The three-day testing event will take place on 15-17 November, just after the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix, and will give a number of talented young drivers the chance to show their skills at the wheel of this season’s Formula One championship cars. As the 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 Series champion, Robert Wickens was the first to book his place at the test, where he will be joined by four other drivers from the discipline: Jean-Eric Vergne, this year’s runner-up; Alexander Rossi, who finished third overall and the season’s leading rookie; and Kevin Korjus and Jan Charouz.
The guest of Renault Sport Technologies, the 22-year-old Wickens will drive the Lotus Renault GP R31 on Tuesday 15 November, day one of the Young Driver Test. Like all FR 3.5 Series winners before him, the Canadian is benefitting from the system Renault Sport Technologies has put in place to give drivers exposure to the rigours of Formula One. Having already taken a seat in the Lotus Renault R30 in a mid-season demonstration drive, reward for his lead in the FR 3.5 Series championship at the time, Wickens now has another chance to show what he can do in an F1 car.
The Canadian will get some official F1 experience under his belt before the Young Driver Test when he takes part in this Friday’s first free practice session at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with Marussia Virgin Racing, whose colours he sported in last season’s FR 3.5 Series. Joining him in the same practice session will be Vergne. The Frenchman will be at the wheel of a Toro Rosso, just as he was in South Korea on 14 October and as he will also be at the year’s final Grand Prix in Brazil.
Like Wickens, his Carlin team-mate and rival in an FR 3.5 Series championship battle that went down to the final race, Vergne will also be taking part in the three-day Young Driver Test. The 21-year-old will be putting his ability to the test in the Red Bull-Renault RB7, the car that has just taken Sebastian Vettel, who graduated to Formula One from the FR 3.5 Series, to his second consecutive world title.
One year Vergne’s junior, Rossi will also be on the track at Abu Dhabi. Third in the FR 3.5 Series this year and the season’s top rookie, the American is being backed by Team Lotus’ Driver Development Program and will be appearing at the test with the Hingham-based outfit, owned by Tony Fernandes. Still only 18, Korjus will be appearing at the Abu Dhabi test with Lotus Renault GP on the second of the three days. The Gravity Sports Management driver, who hails from Estonia, won the 2010 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 title and is the youngest ever winner of an FR 3.5 Series race, having won three in all last season. Also lining up at the test is the 24-year-old Charouz, a member of Lotus Renault GP’s reserve roster. The Czech, an FR 3.5 Series regular, will get his chance in the R31 on the Thursday, having enjoyed a number of demo drives in the R30 during the course of the 2011 World Series by Renault season.
The FR 3.5 Series quintet will all be driving Renault-powered single-seaters at the Abu Dhabi test, proof of both the French carmaker’s ongoing commitment to young driving talent and the effectiveness of a driver development programme that is now firmly established on the global motorsport scene.