He had said that the pressure was on him to some extent, as driving the car acknowledged to be the fastest thing on four wheels in the F1 2010 World Championship, Daniel Ricciardo mused that he would be expected to be quickest - and as the special post-season FIA young driver test wrapped up in Abu Dhabi today (Wednesday), quickest Daniel Ricciardo comfortably was.

Having set the pace on the opening day around the Yas Marina Street Circuit, the 2009 British F3 Champion tried out some mechanical development parts for next year on the Red Bull RB6 on day two, as well as conducting some durability testing and evaluating different brake materials. The 21-year-old Australian - who had not piloted an F1 car since the similar test eleven months earlier - impressed as he bids to stake his claim to a race cockpit at 'junior' concern Scuderia Toro Rosso next season.

"It was cool to do this test and great to get so close to the big boys' times from the weekend!" enthused the reigning World Series by Renault runner-up after lopping one-and-a-half seconds off his Tuesday time. "It's very rare to get a perfect car, but I have to say this is very close. It's a pleasure to drive it - you brake and you turn and the car does everything as you imagine it would.

"I think I got most of my nerves out of the way before last year's test, so I was more relaxed this time, although you are always a little nervous getting into the car on day one. We did more long runs today, which went well - it's been a great two days and it would be fantastic to get the chance to drive in F1 full-time."

"Daniel has done a great job for us in the car over the last two days and made no mistakes," added the Milton Keynes-based squad's head of race engineering, Ian Morgan. "We're very happy with him. We completed our programme and got though everything as planned, despite losing some track time this afternoon due to a few red flags - although they weren't anything to do with Daniel!"

Second-fastest, after jumping from the Cosworth-powered Virgin on day one to Renault's R30 on day two, was the Enstone-based outfit's current test driver and prospective 2011 Virgin candidate J?r?me D'Ambrosio, exactly seven tenths down on Ricciardo's benchmark following 83 laps in the car.

"Overall it has been a fantastic day," affirmed the 24-year-old Belgian. "Obviously I have some previous experience in F1, but this was my first full day in the car so it was a big step for me. It always takes some time to adapt to a new car, but I quickly felt comfortable in the R30 and we found a good balance early on.

"I'm really happy with how things went, and I have to say thanks to all the engineers, mechanics and the entire team who have helped me today. Working with these guys really was a great experience."

"We ran J?r?me for the first time today and managed to do some productive work," added Renault F1 chief engineer Alan Permane. "He improved with each run and showed very strong pace at the end of the day. Like yesterday we started off with some aero work early on and then concentrated on a suspension set-up programme in the afternoon. We were very impressed with J?r?me in and out of the car and his feedback was excellent - he's very precise on what the car is doing and what he wants from the car to make it faster."

GP2 Series star Sam Bird wound up third for Mercedes, a further four tenths in arrears again after completing 82 laps on what was a typically hot and sunny day in the UAE. The Briton focussed his efforts on set-up development work during the morning to fine-tune the car followed by performance comparisons in the afternoon.

"Today, the team and I continued our set-up programme and had an extremely productive day in which we learnt a great deal about the car," he underlined. "I have thoroughly enjoyed myself and I would like to thank everyone at Mercedes Grand Prix for making me feel so welcome - both here in Abu Dhabi and at the factory prior to the test - and for a memorable two days. I hope we will be able to work together again in the future."

"Sam has worked very well with his engineers and the team over the course of the two-day test, proving himself to be professional and disciplined in the car, with an excellent grasp of our procedures and our requirements from the test programme," praised team principal Ross Brawn.

"I have been very impressed with his performance, and it has been a very useful two days for the team and Sam. I am sure that this experience, both working with the team and driving the car, will prove very useful for the development of Sam's career."

Experienced McLaren-Mercedes tester Gary Paffett placed fourth for the Woking-based concern, concentrating on set-up work and tyre data-gathering over the course of his 84 laps in the MP4-25, with newly-appointed Ferrari test driver Jules Bianchi a far more competitive prospect than he had been the previous day in fifth as the highly-regarded Frenchman increasingly gathered data with regard to the handling of the car and continued to get to grips with the intricacies of his new role.

"The past two days have been very interesting" the 21-year-old commented. "We were able to gather a lot of data to improve our understanding of the handling of the car, and for me, it was useful in terms of my work with the team next year.

