The role of the ‘development driver’ is one which is wide and varied in Formula One these days. Lotus signed in February this year the lovely – but non-F1 driving development driver – well known to viewers of the FOM TV race weekend coverage – Carmen Jorda. The even more low profile Adderly Fong was then added to the Enstone ‘driving’ ranks, though unlike Jorda, Fong has driven an F1 car when he completed 99 laps for Sauber at a test in Valencia in 2012.
Force India also recruited a relatively unknown ‘non-driving’ development driver this year by the name of Steven Goldstein, though at 31 years of age it would appear his opportunity to break into F1 following some GT car racing experience is in reality non-existant.
Today, Force India announce another development driver – though with a difference. Alfonso Celis is set to drive a Formula One car in the post season Abu Dhabi Pirelli test, along with seven free practice sessions in 2016. Celis is of Mexican origin and has raced in GP3 with a career high point of a third placed podium finish this year in Spa for ART.
The reason Celis will actually get to drive an F1 car is most probably down to the funds he brings from his father’s food empire, though Alfonso senior is no slouch on track. He has some racing pedigree with two wins in the 24 hours of Mexico on his CV
In a statement released by Force India, Celis says: “Ever since I started racing I’ve been dreaming of Formula 1, so it’s a huge honour to begin working with Sahara Force India. It’s an amazing opportunity for me to learn about F1 and to work closely with the engineers and race drivers.”
Being on the track in Abu Dhabi will be an incredible feeling. It’s going to be the biggest moment in my career and I am fully focussed on doing a good job for the team.”
Vijay Mallya declares, “It’s a fantastic opportunity for Alfonso to learn from Sergio and Nico, and to get valuable mileage in the car.”
Yet the young Mexican’s 2016 free practice sessions will clearly irritate either/or both Nico Hulkneberg and Sergio Perez, and the recruitment of Celis must raise doubts over whether Force India are about to receive any significant cash boost from new investors.