Robert Wickens was back in Formula 1 action on Tuesday at Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina Circuit as the Canadian kicked off the opening day of the young driver test driving the Lotus Renault GP R31.
The 22-year-old, who made his Formula 1 weekend debut in last Friday morning's free practice session, at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with Marussia Virgin Racing, ended Tuesday's outing third fastest. With a best lap of 1m42.217s, he recorded 78 laps in total during his first full day of testing. He concluded his afternoon session with a long 20-lap run on the soft Pirelli tires.
Wickens' front-running pace was showcased as all 12 competing teams took advantage of the additional track time for test and development work as part of the three-day test. Robert's opportunity to drive the R31, normally piloted by LRGP team regulars Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna, came courtesy of Renault Sport as his prize for winning the 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 Series this season.
“I'm extremely pleased with today's test session,” reflected Wickens. “It was a constructive day and we worked well going through the program that the team had set out. I have to say the track was a lot ‘greener' than expected this morning considering we just had the Grand Prix on Sunday, the track cleaners were obviously busy leading up to today. Having run in Friday's practice session, I was automatically dialed into the track in an F1 car though, which was an advantage.
“The R31 was as I expected, it handled well and I knew we'd be setting competitive lap times. I'd targeted a top-three finish for the day and although I'd have liked to have cracked the 1m41s mark, I'm still satisfied with my performance. You never know what everyone else is working on during test days but I just kept my head down and enjoyed the experience of working through the day with Lotus Renault GP and experiencing the car on the different sets of Pirelli's. I'd like to thank Renault Sport for the opportunity and a big thanks to everyone at Lotus Renault GP for a great day in Abu Dhabi.”
The Toronto-born racer, a reserve driver for Virgin this season, will be back behind the wheel of the team's MVR-02 on Thursday as he joins them on the final day of the test.