Alfonso Celis first to test new Force India car
Force India surprised fans on Thursday by announcing Mexican teenager Alfonso Celis Jr, who has half a day's experience of Formula One, will be first to test the team's new car next week instead of a regular race driver.
The 19-year-old, who was appointed development driver in November, will be at the wheel of the new VJM09 car on two of the four days of the first pre-season test at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.
Mexican Sergio Perez and Germany's Nico Hulkenberg, who will race for the team in the season starting on March 20, will each have one day of testing.
Teams more usually entrust their precious new car to an experienced race driver, who can compare it to the previous year's model, for the first proper day of testing although sometimes commercial considerations come first.
"Blimey. He's got to be bringing some serious cash with him to take up a seat for 1/4 of pre-season testing," commented NBC's pitlane reporter Will Buxton on Twitter.
Celis drove a Formula One car for the first time in Abu Dhabi in December when he did 65 laps of the Yas Marina circuit. Hulkenberg also drove the car that day.
Force India said then that Celis would take part in seven Friday practice sessions at Grand Prix weekends in the season that starts in Australia next month.
"He's the reserve and he's going to be doing a lot of Friday practice sessions," said a team spokesman. "He needs to get some miles under his belt and experience the car."