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Ocon, Fong to make F1 practice debuts in Abu Dhabi

20 Nov 2014

European Formula Three champion Esteban Ocon will make his Formula One Grand Prix weekend debut in Abu Dhabi, driving for Lotus in FP1.

Eighteen-year-old Ocon impressed the team when he ran a two-year old E20 over two days at Valencia in Spain last month - the test being part of his prize for winning the F3 title, which he clinched with one round to spare, taking nine wins and 21 podiums over the season. The Frenchman also drew praise from Ferrari after testing their 2010 F10 car at Fiorano at the end of October.

"Esteban is a superb young talent and we are particularly excited to give him this opportunity," Lotus deputy team principal Federico Gastaldi said of Ocon's Yas Marina Friday outing.

"He impressed all our engineers when he drove for us in Valencia, but this will be another step in his development programme. It's great for us a team to support developing drivers, especially one with the potential of Esteban."

Ocon, who has been part of Lotus's junior programme since 2010, added: "It is a fantastic opportunity for me to drive in my first session at a Grand Prix and I am tremendously grateful to Lotus F1 Team and Gravity Sport Management. The practice session on Friday will be my first time driving the Yas Marina circuit and my first time in the latest generation Formula One car, so there will be a lot to learn."

Ocon will also drive for Lotus on the first day of the post-race Abu Dhabi test on Tuesday, before handing over to Charles Pic for the second and final day.

Alongside Ocon, Sauber have confirmed that they will give Chinese driver Adderly Fong his practice debut in Abu Dhabi. The 24-year-old also got his first taste of F1 machinery in the October Valencia test, completing 99 laps in a two-year old Sauber C31.

"I am very excited about my Formula One debut in Abu Dhabi, but also at the same time a little bit nervous," said Fong. "Last month I drove the Sauber C31 for the first time in Valencia, and it was good to get the mileage to be able to familiarise myself with the speed of a Formula One car.

"Obviously the C33 is a bit different, as it is a new generation car with a 1.6-litre V6 turbocharged engine. It will be interesting to see how the ERS and the brake-by-wire systems work. As I will have only 90 minutes in FP1, I will not have a lot of time to get used to the car.

"However, being able to drive during a Formula One weekend is a great privilege, and I am very happy to have the opportunity. It is good that I already know the track as at the same time here last year I did a GP3 race."