Motor racing-Hulkenberg to stand out at F1's young driver tests

LONDON Mon Nov 30, 2009 12:37pm GMT

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LONDON Nov 30 (Reuters) - Germany's Nico Hulkenberg will stand out in Formula One testing in southern Spain this week as the only driver present with a confirmed place on next year's starting grid.

The 22-year-old Williams driver is taking part from Tuesday in a three-day young driver test at Jerez with nine of this year's 10 teams attending, including BMW who said farewell at this month's season-ender in Abu Dhabi.

Toyota will be absent after also pulling out while the four new teams for 2010 have yet to complete their cars.

The test is the only one allowed before the New Year, with the emphasis on giving promising youngsters experience now that testing is banned during the season as part of agreed cost-cutting measures.

They will include drivers from seven countries -- Belgium, China, France, Mexico, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States -- that may not have any representative in grand prix racing next year.

Some of the youngsters are closer than others to breaking into Formula One, with Brazilian Lucas di Grassi testing for Renault but tipped for a Manor GP drive while Britain's Paul di Resta and American JR Hildebrand will be battling for the Force India reserve role.

"It's always been a big goal of mine to get to Formula One," Di Resta, a cousin of IndyCar champion and Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti, told Reuters.

"I hope to be able to impress Force India with what I can do in a racing car and go forward with the team," added the Scot, who has twice before driven a McLaren F1 car. "I want to get into Formula One and I'm prepared to do what it takes."

LITTLE MILEAGE

Hulkenberg, who had little mileage as Williams' test and reserve driver last season, will be driving for two of the days to get more familiar with the 2009 car before testing starts in earnest in January.

He will be joined by Spanish-born racer Andy Soucek, who also has Austrian nationality and won this year's Formula Two title in a Williams-designed car.

Champions Brawn, now competing as Mercedes, will have Britain's Mike Conway, 26, and Sweden's Marcus Ericsson, 19. Conway, a previously Honda F1 tester, will do most of the miles.

Ferrari are taking four up-and-coming Formula Three drivers to Jerez - Frenchman Jules Bianchi, Italians Daniel Zampieri and Marco Zipoli and Mexican Pablo Sanchez Lopez.

Bianchi, like Ferrari's Brazilian race driver Felipe Massa, is managed by Nicolas Todt -- son of International Automobile Federation (FIA) president and former Ferrari team boss Jean.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo, 20, will be with Red Bull while sister team Toro Rosso will try out New Zealander Brendon Hartley and Italian Mirko Bortolotti.

China's Ho-Pin Tung tests for Renault along with Belgian Bertrand Baguette, getting his first taste of F1, while American Alexander Rossi and Mexican Esteban Gutierrez will be at the wheel of the BMW.

The Munich carmaker is honouring a promise made to both 18-year-olds before the withdrawal was decided.

(Editing by Justin Palmer; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

((alan.baldwin@thomsonreuters.com; +44 20 7542 3321; Reuters Messaging: alan.baldwin.reuters.com@reuters.net. For the new Reuters sports blog Left Field go to: blogs.reuters.com/sport))

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