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  The great thing about formula one designers is no matter how tight you make the rules, someone will always find a new area to exploit. Whether it’s wings, ground effects, six wheels, twin chassis or double diffusers, there is always a next best thing. Over the decades one team and one designer was always at the forefront of innovation, and that was Lotus and Colin Chapman. They may not have always been the very first to come up with an idea but if not, they were usually the first to get it right. And so with Robert Kubica topping the times at Valencia it was perhaps appropriate that it was his black and gold “not a fag packet” Lotus sponsored Renault that debuted that next best thing.



 When you think of Lotus and Chapman, you think of the monocoque (Lotus 25), wings (Lotus 49), ground effect (Lotus 78 & 79), the astonishing twin chassised Lotus 88. and active suspension (Lotus 99T). There were failures of course. The 88 was banned almost immediately. Four wheel drive with the Lotus 63 arrived at just the wrong time with the advent of big slicks and wings. The Pratt & Whitney gas turbine power of the 56B might have been ideal for Indy where you don’t really slow down but it was a blind alley in F1. But these were just as much an important a part of Lotus’ history of innovation as the ideas that won.

   And now the Lotus name is associated with yet another possible great idea. OK Lotus is just the sponsor of the Renault team (for now) but Colin Chapman would have been proud of their exhaust set-up that sees them exit at the front of the side pods. The idea is to have the hot gasses being forced under the whole of the underside of the car and hopefully regaining some of the lost down force that went with the now banned double diffusers. There will be many issues with the dissipation of heat within the bodywork but if this works, and Thursday’s times suggest it may well, Robert Kubica could be looking at a VERY good year.

   So who else showed well. Red Bull were up there as one now expects with Vettel topping Tuesday’s times. Ferrari, no surprise, with Alonso on top on Wednesday. McLaren where there or there-abouts but with a modified version of last years car. One with no double diffuser, no F-duct and a new movable rear wing. And Renault. Force India had a great time with all three drivers within the top eight, but again this was with last years car. Timo Glock got a Virgin into the top ten of anything since their inception but again, with last years car who knows just how much weight they weren’t running. A slow dog, after all, just doesn’t get quick.

    So who appears to have gotten it horribly wrong? Any statement from drivers or team bosses at this time of year that speak of being “unfazed by lap times” can usually be translated into “Oh fuck”. Those “oh fuck” comments have been coming largely from Mercedes and Williams who would have been hoping for at least one reasonable lap time between them.

  Williams are possibly better placed than the silver slings as on the final day rookie Pastor Maldonado showed that it’s not just cash he brings when he set the teams best time of the test. Rubens had been hampered with “issues” over the first two days so perhaps Williams is heading in the right direction. Mercedes however, was constantly mired in the lower midfield. Neither Rosberg nor the unter-ubermensch every got any closer than at least one point three seconds to the quick guys. Still they may have been running with heavy fuel loads the whole time. Then again… “unfazed by lap times”… “Oh fuck”.

 For full times go to;


Sam Snape 



  Young West Australian Red Bull test driver, Daniel Ricciardo shattered Sebastian Vettel’s pole position time at Abu Dhabi yesterday on his way to totally dominating the young driver test on the Yas Marina circuit. His time of 1’38.102 was a staggering 1.3 seconds under the new World Champion’s best qualifying lap of just five days ago.


"It was cool to do this test and great to get so close to the big boys times from the weekend!" beamed Ricciardo. "It's very rare to get a perfect car, but I have to say this is very close. It's a pleasure to drive it, you brake and you turn and the car does everything as you imagine it would."

His 1:38.102s lap was set in countryman Mark Webber's Hungarian GP winning Red Bull RB6 with an hour to go after Mercedes driver Sam Bird had briefly led the time sheets earlier in the afternoon. Despite general consensus being that the track conditions were estimated to be 1.5s faster than they were for the grand prix, Ricciardo's time has set tongues wagging in the F1 paddock, on only his fourth time behind the wheel of an F1 car.

Red Bull's Head of Race Engineering, Ian Morgan said, "Daniel has done a great job for us in the car over the last two days and made no mistakes, we're very happy with him. We completed our programme and got though everything as planned."

Having spun earlier in the day, Jerome d'Ambrosio recovered to set the second fastest time of the day for Renault. The Belgian ended seven tenths of a second off Ricciardo's lap yet four hundredths quicker than Bird.

"Overall it has been a fantastic day. Obviously I have some previous experience in Formula 1, but this was my first full day in the car so it was a big step for me," said d'Ambrosio. "It always takes some time to adapt to a new car, but I quickly felt comfortable in the R30 and we found a good balance early on."

