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Robert Wickens gets Virgin run in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix practice

Robert WickensFormula Renault 3.5 champion Robert Wickens will drive for Virgin Racing in Friday morning practice at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix next weekend.

Wickens has been the team's reserve driver and is backed by its title sponsor Marussia. He narrowly beat Carlin team-mate and Toro Rosso third driver Jean-Eric Vergne to the FR3.5 title after a season-long battle, and made his debut for Virgin in an aero test at Vairano recently.

"I'm thrilled to be given the opportunity to test with the team in a race weekend context and at a track like Abu Dhabi," said Wickens. "This year just keeps getting better and better and I can't thank Marussia enough for their continued support.

"The Vairano test was a good grounding for me but the opportunity to kick things up a gear in a free practice session is obviously the next big step in my career and I hope my feedback will have a positive benefit on the team's performance there."

Jerome D'Ambrosio will stand aside for the session in favour of Wickens.

Team boss John Booth said Wickens' practice run underlined Virgin's commitment to nurturing young drivers.

"Robert has had a fantastic season in Formula Renault 3.5 and was the deserving victor of a hard-fought championship," said Booth.

"One of the founding principles of our young driver programme was that we would reward success with important seat time to aid the progression of our rising stars through the ranks.

"Abu Dhabi is a track at which Jerome has good experience as he ran there in the same Friday morning practice session a year ago and then in the young driver test the following week. The Yas Marina circuit therefore presents a better opportunity to provide this reward to Robert as there will be less impact on our engineering programme."

Wickens is also set to run for Renault in the young driver tests as his prize for claiming the FR3.5 title.

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