. GP2 ace Sam Bird was ninth for Mercedes, with the top ten completed by Virgin's Jerome D'Ambrosio. The Belgian driver only took to the track during the afternoon as he shared the car with Rio Haryanto, who was slowest of the 14 drivers in action.

Ahead of his run with Williams tomorrow [Wednesday], Pastor Maldonado impressed on a busy day for Hispania, with the Venezuelan lapping quicker than the Ferrari of Jules Bianchi and completing more miles than anyone else en-route to eleventh.

"It was a great feeling to be back in a Formula 1 car today and to complete 108 laps with the HRT F110," he said. "I got more confident with this car during the day and I could improve the lap times constantly when the track conditions improved. We were quite quick today and I pushed a lot to show a good performance. I am very happy to get the opportunity to do the Young Drivers Test and Pirelli Test with Hispania Racing. Now I cannot wait to be back in the car on Friday again."

Bianchi was twelfth as Ferrari focused on development work, with Lotus' Rodolfo Gonzalez and Haryanto completing the times.

To see the order on day one, click HERE.



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