Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner says his team plans to run Isack Hadjar in one of its cars in free practice at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The season-ending event is the last opportunity for the team to meet its requirement of running a ‘rookie’ driver, someone who has less then three Formula 1 starts to their name and is in active possession of a free practice-only or full superlicence, in each of its cars for a practice session. Every team bar Red Bull has already done so with one car this year.
The brand’s sister team AlphaTauri completed its quota by running Hadjar – who sits 14th in the standings in his rookie Formula 2 season with one podium so far – in FP1 at this weekend’s Mexico City Grand Prix.
His selection came under scrutiny since Appendix L of the FIA’s International Sporting Code specifies that for him to acquire a free practice-only superlicence AlphaTauri needed to show he had “driven at least 300km in a representative F1 car consistently at racing speeds” in testing. Instead, they distributed a quote from Hadjar saying he had never driven an F1 car.
It seemed to be of no issue as Hadjar took to the track on Friday and completed 25 laps, lapping 1.373 seconds slower than team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. After that session, Horner was asked about Red Bull’s FP1 plans for young drivers.
“We’re planning to do that in Abu Dhabi in the last standard race of the year at a circuit that we’ve got quite a bit of data on,” he said.
“So in the heat of the day, that first session in Abu Dhabi tends to have not a great deal of car set-up value so that’s when we’re going to elect to put both rookie drivers in our cars.”
“[Formula E champion] Jake Dennis is going to be driving one of the cars and Isack will be in the other car so it was good to see him put in a strong performance with Franz’s team today.”
AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost was left impressed by Hadjar’s maiden F1 run.
“I don’t hope that this was his best day of the life, I hope that he wins races and championships,” he said.
“He did a good job, I must say. We were all impressed by him. He was calm when he went out, he was out with three different sets of tyres, the prototype tyre, the medium and the soft. And with all these different compounds, I must say that he really did a good job. His technical feedback was also quite good, because if you compare it to the data there is a very high correlation. And we are really impressed and I think that he will be soon in F1.”
Tost confirmed it was indeed Hadjar’s first F1 mileage: “I said to Isack, just enjoy driving your first time in a F1 car, don’t care about anything, and go for it. There is no pressure or nothing. “