x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Lotus finish successful stint in testing at Abu Dhabi

Young driver Gutierrez most likely to graduate to top level as Caterham are fastest marque on last day of testing

Gutierrez is expected to replace Kamui Kobayashi at Sauber next season.
Gutierrez is expected to replace Kamui Kobayashi at Sauber next season.
ABU DHABI // Finally, five days after the chequered flag marked the end of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, silence will return to Yas Marina Circuit today. The last remaining Formula One teams, six of whom have been taking part in this week's Young Driver Test, were last night packing up their gear and flying home before the last leg of an arduous and gruelling season.
Such are the logistical demands of the 20-race calendar, each team has up to five different kits of equipment, each of which spend the majority of their lives being transported by sea from race to race.
The freight may have only just left Abu Dhabi, yet a separate kit is already starting to arrive in Austin, Texas, ahead of next weekend's penultimate race of the season.
The inaugural United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas takes place on November 18 and is followed a week later by the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo.
Much like Kimi Raikkonen, who won Sunday's grand prix in the UAE capital, it was a Lotus again that proved fastest on the final day of testing. Davide Valsecchi, the Italian GP2 Series champion, topped the time sheets for the British marque, after completing 86 laps.
Although little can be read into lap times during a session where different teams are testing different aspects of their cars, the charismatic 25 year old earned high praise from Simon Rennie, Lotus's race engineer.
"The final day's running with Davide has been a good end to our Young Driver Test this year," Rennie said. "Obviously the step from GP2 to Formula 1 is not enormous, but we were impressed with how quickly he was up to speed. Davide did a great job."
Valsecchi is unlikely to secure an F1 seat next season, however, Esteban Gutierrez, the Mexican testing yesterday with Sauber, appears almost confirmed to replace Kamui Kobayashi at the Swiss marque.
Quotes attributed to Carlos Slim Domit, the chairman of Sauber's sponsor Telmex, yesterday claimed he is "quite sure that we will have two Mexican drivers in Formula One for a full season".
Guttierez did not discuss the issue, but said he enjoyed his time in the car and can feel himself improving with every lap. "The programme was very useful, not only for me, but also for the team because we were able to test and analyse a lot of different things," he said.
"I tried to give precise feedback and in the end I was pushing a bit, but I must admit I didn't manage to make use of the peak of the soft tyres' performance. Nevertheless, I am very happy with how the two days of testing went."
Further up the grid, Kevin Magnussen in the McLaren-Mercedes was just 0.15 seconds slower than Valsecchi and Sam Michael, the team's sporting director, was delighted with the 20 year old's performance.
"Kevin's pace, consistency and engineering feedback were all excellent. Given his performance, he certainly didn't look like a guy who had never turned a wheel in a modern F1 car before the start of this week," said Michael, who revealed some McLaren mechanics and engineers will travel direct to the USA, despite having not been home since before the Indian Grand Prix two weeks ago.
While Red Bull Racing, their freight containers last night filling the entrance to the Yas paddock, are hoping their three days of testing here will help Sebastian Vettel's push for the drivers' championship, Caterham had their final day's running cut short after their car suffered an oil leak.
"It's obviously not ideal that we had to end the session early, but when I boxed after my 14th run there was oil on the garage floor, so the engineers had to call the session over," said Alexander Rossi, the American who was this week dealt the news he would not be taking part in any of the practice sessions at his home race.
"The team will take a proper look at what caused the problem and I'm sure it won't affect preparations for Austin or Brazil."
gmeenaghan@thenational.ae
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