Hildebrand and di Resta take the track with Force India
Young drivers Paul di Resta and JR Hildebrand both got their first taste of the Force India Formula One Team's 2009 challenger, the VJM02, at the Circuit de Jerez de la Frontera in the sunny southern of Spain.
Twenty-one year-old Indy Lights champion JR Hildebrand took to the 4.337km track in the morning to complete baseline runs and circuit familiarisation to prepare for the coming two days. The young American completed 49 laps with a best time of 1min 20.537, the fifth quickest time of the morning. As track conditions improved overall times dropped and his lap was eventually the 10th quickest of the day.
Scot Paul di Resta took over the VJM02 after the midday lunchbreak and similarly worked through a programme to get fully comfortable in the car. With weather clear and good mechanical reliability, the 23-year-old from West Lothian was able to complete 46 laps with a fastest time of 1min 19.369, the second quickest lap of the day.
Paul will continue in the car tomorrow morning before JR takes over in the afternoon.
JR Hildebrand: "I was really impressed with the ability of the car. It is different in every way to what I'm used to, both in terms of the outright speed, but also in terms of the characteristics of the car and how it behaves, brakes and drives through corners. Having raced on ovals I'm used to a high top speed, so that wasn't too much of a shock, but the amount of load it runs and how much speed you can carry through the corner took some getting used to. The track was clearly improving throughout the morning, so based on the program we were running, in terms of relative pace we were doing pretty well. I felt I was getting there and was starting to get the most out of the car, particularly towards the end of the morning. I think we still had some free time in the car. I lost my best lap by using a bit too much of the road and on my last run I just flat spotted the tyres straight out of the pits, which made a drastic difference in how good the car was and I really couldn't get the ultimate laptime from it. It was a little bit frustrating from the standpoint of losing the last two runs, but we were fifth quickest when my day was effectively done so I was pretty happy with my first outing."
Paul di Resta: "Today was very constructive and we achieved what we wanted to achieve, which was to get familiar with the car and build up to speed slowly to fully prepare for the rest of the test. We tried a few different things, worked on a few set-up items and certainly went forward. That was the main goal, just building up on my side, learning more and moving forward together with the team. The VJM02 is certainly impressive and although I am still learning, I felt I could get to grips with it fairly quickly. I've driven the McLaren twice before and this experience has helped me today, but for sure there's a lot of difference between the last time and today. It's obviously a new circuit and the car is built to the new regulations with slick tyres and less downforce but it behaved as I expected and we didn't have any issues at all. We were quite fortunate in that we got a lot of time and there weren't many stoppages. I wasn't trying to go for a time as such, just to get the most out of the car and myself to set up for the coming two days. In the end I could set a good time, but this wasn't the overall goal for today. The team will have a different approach tomorrow and we will be testing some 2010 development parts but the aim will be to get as much track time as possible and see how it goes. I'm looking forward to getting back in there and working with the team again."
Dominic Harlow, chief race engineer: "Today's programme allowed both drivers for this test some time to familiarise themselves with the car and team, and complete what amounted to a baseline for the rest of the week. Both of them did a very solid job, and allowed us to carry out background tests that will feed into our 2010 development. These included some aerodynamic measurements and fuel system modifications as well as a large number of smaller items. We are satisfied with having achieved our objectives today and look forward to continuing this work tomorrow."