ABU DHABI // Yas Marina Circuit officials have spoken of the benefits of the Young Driver Testing that will be held by Formula One teams in the UAE capital later this year and played down any concerns regarding logistical issues.
The four-day programme, which was also held after the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi last year, will return on November 15-18. But unlike last year, the teams have one more grand prix to complete and will need to fly out later than originally planned to Brazil for the race in Sao Paulo the following week.
Last year's testing allowed rookies from GP2, F1's feeder series, to gain experience behind the wheel of a Formula One car and four of the drivers at the session - Pastor Maldonado, Sergio Perez, Jerome d'Ambrosio and Paul di Resta - secured seats for this season's world championship.
Mark Hughes, the director of operations at Yas, expects similar results to be drawn from this year's programme. The GP2 Finale, a one-off event that will feature several GP2 and GP3 drivers, will take place in the afternoon of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, meaning those chosen to take part in the following week's test will already know the track and what the conditions are like.
"That's very valuable for the teams," Hughes said. "If they were to wait until after the season and then run some winter tests in Europe, the conditions would be very different to Abu Dhabi obviously and they wouldn't be able to get as much from the tests.
They might also be testing on a circuit that is not on the calendar. By having the Young Drivers Tests immediately after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the teams already have driver data from practice, qualifying and the race, to which they can directly compare the young driver and it gives them more experience of the circuit."
Perez, the Mexican who landed a seat at Sauber this year, said it was "quite important to be able to test after the last GP2 race last year because we already knew the track", while Maldonado, Williams' Venezuelan driver, said he found testing at Yas immediately after his GP2 race last year hugely beneficial.
"It was a very positive experience because at the end of the GP2 year, to stay at the same track and drive Formula One on it allows to better compare the different cars and categories and understand things better," Maldonado said. "You get a better idea of where F1 is compared to GP2."
The fact the teams have one more grands prix to compete in should make little difference to the way the sessions are organised, said Hughes.
"Formula One Management deal with the transporting of the cars and freight and they run it like a military operation, so it won't be an issue logistically. They have done flyaway races [on] back-to-back [weekends] before, so I really don't see it being a problem. All it means is the teams will probably do some of the preparation and work on the car here instead of in Brazil."
Hughes said he will look at other events planned on Yas Island for that week and speak with police, Abu Dhabi Municipality and stakeholders on the island to ensure everything runs smoothly. The Abu Dhabi Striders' half-marathon takes place on Yas Island on November 18.
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