FR 3.5 Series drivers impress in F1

Mikhail Aleshin, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, three drivers picked from the Formula Renault 3.5 Series field this season, showed what they are capable of at these Formula 1 rookie tests in Abu Dhabi. Daniel Ricciardo, runner-up in the 2010 Formula Renault 3.5 Series, pulled off an impressive feat by not only being the fastest driver in the tests, but also by beating the pole position time set a few days previously by the 2010 F1 World Champion, Sebastian Vettel, who was also a Formula Renault 3.5 Series driver in 2007.

Mikhail Aleshin, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne proved excellent ambassadors for the Formula Renault 3.5 Series during these two days of F1 tests for young drivers in Abu Dhabi. Though driving an F1 car in testing may have been nothing new to Daniel Ricciardo, who was already fastest in the Rookie Tests in 2009, for Jean-Eric Vergne and Mikhail Aleshin, it was a major first.

Invited by Renault Sport Technologies and the Renault F1 Team as a reward for winning the 2010 Formula Renault 3.5 Series Championship title, Mikhail Aleshin spent the day on Tuesday behind the wheel of a Renault R30 in which he completed 58 laps. "It has been a terrific experience" the Russian driver commented. "Everything went perfectly well working with the Renault F1 Team. We had a problem with a hydraulic leak in the afternoon, so I didn't have the time to get a good lap in on soft tyres, but that doesn't matter. The main thing is to have met the team's expectations. I'm now working to try and secure a drive in F1, in 2011 if possible".

As for Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, they took part in two days of testing. Working with the Red Bull Racing team, which took the World Championship title this season, Daniel Ricciardo once again proved that he fully merits a place in Formula 1: "Last year, the tests at Jerez went well. Thanks to that experience, I came here more relaxed, knowing what to expect. Driving for the team that won the World Championship is a real delight. I have had a perfect couple days here and was able to put in 145 laps. I am happy with my times, but I am especially pleased with the work done with the team. There really was more grip out there on track, so of course if Sebastian Vettel or Mark Webber had been driving here today, they would have been quicker, but it's still very satisfying to set the fastest time, as I did last year. On the physical front, I have made a lot of progress this season, so that's good. I think I have shown that I am ready for F1. Things are looking complicated to make it happen in 2011, but I am ready to jump at the slightest opportunity, whether it comes now or later." Having set the fastest time on Tuesday, Daniel Ricciardo rammed the message home on Wednesday. By putting in a lap in 1'38''102 on his final run, the Australian went quicker than the pole position time set on Saturday by the 2010 F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel, who himself drove in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series in 2007.

Jean-Eric Vergne, who won a race in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series this season after having taken the 2010 British F3 International Series title teamed up with Toro Rosso for his first experience of driving in Formula 1. "I will never forget my first run in F1", admits the French driver. '"It took me several laps to get used to this new environment and after that we started work on a development programme for next season's car. The first day went perfectly. I didn't make any errors and physically, I felt good. I did a long run, with a full fuel load. It was a very rewarding experience." Practically as soon as he climbed out of the Toro Rosso normally driven by Sebastien Buemi, Jean-Eric was already on board a flight for Macau, headed for the famous F3 race held there. Next season, Jean-Eric Vergne looks likely to join the Formula Renault 3.5 Series field, with his sights set on the title.

Oliver Turvey, who was fourth in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series in 2009, also took part in these tests with the McLaren team. Antonio Felix da Costa, third in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 in 2009, also put in a very fine performance behind Albert Costa and Jean-Eric Vergne. The Portuguese driver was getting his first taste of F1 with Force India and set no less than the third fastest time on day one of the tests. "It's completely out of this world to find myself sitting in this F1" explains the young Portuguese driver of just 19 years of age. "I found it a bit tiring physically, but I quickly got the feel for the Force India car as my times show. Now I'm only dreaming of one thing, to be able to drive an F1 again as soon as possible!"

-source: renault sport