Out in the McLaren for the first time since February last year, Gary Paffet took over driving duties from Oliver Turvey, setting 4th fastest time, ahead of Ferrari's Jules Bianchi, who set consistent impressive times after concentrating on development work yesterday.

Making his F1 debut, Sauber's Sergio Perez finished 6th, ahead of early morning runner Paul di Resta in the Force India - the Scot having handed driving duties over to Yelmer Buurman who could only manage 10th by the end of the day.

Driving for HRT yesterday, Pastor Maldonado finally got a taste of a Williams as the team evaluate drivers in contention for the seat vacated by Nico Hulkenburg. Spending most of the morning focusing on aerodynamic work, the Venezuelan was finally let off the leash, lapping three quarters of a second off Barrichello's qualifying time last Saturday. Despite a precautionary shut down of his engine, he managed to complete a strong total of 81 laps.

Newly crowned British F3 champion Jean-Eric Vergne missed the second half of the afternoon session as he had to catch a flight for this weekend's Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix, yet completed his second day of running by setting 9th fastest lap.

Fresh from his recent GP2 victory, Davide Valsecchi debuted for HRT in the afternoon but caused a red flag when he spun trying to improve his lap time. Although his best was 1:43.013s, it was still an impressive two seconds faster than Bruno Senna managed last Saturday, in the same car.

driver Luiz Razia completed a total of 70 laps and set 12th fastest time ahead of fellow debutant Josef Kral (HRT) and the Lotus pair of Rodolfo Gonzalez and Vlasdimir Arabadzhiev.



Day 2 times

1. Daniel Ricciardo - Red Bull - 1m38.102s 77 laps

2. Jerome D'Ambrosio - Renault - 1m38.802s 83

3. Sam Bird - Mercedes - 1m39.220s 82

4. Gary Paffett - McLaren - 1m39.760s 84

5. Jules Bianchi - Ferrari - 1m39.916s 93

6. Sergio Perez - Sauber - 1m40.543s 91

7. Paul di Resta - Force India - 1m40.901s 27

8. Pastor Maldonado - Williams - 1m40.944s 81

9. Jean-Eric Vergne - Toro Rosso - 1m40.974s 61

10. Yelmer Buurman - Force India - 1m41.178s 67 1

1. Davide Valsecchi - Hispania - 1m43.013s 32

12. Luiz Razia - Virgin - 1m43.525s 70

13. Josef Kral - Hispania  -1m44.143s 61

14. Rodolfo Gonzalez - Lotus - 1m44.312s 41

15. Vladimir Arabadzhiev - Lotus - 1m45.723s 49  


Daniel Ricciardo set the quickest lap on the first day of rookie testing in Abu Dhabi, posting a lap over a second quicker than the second best time of McLaren’s Oliver Turvey. After a total of 70 laps, the young Australian's lap of 1:39.616s would have seen him qualify for last Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 3rd place on the grid behind eventual champion Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.

 Fully aware that the pressure was on 12 months after he had impressed the F1 fraternity in Jerez, Spain, Ricciardo told the Australian Associated Press he knew what the expectations would be from both inside and outside the team. "Last year's test went well and now having spent a year with them, they'll expect pretty solid feedback," the 21 year old confirmed. "There is more pressure on me to be fastest, especially as the team has won the Constructors' Championship and everyone knows it's probably the fastest car out there nine times out of ten - but I just want to enjoy it, that's the main thing. Not many 21-year-old kids can drive the fastest car around."

Driving for McLaren, Oliver Turvey impressed after setting a 1:41.094s final lap effort, and gathered plenty of useful data for the team. Gary Paffett is due to take over driving duties tomorrow.

Formula 3 Euro Series race-winner Antonio Felix da Costa was also quick late in the day improving to third-fastest with 10 minutes to go. It was the Portuguese driver's first taste of Formula 1 and his late improvement moved him ahead of Sauber reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez. Force
and Sauber will run Yelmer Buurman and Sergio Perez tomorrow.

Formula 2 champion Dean Stoneman improved to fifth place late on. Driving for Williams, he spent the morning concentrating on aerodynamic work and was able to spend more time improving his own driving in the afternoon, setting his best time with a few minutes to go to move ahead of Renault's Mikhail Aleshin.

British F3 champion Jean-Eric Vergne also made his F1 debut, lapping three tenths off Aleshin and ahead of Force India reserve Paul di Resta, who ran first thing in the morning to create a baseline for da Costa to work from. However, he did not do a comparable run.

Sam Bird completed the first of two days of running for Mercedes, completing 61 laps. He is likely to have the chance to set some more eye-catching times tomorrow after focusing on aerodynamic work today.