"While yesterday we did not run much, today we did a lot of laps and also tried to set some times. The track had improved, also because there were no longer the cones at some corners, so you could cut the line. For me, it was a great way to finish what has been a positive season, given that I finished third in the GP2 championship."

"I wish to take this opportunity to once again thank Bridgestone for their efforts throughout the many years of our partnership, which saw us enjoy so much success together," added the Scuderia's team principal Stefano Domenicali of the sport's departing tyre-supplier, with whom Ferrari has claimed 14 world titles and 102 grand prix victories since 1998.

"It has been a pleasure working alongside the people from the Japanese company, getting to know a different company culture to our own and exchanging our experiences always in a professional manner and with a great passion for our work."

Sixth-quickest at close of play was Sauber's 2011 signing Sergio P?rez, who enjoyed his very first taste of F1 machinery. The 20-year-old - who will become the first Mexican driver to grace the grand prix grid in some three decades when next season kicks off in Bahrain in mid-March - impressed with his performance after 91 laps at Yas Marina.

"I am very happy to have completed my first day of testing with my new team," he remarked. "I think over the course of the day I got closer to the limit. I was very happy with the way we worked. Today I tested different parts of the car and in general I really learned a lot about all the procedures, which are quite different to what I'm used to from GP2. I'm very much looking forward to getting into the car again on Saturday afternoon!"

"Sergio did a good job today for his first experience in an F1 car," concurred the Hinwil-based operation's technical director James Key. "This morning was very much a step-by-step approach as it was Sergio's very first time in an F1 car, which always means a big step, in particular in terms of all the information and procedures a driver has to deal with. We did several useful tests and practice starts before conducting some aero tests.

"The first half of the afternoon was for aero tests on used tyres; the second half was spent on set-up with new tyres. Sergio's runs with new tyres were interrupted several times by red flags. As for Esteban [Gutierrez] yesterday, we kept the same normal fuel level all day long and refrained from using the F-duct. I want to say farewell to Bridgestone and thanks to them for all their efforts over the years!"

Paul di Resta - hotly-tipped for race seat promotion at Force India F1 in 2011 - took time out from his DTM title bid to conduct development work for the Silverstone-based squad, with Dutchman Yelmer Buurman taking over in the afternoon and going on to try out different aero and fuel settings to get used to the demands and challenges of an F1 car. The duo ended proceedings respectively seventh (di Resta) and tenth, less than three tenths of a second apart.

"[I was] back in the car today for some further development work ahead of the tyre test on Friday and Saturday," revealed the Scot. "Again, it was a very short time out on-track but we managed to complete our programme, which included running some aero items and evaluating set-ups. The track has improved massively from yesterday, and I'm sure it will be very different when I get back out again on Friday, but it was good to get some more time out there to be as ready as possible for the next outing."

"Obviously it's an amazing experience to finally get out on track in an F1 car!" reported Superleague Formula contender Buurman. "You go into it expecting something, and it's even more impressive than you imagined! I was really blown away by the performance and the steering, but I felt I got used to it quite quickly. It's been a great day, although not everything worked out as planned with several red flags that interrupted a lot of our runs.

"At the end we then stopped out on-track and ran out of time to make a run on the new tyres that would have put us higher up the order. This was my first step into F1. My aim is to do more F1 testing in 2011 combined with GP2 or Superleague Formula and to be an F1 race driver in 2012, with the support of some Dutch multi-nationals we are talking to. I am ready for it, and would like to thank Force India F1 for this test today."

"Paul began today's final day of F1 testing on Bridgestone tyres with some more preparation for the coming new tyre test in a little over 24 hours," summarised FIF1 chief race engineer Dominic Harlow. "Yelmer then took over the car for the remainder of the day, improving steadily through a run plan consisting of familiarisation with the car and team and both practice and race simulation.

"Unfortunately, the car stopped out on-track just before the planned low-fuel run, which would have given a chance to improve on the overall time. I'd like to take the opportunity to sincerely thank Bridgestone for their fantastic support and contribution over the years of their involvement in F1 and with this team."

Having driven for tailender Hispania Racing (HRT) the previous day, reigning GP2 Series Champion Pastor Maldonado featured rather higher up the order in eighth on Wednesday behind the wheel of the Williams-Cosworth FW32. The Venezualen is expected to be confirmed as Rubens Barrichello's team-mate at Grove in 2011.

