Force India’s newly-signed development driver Alfonso Celis (pictured above) got his first taste of F1 machinery as he split cockpit duties with Nico Hulkenberg. The young Mexican, who this year has been competing in Formula Renault 3.5 and in GP3, clocked up over 360km in the VJM08.
“My first day in a Formula One car certainly lived up to expectations,” said Celis, who will take part in seven Friday practice sessions for Force India next year. “The car had huge grip and excellent braking efficiency, but my experience in the Formula 3.5 car had prepared me quite well for this big challenge. I really enjoyed the experience and I’m pleased with how the day went.
“For the first few runs I took things steady while I got used to the car and all the systems. Then, with each run, I started to push more and more as I kept learning about the car. With the programme for the day set by Pirelli, I could simply focus on my driving and getting to know everyone. 2016 is going to be an important year for me as I continue working with the team so I’m pleased to have some valuable miles under my belt already.”
Marussia gave their 2015 development driver Jordan King his first F1 outing, the 21-year-old Briton running alongside fellow GP2 racer Rio Haryanto, who has tested twice previously for the team. King ended the day less than a tenth of a second down on the Indonesian.
“My first time at the wheel of an F1 car has been an incredible experience and I can’t thank Manor enough for providing me with this opportunity,” said King. “Today’s Pirelli test had a very specific focus and I was determined to make the most of this chance to show my development capability as well as my potential for the future.
“We had a trouble-free day, so I could really get stuck into the plan, and this enabled me to build my confidence as the afternoon progressed. I was really fortunate to drive the car for 59 laps and I’m pleased with my lap time considering all the elements of the programme. I can’t wait to do it again sometime. Soon, I hope!”
After his 56 laps at the wheel of the MR03B, Haryanto commented: “It has been quite a while since I last tested a Formula One car, with Manor in fact in 2012. The cars of today though are quite a lot different, especially in respect of the new engine developments, so it took some time to get use to the changes, especially the engine management. As the morning progressed though, I was improving all the time and with no issues, I could really get into the programme.
“Obviously this was Pirelli’s test, so the programme was determined by their requirements, but I am pleased with the job I did and very happy to have another opportunity to drive a Formula One car and show what I can do.”
Other F1 hopefuls testing in Abu Dhabi included 2015 GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne at McLaren, 2015 DTM champion Pascal Wehrlein at Mercedes, and Chinese racer Adderly Fong at Sauber. The private session marked the final official track running of 2015.