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“Youth”

April 25, 2012

Next week’s Formula 1 test at Mugello could prove to be crucial for a number of teams in a tight Constructors’ Championship; however for a few, the focus will be on youth.

Running from May 1st-3rd. the three-day run is the sole chance teams will have to test outside of Grand Prix weekend’s until the young driver test later in the year.

Some squads will be much needed time to perfect their machinery, while others may spend time putting their drivers through their paces. In a season where the midfield battle is tighter than ever, this test could prove to be crucial.

Alas, Lotus will be offering a day’s running each in the E20 to roving Belgian reserve Jerome d’Ambrosio and both their regular drivers, Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean.
The 26-year-old former GP2 racer is to open the test for the Enstone squad, in what will be d’Ambrosio’s first opportunity to drive the real E20, as opposed to the factory simulation.

Describing the announcement, d’Ambrosio said:

“It’s an amazing opportunity for me, and I’d like to thank Lotus F1 Team for giving me the chance to experience the E20; it’s a great car and I can’t wait to drive it. I know the team from my rookie day in Abu Dhabi in 2010, and I’ve felt very comfortable at Enstone this year which I’m sure will be a big help.
“Kimi and Romain needed time in the car during the winter after two years away, so the fact that this test has been put on the calendar after the first four races of the season gives me an opportunity to drive. It will be very valuable for me to get back into a Formula 1 car after 6 months, which has felt like quite a while.
“I’ve said all along that a third driver position with a top team would be much better for my career this year, and I’m starting to see the benefits of that strategy. I’ve learnt a lot so far with Lotus F1 Team, and this is just the beginning.”

Caterham will also be bringing a third driver to the fore, although the spot will not go to either of the team’s regular reserves. In fact, it will be (Future World Champion™) Rodolfo Gonzalez who will sit in the green-and-yellow car during the opening day.
Gonzalez – who tested for Caterham at last year’s Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi – races for the team’s GP2 squad; however the Venezuelan has yet to score a point in the opening four races* of the 2012 season. The 25-year-old was reasonably delighted:

“I am very excited about getting back into an F1 car at the Mugello test… it will be my third time in an F1 car with this team and it will be another good chance for me to further my experience at the top level of motorsport.
“To be able to help their development programme mid-season is another good step in my career and something that I can take lessons from back into my GP2 season with Caterham Racing.”

One young driver who will most certainly not be at the test is HRT reserve Dani Clos. Indeed, the Spanish team have decided to withdraw completely from the Mugello sessions, while they set up shop at their new base in Madrid.
HRT Team Principal Luis Perez-Sala noted that:

“The start to the season was a little bit rushed for us and, since the cars were set up for the first time, we have been working on them at the Grands Prix. The team and the material have just got back from Bahrain after leaving for Australia in early March. And they return, for the first time, to the team’s new headquarters at the Caja Mágica in Madrid.
“This move is very important for us and by not going to Mugello we can work thoroughly on the car to prepare for the Spanish Grand Prix. We won’t have the new upgrade package until then so we’ve preferred to focus on what can contribute more to us, which is teamwork at the headquarters. And there is a lot to do”.

No possibility of laps for Clos then**.

* [note 1}
Rodolfo Gonzalez has only scored 4 points in 3-and-a-bit seasons in GP2; however the Venezuelan did secure a victory with Fisichella Motorsport in his F3000 Euroseries campaign in 2009.
Gonzalez was also the 2006 British Formula 3 National Class champion.

** {note 2}
Who knows?? Maybe that was a slight exaggeration – Clos might be at the test, but he certainly won’t be driving – unless a last second deal crops up out of nowhere.
Although that would not be hugely revelatory – only last weekend, Clos found himself racing in GP2 with Barwa Addax as a late replacement for Josef Kral. Painfully unlikely though…

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