"Today was another great experience," the 25-year-old acknowledged at the end of a day of aero testing as well as baseline and familiarisation runs. "We had to do a lot of slower-speed aero set-up work today so I couldn't really push it, and I didn't get a run of the soft tyre either, but I'm pleased with the work I've done. I'm getting lots of track time this week, which is improving my confidence in the car."

"We've had a productive day with Pastor," agreed Williams senior test engineer Tom McCullough. "He covered a lot of mileage - just under 450km - while helping us with our aero tests. Unfortunately, we had a reliability problem at the end of the day which prevented him from running the soft tyre, but overall it was a positive session during which time we've gathered plenty of data."

Similarly within the same tenth of a second as di Resta was Scuderia Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne, the runaway 2010 British F3 Champion. The Frenchman concluded his running two hours before the end of the session to dash off to Macau for the Far-Eastern Portuguese enclave's blue riband F3 outing this weekend. A morning engine issue restricted the 20-year-old's running to just 61 laps.

"These have been two special days for me, having my first drive in an F1 car," he confessed. "My first run yesterday is something I will remember, with the high speeds being particularly impressive, especially through the corners thanks to the amount of aero downforce you have. It took me a couple of runs to adapt to my new surroundings before we actually started working through a test programme aimed at next year's car.

"I was pleased that the first day also went well from my side, in that I did not go off the track and there were no difficulties with my physical condition. I also got to do a long run which was an interesting experience, driving with such a heavy fuel load on-board. Today, we did some set-up work, so that I could begin to experience the basic mechanism of how set-up changes affect the car.

"There is a lot to think about, with so much information to take on-board - much more than I am used to - and another aspect that felt strange at first was driving with the power steering. It's been a very hectic but enjoyable time, and now I head to Macau where I start free practice tomorrow morning."

"Jean-Eric put in a good performance over these two days and our engineers were impressed with the feedback he was able to provide," reported STR team principal Franz Tost. "He completed a total of 154 laps without making any driving mistakes, gradually stepping up his pace over the course of the test.

"The famous F3 race on Macau's street circuit is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any young racing driver. We wish him the best of luck there this coming weekend and, based on his performance here in Abu Dhabi, I am sure we will see him in F1 on a permanent basis in the future."

Davide Valsecchi was the highest-placed of the two HRT try-outs, two spots and just over a second ahead of fellow GP2 ace Josef Kr?l in eleventh and 13th respectively. F1 rookies both, GP2 Asia Champion Valsecchi rapidly worked his way down to setting respectable lap times in the Cosworth-powered F110, whilst 20-year-old Czech ace Kr?l - who sustained two fractured vertebrae in a frightening accident in Valencia back in the summer also impressed the 2010 newcomer with his efforts.

"Driving an F1 car for the first time today was a moment I will always remember the rest of my life," enthused an overcome Valsecchi. "After waiting for this moment to arrive for so long, when I finally got in the car I concentrated on getting as much experience as possible and therefore I took it easy. I couldn't put the sectors together on my fastest lap otherwise I could have done even better, but I am happy with the result.

"I had to get used to the 'Option' tyre and couldn't really use it, but with more time to work on the set-up of the car and more experience with this tyre compound, I think that I could have been even quicker. I want to thank the team for giving me this incredible and unique opportunity to do 32 laps in the HRT F110, and to have made my dream come true by being able to make my debut in an F1 car."

"I am very happy to have had the chance to make my debut with Hispania Racing in an F1 car during the young driver test in Abu Dhabi and I am very thankful for that," echoed Kr?l. "The car was great and I really enjoyed doing 61 laps today.

"The first ones were a bit difficult, but then I got more-and-more used to driving around and could go quicker. Unfortunately, I didn't sit properly in the car as I am taller than the regular drivers in the team, so my head was further up and it made it harder to drive - but it was a successful day for me and I hope to be in an F1 car again in the future."

"Josef showed a good performance, just like Pastor Maldonado did yesterday," affirmed Hispania Racing team principal Dr. Colin Kolles. "He got used to the car very quickly, improved continuously and completed the whole intended testing programme. He had some problems with his seat position, but he managed to complete 61 laps.
"Davide, who sat in the car in the afternoon, found his way immediately. He was very fast after only four laps and he kept on improving his lap times. We are very happy to have given these two young talents the opportunity to do their first laps in an F1 car, and we want to thank Bridgestone for all its support during our first year in F1."