Virgin's Jerome d'Ambrosio was best of the new team drivers, pipping impressive HRT debutant Pastor Maldonado in the closing stages. Both ended the day ahead of Ferrari's Jules Bianchi, who spent the day focusing on development work, Lotus driver Rodolfo Gonzalez and Virgin's Rio Haryanto.

Day 1 times

1. Daniel Ricciardo - Red Bull - 1m39.616s

2. Oliver Turvey - McLaren - 1m40.725s

3. Antonio Felix da Costa - Force India - 1m41.381s

4. Esteban Gutierrez - Sauber - 1m41.432s

5. Dean Stoneman - Williams - 1m41.522s

6. Mikhail Aleshin - Renault - 1m42.073s

7. Jean-Eric Vergne - Toro Rosso - 1m42.489s

8. Paul di Resta - Force India - 1m42.736s

9. Sam Bird - Mercedes - 1m42.985s

10. Jerome D'Ambrosio - Virgin - 1m43.518s

11. Pastor Maldonado - HRT - 1m43.750s

12. Jules Bianchi - Ferrari - 1m43.894s

13. Rodolfo Gonzalez - Lotus - 1m44.924s

14. Rio Haryanto - Virgin - 1m49.439s


Williams have announced that Rubens Barrichello will be continuing with the team in 2011 and also that Nico Hulkenberg will be leaving the British team. The Oxfordshire based team said Brazilian driver Rubens Barrichello's 2011 teammate "will be confirmed before the end of the year".


Rubens Barrichello enjoyed a successful first season with Williams, and his 18th in the sport. The Brazilian drove his FW32 into the qualifying top ten a total of 13 times and claimed 10 points scoring finishes over the year, all of which helped the team move forward to sixth place in the Constructors' Championship at yesterday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The team can also confirm that Nico Hulkenberg will not contest the 2011 FIA World Championship with AT&T Williams. Nico joined the squad as a rookie at the start of the season, following a dominating career in Formula 3 and GP2 supported by Williams. Convincing performances in his debut year in Formula One culminated in 14th place in the Drivers' Championship and an undoubtedly bright future in the sport. The team wishes to thank Nico for his dedication and team work over the past year, and for delivering a memorable first pole position in five seasons for the team at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Of the announcement Frank Williams, Team Principal of the AT&T Williams team, said, "'First, I would like to thank Nico for his hard work this year, and before that in preparing himself for Formula One. We are very proud to have supported him as he secured the Formula 3 and GP2 titles and during his debut in Formula One. At Williams we have for many years tried to bring new talent into the sport, and we are convinced that Nico will go on to great things. We wish him well and hope that our paths will cross again in the future."

Frank continued, "We recruited Rubens to Williams knowing that he would bring technical expertise, experience and passion. He has delivered everything we could have hoped for this season and we are delighted to confirm that he will drive for us again in 2011."

The news follows comments in Abu Dhabi by Hulkenberg's manager Willi Weber, who said he believes the team has already signed Pastor Maldonado.
Rumours now suggest that Force India or Renault may be Nico Hulkenberg's best chance to stay in Formula One next year. Hulkenberg's manager Willi Weber revealed: "I am negotiating with other teams. Nico will have his seat in F1 in 2011."  and that more news will come in the next "one or two weeks


As per the morning session, the Red Bull Racing drivers set the fastest lap times, but on this occasion the Ferraris, McLarens and Renaults were all in the mix  

Pos. Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1'11.968 28
2 6 Mark Webber Red Bull 1'12.072 0.104 34
3 8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1'12.328 0.36 36
4 2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1'12.656 0.688 33
5 7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1'12.677 0.709 19
6 11 Robert Kubica Renault F1 1'12.882 0.914 37
7 1 Jenson Button McLaren 1'13.206 1.238 33
8 22 Nick Heidfeld Sauber 1'13.222 1.254 40
9 4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1'13.333 1.365 34
10 3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1'13.346 1.378 36
11 9 Rubens Barrichello Williams F1 1'13.520 1.552 37
12 23 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1'13.610 1.642 41
13 10 Nico Hulkenberg Williams F1 1'13.725 1.757 39
14 14 Adrian Sutil Force India 1'13.741 1.773 32
15 12 Vitaly Petrov Renault F1 1'13.818 1.85 26
16 15 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India 1'14.045 2.077 37
17 16 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1'14.304 2.336 33
18 17 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1'14.578 2.61 37
19 18 Jarno Trulli Lotus Racing 1'14.984 3.016 47
20 19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus Racing 1'15.101 3.133 43
21 25 Lucas di Grassi Virgin Racing 1'15.433 3.465 35
22 21 Bruno Senna HRT F1 1'16.070 4.102 42
23 20 Christian Klien HRT F1 1'16.082 4.114 38
24 24 Timo Glock Virgin Racing 1'16.150 4.182 35