Bianchi swaps teams but stays top
French driver spent day two in the Force India as Michael Schumacher arrived to inspect Mercedes' updates
Last Updated: March 13, 2013 2:28pm
Jules Bianchi: Lowered the test benchmark considerably on day two
Jules Bianchi swapped Ferrari for Force India machinery on the second day of the young driver test at Magny-Cours but that didn't stop the young Frenchman from again setting the pace with a much improved lap time on home soil.
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The 23-year-old, a member of Ferrari's young driver academy but serving as Force India's reserve for 2012, reverted to the more familiar VJM05 for Wednesday's running and, in cooler temperatures, beat his benchmark opening day effort set in the F2012 by over a second and a half to stop the clocks in 1:16.467.
Mercedes were the only one of the three teams present to run with the same driver as one day one, Sam Bird, and the Englishman moved up to second on the timesheet as he continued evaluations of the new exhaust and passive double DRS running on the W03 this week.
The Brackley-based outfit, bidding to enjoy a more competitive end to the season, are trialing the two developments ahead of next week's Singapore GP and Bird also managed to make a big improvement in lap time, moving down from a 1:19 to 1:17.482.
Interestingly, Bird's progress was monitored from the pit lane by none other than eight-times Magny-Cours winner Michael Schumacher, who made a surprise appearance in the paddock on day two.
Bird, who now hands over the car to Brendon Hartley for Thursday's final day, completed 125 laps on Pirelli's soft tyres and felt Mercedes had hit their data-gathering targets.
"We've had a second very positive day at the test and successfully completed our planned schedule, including the evaluation of the performance items that we wanted to achieve," the Formula Renault 3.5 driver said.
"We're happy with the results that we've seen so far and there is a lot of information to go through to hopefully help improve the car."
As is the intention of these young or inexperienced driver sessions, Ferrari handed an official F1 debut to 26-year-old Italian Davide Rigon - marking his return to a single-seater for the first time since suffering multiple fractures to his tibia and fibu in a GP2 race at Istanbul Park last year.
Rigon, who has returned to racing in the Blancpain Endurance Series this season, finished within half a second of Bird in third place on the timesheet but, more importantly for Ferrari in the wider relevance of their title challenge, managed to complete more than 150 laps in the F2012.
Day two times:
1. Jules Bianchi Force India 1:16.467 117 laps
2. Sam Bird Mercedes 1:17.482 125 laps
3. Davide Rigon Ferrari 1:17.925 165 laps