Jules Bianchi (Tech 1 Racing) made a strong start to the second half of the season by excelling in both of today’s collective testing sessions at Silverstone. Bianchi ended the morning session in second behind Antonio Felix da Costa (Arden Caterham), before finishing the second session on top and with the fastest time of the day to boot. On today’s evidence, the Sahara Force India F1 Team reserve driver could be in for a productive weekend.
After a short summer break, it was back to business today at Silverstone with two one-hour collective testing sessions. Two new drivers were present. Daniel Zampieri, a rising star on the GT circuit, was making his return to the BVM Target team. Nigel Melker (Lotus), meanwhile, was making his first appearance in the FR 3.5 Series.
Kevin Magnussen (Carlin), Sam Bird (ISR) and Nico Müller (International Draco Racing) were the first drivers out on track. With a lap of 1:44.318, Bird was the first to break the FR 3.5 Series Silverstone track record, which until that point had belonged to Jon Lancaster. Müller was next to set a new benchmark time by lapping in under 1:44, before Magnussen took his turn to top the timesheets with an effort of 1:42.610.
Bianchi then came and made his mark with a lap of 1:41.841, while his team-mate, Kevin Korjus, sustained damage to his car. At the very end of the session, Antonio Felix da Costa, who has already won a race at Silverstone this season in the GP3 Series, recorded the fastest lap of the morning with a time of 1:41.841. He finished the session in first place ahead of Bianchi, Müller, Mikhail Aleshin (Team RFR) and championship leader Robin Frijns (Fortec Motorsports).
A few drops of rain began to fall as the second collective testing session of the day got underway. But the track remained dry, and all 26 teams were able to complete their programmes. Arden Caterham drivers Alexander Rossi and Antonio Felix da Costa made an early impression, before Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) took his place at the top of the timesheets. With a lap of 1:41.297, Magnussen was the first driver to improve on the fastest time of the day.
The end of the session, however, belonged to Bianchi. The Frenchman finished with the best time of the day with a lap of 1:41.241. Magnussen and da Costa, who finished second and third respectively, also showed good pace.
What they said
Jules Bianchi: “We’ve had two good sessions, which is a positive sign. But there are still things we can improve, both in terms of the car and my performance. It’s a fast circuit, and one that I’ve always enjoyed. It’s great to drive here in this car, as there’s a lot of aerodynamic grip. I can’t make any mistakes in the second half of the season, and I need some big results.”
Nick Yelloly: “We’re not the greatest in the world when it comes to collective testing, so I’m quite happy with our results. Roly Vincini has joined us. He has a great deal of experience and knows the FR 3.5 Series very well. I think he’ll bring a lot to the team. He knows how to win titles.”
Nigel Melker: “It’s a great car to drive, and it has a lot of downforce. I need to drive it more to really understand how it all works, but it’s a good experience. For now I’m scheduled to compete at this weekend’s meeting and then again in Budapest.”
Daniel Zampieri: “It’s easier to go from a single-seater to a GT car than it is to do it the other way around. I need to find my bearings again and adapt my driving style, particularly when attacking in braking zones.”