As Sebastian Vettel tugged off his balaclava after becoming the sport’s youngest ever F1 champion in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, so the team managers, mechanics and administrators were allowing themselves a well-earned beer to help them catch their breath at the stark realisation that the opening race of the 2011 season is only 16 weeks away.
To that end, the teams will be staying in Abu Dhabi this week where the most immediate priority – gaining experience on the new Pirelli tyres which will replace Bridgestone’s product as the contracted rubber next season – will be carried out by a wide variety of drivers including an exciting new crop of emergent talent who will be having their first serious taste of F1 motoring.
After posting a fine 2-3 finish with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, McLaren have decided to run youngsters Gary Paffett and Oliver Turvey in these early Pirelli tests while Renault will be evaluating GP2 star Jerome d’Ambrosio and Formula Renault 3.5 title winner Mikhail Aleshin. Over at Toro Rosso newly crowned British F3 champion Jean-Eric Vergne will be enjoying some F2 mileage while in the Force India ranks Dutchman Yelmer Buurman and 19-year old Portuguese Antonio Felix da Costa are to be given some time behind the wheel.
Yet for many the most interesting new face in Abu Dhabi this week was F3 Euroseries top dog Jules Bianchi, the grandson of 1960s Alpine Renault sports car ace Mauro Bianch and great nephew of Lucien Bianchi who shared the winning Ford GT40 at Le Mans with Pedro Rodriguez in 1968 and who was killed in an Alfa Romeo while testing for the French endurance classic the following year.
Young Bianchi has been signed up as Ferrari F1 test driver for 2011 and is managed by the shrewd Nicolas Todt, son of the new FIA president Jean Todt. So plenty of Ferrari connections there already then!
Watch this space.