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Unsurprisingly, Williams test driver Valtteri Bottas set the pace on the first day of the two-day Young Driver Test at Silverstone.
Three teams were on duty today on the track that only four days ago hosted the British Grand Prix, before switching to the shorter National circuit tomorrow.
While it was dry and sunny in the morning, there was a light shower late in the afternoon as Bottas completed 120 laps of the Northamptonshire track as the Grove outfit focussed on aero correlation tests and a race simulation.
"It's been a busy day without any problems," said the Finn. "We had a little rain towards the end but tested everything we wanted to on mixed fuel levels.
"It's been a really useful day for both me and the team," he continued. "The shorter runs are good fun, especially on this track, but I was particularly looking forward to the longer runs. It was really useful to gather some information on how the tyres behave over the various runs and I feel that I am continuing to improve as a driver."
Marussia had two drivers on duty, Max Chilton in the morning and Rio Haryanto in the afternoon, both of whom have tested an F1 car previously, indeed the Indonesian driver's debut F1 run was in a Marussia (Virgin) in 2010.
Chilton got off to a good start in sunny conditions similar to last Sunday's race. He completed 34 laps during the morning session and posted a fastest lap of 1:36.558. Towards the end of his morning session the car stopped out on track when some electrical noise caused the engine protection system to cut in, but by that time he had accumulated good mileage.
After lunch there was a slight delay as the team rigged the car with aerodynamic measurement devices and then 19 year old Haryanto got his programme underway. He made steady progress and was faring well, until a fluid leak confined him to the garage and the weather closed in. He ended the day with a fastest lap of 1:37.404 after 19 laps.
"Obviously I'm really happy to be given this chance anyway," said Chilton, "but to be at a track where F1 has just been racing, and in my own home country, is even better. Once I got to grips with the car I was very happy and felt at home in the cockpit and in the team straight away. As we progressed I felt that I could really push the car and from then on we started to do some team development work, particularly with the engine, which gave me the chance to learn more about the controls. I also completed a qualifying run and I felt like I could really attack the track. I ended the morning having really enjoyed the experience and I can't wait for tomorrow afternoon now."
"It was incredible to get my first F1 test run with the Marussia F1 Team back in 2010," added Haryanto, "so to be given a second opportunity is obviously very special. I feel I have developed significantly as a driver and I'm better equipped and prepared all round. It's a little disappointing that I was only able to complete 19 laps today; even without the leak the weather turned against us later in the day. It was still a very valuable experience for me and I really enjoyed working with the team. Everything was very well structured ahead of the test and here at Silverstone and the whole team are very open and always working together well. I was very happy with the balance and the car is very different to the one I drove in 2010. I'm very comfortable and feel there is a lot more to come from me tomorrow. We don't know what to expect from the weather yet; I hope it is dry but even if it is wet it will be good wet running experience for me. I'm looking forward to the morning."
It was an historic day for both Formula One and HRT as Ma Qing Hua became the first Chinese driver to drive an F1 car at an official event.
The morning's programme included short test stints for the Shanghai-born driver to adapt to the car and build up confidence at the wheel, completing 54 laps. These were carried out with both hard and soft tyres so that he could also experience the difference between both compounds. In the afternoon, Qing Hua covered a further 28 laps completing two qualifying stints, one with hard tyres and another with softs, start and pit stop practices and a final long distance stint.
As Ma Qing Hua satisfactorily completed the scheduled programme, the team has opted to end the tests and head to Germany for the tenth Grand Prix of the season.
"It was a fantastic feeling to drive a Formula 1 car for the first time," said Ma Qing Hua, "it's not easy to put into words what I felt. Yesterday I found it hard to sleep and I tried to calm down by thinking that it was just another test. I think we did a good job and everything went according to plan, with good weather too. By being here during the Grand Prix, I learned a lot from my teammates and also to work as a team, as it is very important to give the right information to the engineers in order to optimize the performance of the car.
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