Return of the 3rd driver

For the first time since the 2008 season will a large majority of 3rd/test/reserve drivers get some mileage in real machinery this year. Since Jenson Buttons winning year F1 has introduced an in-season testing ban with pre-season testing limited to only the scheduled tests for all teams. However this year the teams elected to move one of the pre-season tests to Mugello next week after the first 4 fly-away rounds and before the meat of the season in Europe (+ Canada) gets underway. We assume that Ferrari has really pushed for more in-season testing and I’d expect to see some more test sessions brought in (personally i’d like to see all at non-F1 venues) in the coming years.

In the years since the testing ban Force India have ran 3rd drivers on Friday (Paul Di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg and Jules Bianchi) in preparation for them graduating to F1. This is a sensible option for the team although it means some drivers miss out on valuable track time. Williams (Valterri Bottas), Caterham (Chandok),  Marussia (Pic), HRT and Toro Rosso (both current drivers) have all followed suit in the following years with running drivers at a few selected events

However as this upcoming test is only 3 days many teams have opted to run a 3rd driver for at least one of those days:

  • McLaren will run Gary Paffett & Oliver Turvey over all 3 days although Lewis Hamilton has commented he may want some track time
  • Jerome D’Ambrosio will get a day behind the wheel of the Lotus
  • Rodolfo Gonzalez will get one day with the Caterham team

We’d also assume we might see some of the Friday drivers get a hop into the car for a day and as soon as the lineup is finalised I’ll hopefully get some comment up on the blog.

The only other testing that has been on the calendar has been the young drivers test which is a test for drivers that have 2 grand prix or less experience which has lead to some permenant 3rd drivers taking this role. The only option for those who have been ousted from a seat is trying to land the Pirelli tyre testing roles which is what Toro Rosso refugee Jaime Alguersuari has done. I’d like to see a few tests mid-season for the teams with only non-race drivers allowed to participate in them (or limit a race drivers total number of testing days) to allow the teams to evaluate other drivers.

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