Daniel Ricciardo kept Red Bull Racing at the top of the Formula 1 timesheets two days after the team clinched a world championship double, by setting the pace in the first day of rookie testing in Abu Dhabi.
The Red Bull protege, who finished second in Formula Renault 3.5 this year, consistently led the times throughout the day, working his way down to a lap of 1m39.616s. This was only a quarter of a second off Sebastian Vettel's pole position time for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, albeit a lap set the previous Saturday when the track was a little less grippy than it was today.
Few teams opted to unleash their young charges for flat-out runs, with McLaren's Oliver Turvey setting the second-fastest time, one second off Ricciardo with a last-lap effort, and gathered plenty of useful data for the team. Gary Paffett is due to take over driving duties tomorrow.
Formula 3 Euro Series race-winner Antonio Felix da Costa impressed in the closing stages, improving to third-fastest with 10 minutes of the day remaining. It was the Portuguese driver's first taste of Formula 1 and his late improvement moved him ahead of Sauber reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez. Force India and Sauber will run Yelmer Buurman and Sergio Perez tomorrow.
Formula 2 champion Dean Stoneman improved to fifth place late on. Driving for Williams, he spent the morning concentrating on aerodynamic work and was able to spend more time improving his own driving in the afternoon, setting his best time with a few minutes to go to move ahead of Renault's Mikhail Aleshin.
British F3 champion Jean-Eric Vergne also made his F1 bow, lapping three tenths off Aleshin and ahead of Force India reserve Paul di Resta, who ran first thing in the morning to create a baseline for da Costa to work from. However, he did not do a comparable run.
Sam Bird completed the first of two days of running for Mercedes, completing 61 laps. He is likely to have the chance to set some more eye-catching times tomorrow after focusing on aerodynamic work today.
Virgin's Jerome d'Ambrosio was best of the new team drivers, pipping impressive HRT debutant Pastor Maldonado in the closing stages. Both ended the day ahead of Ferrari's Jules Bianchi, who spent the day focusing on development work, Lotus driver Rodolfo Gonzalez and Virgin's Rio Haryanto.
Pos Driver Car Time 1. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1m39.616s 2. Oliver Turvey McLaren 1m40.725s 3. Antonio Felix da Costa Force India 1m41.381s 4. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m41.432s 5. Dean Stoneman Williams 1m41.522s 6. Mikhail Aleshin Renault 1m42.073s 7. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m42.489s 8. Paul di Resta Force India 1m42.736s 9. Sam Bird Mercedes 1m42.985s 10. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin 1m43.518s 11. Pastor Maldonado HRT 1m43.750s 12. Jules Bianchi Ferrari 1m43.894s 13. Rodolfo Gonzalez Lotus 1m44.924s 14. Rio Haryanto Virgin 1m49.439s All timing unofficial