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Formula 1

Racing Point now keen to get Vettel into ‘young driver’ test

by Matt Beer
4 min read

Racing Point could push for Sebastian Vettel to take part in Formula 1’s end of season ‘young driver’ test now that Renault has dispensation to run Fernando Alonso there.

The two days of running at Yas Marina following next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix are officially reserved for drivers who have not started more than two F1 races.

But Renault has been given permission to field 39-year-old double world champion Alonso, who has been out of F1 for two seasons.

That exemption – which Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul said was granted “in recognition of our commitment to young drivers throughout junior motorsport and to Fernando’s own dedication to furthering the careers of young talents” – has frustrated other teams that are changing their driver line-ups for 2021 who would’ve also wanted to get early mileage in current cars with their new signings.

Carlos Sainz Jr is pushing to be allowed to join the test with new employer Ferrari, and Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer said he would look for similar permission for 2021 Aston Martin driver Vettel.

“If we can and if the rules permit it – and there’s a bunch of ‘if’ – then we would have to consider it,” he said.

Racing Point was among the teams that had originally decided to skip the test entirely as they did not have suitable young drivers to hand and didn’t expect any flexibility over the line-up.

Szafnauer made clear he was caught off-guard by the Alonso exemption.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Sakhir Grand Prix Practice Day Sakhir, Bahrain

“I was surprised to see Fernando being allowed to test so we’ve got to have that discussion with the FIA,” he said.

“I think the rules are pretty clear, it’s a young driver test.

“A two-time world champion, almost in his 40s, as a young driver…

“I’ve got to understand what the rules are first and foremost and then see what we do thereafter.”

McLaren is in a similar position, having decided it would not do the test as it did not have any expectation that it would be allowed to run its 2021 signing Daniel Ricciardo.

Team principal Andreas Seidl called Renault’s justification for Alonso’s test “a very interesting quote”.

Outgoing McLaren driver Sainz had suggested there would be no contractual impediment to him driving for Ferrari at the test, and that the only obstacle was the young driver designation.

Seidl said McLaren wouldn’t comment on Sainz’s deal but that he could not “see any way” that Sainz would drive for Ferrari in the test “because unfortunately for him the rules do not allow it”.

He added: “It’s clear that based on the regulations that exist that we can’t run there with an active F1 driver, and that is why we made the decision that we don’t take part in this test. That is still valid.

“From our point of view, there’s no plan to do this test. There’s no further meetings planned on this topic.

“All our logistics of the equipment and our personnel is done. And we have no plans to change it.

“I only know what the rules are saying. If someone else decides it’s different, there’s nothing I can do against it.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Sakhir Grand Prix Preparation Day Sakhir, Bahrain

“It’s more a matter of principle, the entire discussion. It’s not about Fernando driving or not.

“My approach to this is: I don’t waste energy with things I can’t change or influence anymore.”

The furore over Alonso’s test amused Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who joked that he might call up 67-year-old 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell as “he never retired”.

Horner, 47, added that he was “feeling younger already” after learning that Alonso would be in the young driver sessions.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Sakhir Grand Prix Practice Day Sakhir, Bahrain

He made clear that Red Bull had no objection to any of the other teams fielding 2021 drivers in the test.

“It’s one day of testing. Is one day really going to change the world?” said Horner.

“We had no problem with Fernando driving the Renault as we wouldn’t really if Carlos wanted to drive a Ferrari or Sebastian a Racing Point.”

Red Bull is running its 32-year-old reserve driver Sebastien Buemi, a 55-time F1 race starter across 2009-11, in the test.

The other current test entrant outside the young driver designation is Alfa Romeo’s third driver Robert Kubica. The 35-year-old Pole has contested 97 grands prix, including all of last season with Williams.

Dec 02 : Russell to Merc, Schumacher and other driver changes
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