Dutch drivers Robin Frijns and Giedo van der Garde had their first taste of a 2014 free practice session when they ran during FP1 yesterday. It was Caterham reserve driver Frijns’ first ever FP1, while for Sauber reserve driver van der Garde, it was his first time in a car since the season-ending race in Brazil last year whilst driving for Caterham.
Sauber reserve van der Garde stepped into the car usually driven by Mexican Esteban Gutierrez, and finished eighteenth fastest having completed 20 laps of the Bahrain International Circuit.
“The session was not too bad, it’s been a while since I was in a car,” said van der Garde. “The last race I did was in Brazil and since then I have not been in a car. I was struggling a bit at the beginning, as the car is completely different to last year. The way of driving, the feeling in the car, the sitting position, and the steering wheel are all-different.
“Nevertheless, I improved from lap to lap. With the second set of tyres I was still able to improve a lot. I am quite pleased how the session went, taking into consideration that this is also the first time I have driven the car with the new engine. I am happy so far. I hope we can work with the feedback. It was a nice warm up for next week, when I will have one full day of testing. Today I just did 20 laps. Hopefully during the test we can do more work and improve the car.”
Caterham reserve Frijns was running in his first free practice session in place of Kamui Kobayashi, and finished in 21st, just ahead of team-mate and regular race driver Marcus Ericsson. He completed 35 laps of the track.
“It was good to get my first FP1 done, and especially good for the team that we had our first problem free first practice session of the season so far,” said a happy Frijns, who last year competed in a partial GP2 series campaign. “35 laps is exactly what we’d targeted and we completed a program that was all about preparing for Sunday, working with Renault on the power unit and not really looking at times.
“The car felt better balanced than the last time I drove it here in Bahrain in the pre-season test, and it’s clear that Renault have made a lot of progress since then – we showed in last week’s race in Malaysia that our race pace is strong and I think the work we’ve done today will help us build on that in Sunday’s race. There’s clearly performance to come from optimising the set-up and more work with Renault, but I’ve done my bit today and I’m happy with what we did.”
Both van der Garde and Frijns will be back in their respective cars post-race when the Bahrain track hosts the first of four in-season test sessions. Van der Garde will share the time on track with Russian Sergey Sirotkin, who aims to complete the running he needs to gain his Superlicence. Frijns will be running day one of the test, though at present no confirmation on who will be running day two has been made.
“I’m back in the car again on Tuesday for the first day of the test when we’re working with Pirelli, and if we can have similar reliability then I think we can help them and us make some more good progress,” finished Frijns.