F3 ING - F1 TEST BECKONS FOR BRITISH F3 CHAMPION VERGNE
The Cooper Tires British F3 International Series will next week once again underline its status as the ‘university of motor sport’ as several of its recent graduates - led by 2010 champion Jean-Eric Vergne - step up to the premier division to test Formula 1 cars at Abu Dhabi.
Vergne, his immediate British F3 title predecessor Daniel Ricciardo and the others will be taking part in the F1 ‘young driver tests’ on Tuesday and Wednesday (16/17 Nov) on the circuit where the World Championship will be decided this weekend. Australian Ricciardo will once again drive a Red Bull-Renault - he was the quickest of the young drivers who tested F1 cars in 2009 - while Frenchman Vergne will go behind the wheel of a Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso.
For Jean-Eric, who won 13 British F3 races with Carlin on his way to the title, it’s an opportunity not only to show off his skills but also to provide Scuderia Toro Rosso with vital feedback in an era when testing mileage is limited. “It’s really important for me,” he said, “but it’s going to be important for the team as well because they don’t have many testing days. I will try to do a good job for them, and for those two days to be helpful to them. I don’t know yet exactly what we will be doing but there will be things to try for next year’s car. It’s going to be a good test and I am really well prepared.
“Daniel will be there also with Red Bull and I think that Jaime Alguersuari will be staying on to test later in the week, so the last three British F3 champions will be there driving F1 cars. I think that’s pretty cool.”
Equally impressive is the number of ex-British F3 drivers who will be testing for the other Grand Prix teams. McLaren is expected to field Oliver Turvey, the 2008 British F3 runner-up, alongside Gary Paffett, who was British F3 Scholarship class champion in 2000. Among the Force India F1 team’s trio of testers is Dutch driver Yelmer Buurman, who was a British F3 race winner in 2006, as was now established Grand Prix star Bruno Senna.
British F3 race winner and GP2 front-runner Sam Bird is set to test for the Mercedes team at Abu Dhabi, with Sauber giving Sergio Perez, its new Mexican signing for the 2011 Grand Prix season, his first taste of F1 power. Perez was fourth overall, and a four-time race winner, with the T-Sport team in British F3 in 2008.
BRITISH TEAMS AIMING FOR MACAU SUCCESS
Jean-Eric Vergne has a busy week ahead of him: following the Abu Dhabi tests he will fly straight to Hong Kong and then on to nearby Macau for the prestigious Formula 3 Grand Prix, which he will contest along with a number of drivers and teams from the British championship.
Vergne will lead a four-car Carlin squad into battle on the streets of Macau on 21 November for what will be the Cooper Tires British F3 champion’s swansong appearance in his Red Bull-backed Dallara-Volkswagen. The 2010 British F3 runner-up, James Calado, is in the Carlin squad also, alongside Malaysia’s Jazeman Jaafar and Portuguese driver Antonio Felix da Costa.
Calado is one of five drivers from the UK bidding to follow in the wheeltracks of 2006 Macau victor Mike Conway and ’07 winner Oliver Jarvis. The other Brits are Alexander Sims, who is part of a four-car attack from Raikkonen Robertson Racing; Fortec pairing Oli Webb and Will Buller; and CF Racing with Manor Motorsport entry Hywel Lloyd.
Sims shook down his Raikkonen Robertson racer at Brands Hatch just a day after testing a McLaren F1 machine, his prize for winning the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award in 2008. “I am looking forward to working with the team again following our collaboration in Macau last year,” said Sims. “I have no doubts that the car will be more than up to the task in Macau.” Sims’ team-mates in Macau will be Felipe Nasr, Rio Haryanto and Michael Ho.
Also represented in Macau will be Hitech Racing, with Colombian drivers Carlos Huertas and Carlos Munoz, and Sino Vision Racing, with Adderly Fong. Fortec will field a third car for Brazil’s Lucas Foresti.
The car and driver all are aiming to beat is the Signature-prepared Dallara-Volkswagen of the 2009 Macau victor, Italy’s Edoardo Mortara.
British F3 is sponsored by US tyre manufacturer Cooper Tire and is further supported by Sunoco Racing Fuels, Anglo American Oil Company and by Mirror.co.uk.