Force India confirms Celis for full post-Spanish GP test

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Force India development driver Alfonso Celis Jr will drive on both days of the post-Spanish Grand Prix test, the team has confirmed.

The Mexican already spent two days behind the wheel of the VJM09 in pre-season testing, while also replacing Sergio Perez in the first practice in Bahrain and Nico Hulkenberg in FP1 for the Russian Grand Prix.

Competing in the rebranded Formula V8 3.5 championship this year, Celis recently said he is keen to prove Force India that he can be considered for a race seat in 2017.

Speaking to Autosport, chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer admits the 19-year-old needs more track time if he is to graduate to F1 in the future.

“He's a lovely lad who does exactly what he is told, which is good. Not every driver does that! And he provides good feedback,” Szafnauer said.

“He's on a steep bit of the learning curve at the moment as he needs seat time in an F1 car, and that is what he is getting.

“He'll improve, but that will only come with seat time. F1 cars are a bit special. There is nothing in the junior formulae he has driven that is anywhere near.”

Although Celis’ lap times in winter testing were fairly competitive, the youngster was over three seconds off Perez’ pace in Sochi, and more than 2.5s adrift of Hulkenberg around Sakhir International Circuit.

Szafnauer explains that Force India instructed its development driver to take it easy in his first practice outings.

“He did a good job in the winter, I think he was mid-pack at one point.

“For Fridays we have stressed to him not too push too hard, in particular in the early races, in case he goes off and prangs the car because in the early races no team has ample spares.

“So we've told him to take care of the car and we need feedback, and that's what he has done, and that's why I say he does exactly as he's told.”

Celis joins Williams’ Alex Lynn and Renault’s Esteban Ocon amongst the the young drivers already confirmed for next week’s session. According to the regulations, F1 teams must field pilots who have not started more than two grands prix in at least two of their allocated four days of in-season testing.

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