Luiz Razia split the two HRT cars in twelfth position in the final standings, with Virgin Racing using the opportunity to evaluate the Brazilian's performance for the first time since he signed up to be a test driver for the team late last year. The 21-year-old's only previous outing in the VR-01 was for a promotional day pre-season, but that was without the benefit of competition tyres.

"I am really happy with what we have achieved today," he admitted following 70 laps of gearbox and suspension development evaluation, aerodynamic mapping runs and set-up work. "I managed to make the best of the opportunity and the track conditions, and we have done some good work on our final day of running on the Bridgestone tyres.

"It took me a few laps to get fully up-to-speed with all the buttons on the steering wheel, but after a while I felt very comfortable. It has been a real pleasure to drive the car in representative conditions and to be able to work so closely with the team."

"Another very good day today," added experienced Virgin team principal John Booth. "We achieved our best-ever daily mileage on a single car and successfully completed our test programme. Luiz quickly got up-to-speed and did everything that was asked of him. His feedback was excellent, he made no mistakes and he set some very competitive lap times. He was also a pleasure to work with, as always, and I would like to thank him for his valuable contribution to the team this year. Today was also our last day working with Bridgestone, and we thank them for their support throughout our debut season."

Bringing up the rear of the order, finally, were Lotus Racing runners Rodolfo Gonz?lez and Vladimir Arabadzhiev, the pair sharing half a day each in the cockpit of the T127 and separated by 1.4 seconds on the timing screens in the Venezuelan's favour.

"It was good make some more progress today, and I was getting quicker every time I went out on-track," asserted Gonz?lez. "I was still running with a reasonable amount of fuel and I'm happy with the job I did today, as I think I reacted well to the changes that we made and the instructions I was given by the team.

"I want also to say thank you again to Lotus Racing for giving me this opportunity - since I arrived here, the whole team has been just great. They have all given me real confidence and said I did not have to try to impress anybody, saying 'you have already impressed people anyway, so just do a good steady job and you will be fine'. Mike Gascoyne told me it was not about proving I am ready for F1, but it would show if I am not ready so I just wanted to do the most intelligent job I could.

"t has been 18 years of hard work and sacrifice to reach this point. Since I started karting at the age of five, it has been my dream to get behind the wheel of an F1 car, and now it has come true. I have been preparing for this for a long time, and I have really enjoyed it and have definitely learnt a huge amount over the last couple of days."

"First of all, I want to say thank you for this great opportunity which Lotus Racing gave me," added Arabadzhiev. "It was an unbelievable experience to drive an F1 car - the first time I went out was just fantastic. The feeling of the acceleration and the braking are phenomenal, and I enjoyed every second. Unfortunately, I only had half a day in the car which isn't quite enough time to really start building up experience, but I still think I did quite well with the laps I had and with the red flags we had in the session.

"Quite often people try too hard to impress in these sorts of sessions, pushing too hard and making mistakes, and I'm glad I didn't do that. Finally, the whole experience today was just great - seeing how such a well-organised team like Lotus Racing works has been amazing, and thanks to everyone again for making it such a good day."

"Firstly, we would like to thank both Rodolfo and Vladimir for doing such a good job for us in their first time in an F1 car," underlined chief technical officer Gascoyne. "Their input into the team has been exactly what we wanted, and they have both done a fantastic job working exactly to the programme we set them. Most importantly, neither driver made any mistakes and they both gave us very impressive feedback, which is what we need from them in this type of test.

"I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Bridgestone on their last day of running with us. They have been an incredibly important partner of ours this year as we brought Lotus back to F1, and we have all enjoyed working with them throughout this season. Whatever the future holds for Bridgestone in motorsport, we look forward to working with them again one day and wish them the very best of luck in all their future endeavours, on and off-track."

The teams will return to the Yas Marina circuit on Friday and Saturday (19/20 November) for their first official outing on Pirelli rubber, with confirmed drivers including newly-crowned F1 2010 World Champion Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull Racing, fellow grand prix-winners Felipe Massa at Ferrari, Robert Kubica at Renault and Rubens Barrichello at Williams, Kamui Kobayashi and 2011 team-mate P?rez with Sauber and Jaime Alguersuari for Toro Rosso.

To see the day two testing times, click here



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