Test Drive Unlimited – the perennial test drivers of F1’s unlimited testing era

Prior to the 2009 ban on unlimited testing, a lot of drivers carved out long careers in various F1 teams as testers while potentially never actually starting a race. Through hard work, some would eventually make it through as actual race drivers and have a decent career, while some would never get a proper chance. This article highlights some of the more famous long-term testers who fell in the latter group. Specifically, the article concentrates on drivers who tested for multiple teams and/or years, but only had 16 or less F1 race starts to their name while scoring no championship points.

Giorgio Francia

Nationality  Italian 
Date of Birth  8th November 1947
F1 teams/projects tested for  Alfa Romeo (full tests 1979-85, engine tests 1986-88)
Races Entered  2
Races Started  0
Select non-F1 highlights 1st in 1974 German F3 (Polifac Trophy)


Francia about to start another test session in 1981. Photo credit: unknown via f1forgottendrivers.com

Giorgio Francia started his racing career relatively late, however that didn’t stop him from winning the 1974 German F3 Polifac Trophy championship in only his second season against future F1 drivers such as Hans Binder, Gunnar Nilsson and Harald Ertl. In the following year he would move up to F2 with Osella, and would remain associated with them for years to come. In 1977 he was named as the official test driver of Fiat Group’s sporting arm, concentrating on Alfa Romeo and to lesser extent Lancia. This would also give him his first F1 chance at the 1977 Italian GP, when Brabham (then running Alfa engines) fielded a third car for him. However Francia was not used to the car, and he eventually had to hand it over to main driver Hans-Joachim Stuck whose car had failed on him.

Francia carried on as Alfa Romeo’s designated test driver throughout their works F1 team program from 1979 to 1985, and would also get a second chance as a F1 race driver with his old buddies at Osella at the 1981 Spanish Grand Prix. As luck would have it he once again had to hand over his car to another driver – this time to Beppe Gabbiani who had destroyed his own car in a crash.

During his testing career, Francia also participated in various touring and sports car races – usually in Osella, Alfa Romeo or Lancia machinery. After Alfa Romeo’s withdrawal as a F1 team, Francia continued as an engine tester while launching a long career racing for Alfa Romeo in various touring car championships. He would retire from racing after 1995, but came back for a one-off at the 2001 24 Hours of Sicily – finishing 1st in class in an Alfa Romeo 147. A fitting end to a dedicated career.

Jean-Louis Schlesser

Nationality  French
Date of Birth  12th September 1948
F1 teams/projects tested for Williams (1982-87), Ligier (1989), Larrousse (1989), Sauber (1992)
F1 Races Entered  2
F1 Races Started  1
Select non-F1 highlights Joint 1st in 1978 French F3, 2nd overall (1st in class) in 1980 24 Hours of Le Mans, 1st in 1989 and
1990 WSC, 1st in 1999 and 2000 Dakar Rally


Schlesser testing for Sauber in late 1992. Photo credit: unknown via Unusual F1

A nephew of the talented but tragic Jo Schlesser, Jean-Louis had a slow start to his career. Growing up in Morocco, he moved to France and enrolled in the Volant Shell racing school in 1970 at the age of 21. He finished runner-up and got a Formula Renault car as a prize, but lack of funding prevented him from racing seriously. For a few years he tested for various racing car companies like Modus, while also entering the occasional rally – both factors which would be beneficial later in his career. It wasn’t until 1976 that he could enter in F3, eventually becoming joint champions with Alain Prost in 1978. That would however be his only major success in open-wheelers. During this time he maintained a healthy schedule of touring car and sportscar races as well, including a class victory at the 1980 24 Hours of Le Mans.

In 1983 he had gathered enough funds for a stint at RAM Racing in F1, but a promising 6th at the non-championship Race of Champions was followed by a DNQ at the French GP. However, he was able to join Williams as a regular test driver – despite his relative lack of open-wheel success he was valued for his great technical feedback, no doubt helped by his early 1970s career. Schlesser tested with Williams from late 1982 to mid-1987, most notably helping them to develop their active suspension system. During this time, he continued to have success in sports cars, and made his first entry at the Dakar Rally in 1985.

By the 1988 Italian Grand Prix he was almost 40 years old (although he preferred to downplay his age), and was unlikely to ever race in F1 again. However, Williams were in a desperate situation. Nigel Mansell was still ill with chickenpox, and Tom Walkinshaw Racing refused to lend them Martin Brundle for another race. So as a last-ditch option Williams called up Schlesser, who had last tested for them 14 months previously. Despite his complete lack of recent F1 experience, he qualified a respectable 22nd on the grid. For most of the race he remained anonymous, until race leader Ayrton Senna entered the 50th lap of the race and attempted to lap Schlesser for the second time that afternoon. Schlesser made a mistake and went on the gravel, but using his rally driving skills he managed to make a surprise recovery which put him on collision course with Senna’s McLaren. Senna retired on the spot, giving Ferrari a very emotional 1-2 after the recent death of Enzo, and ruining McLaren’s perfect streak of GP wins in 1988.

This was enough to give him a couple more F1 testing opportunities with Ligier and Larrousse in 1989, the latter as part of a mid-season shootout to determine who would replace Yannick Dalmas, who had lost his edge after a bout with Legionnaires’ disease. Schlesser continued to have success in sports cars, winning the 1989 and 1990 titles with Sauber. However, the WSC was about to collapse and Sauber decided to move to F1 for 1993, so as a parting gift Jean-Louis helped them with the development of their first F1 car. Schlesser then started to regularly participate in off-roading in buggies developed first by himself and later in conjunction with Renault. This would eventually lead to many championship titles and Dakar Rally overall victories in 1999 and 2000. He would continue to reap success off-roading and ice racing, finally retiring after the 2014 Africa Eco Race.

Allan McNish

Nationality  British
Date of Birth  29th December 1969
F1 teams/projects tested for  McLaren (1990-91, 1994), Benetton (1993-95), Lola (1995), Toyota (2000-02), Renault (2003)
Races Entered  17
Races Started  16
Select non-F1 highlights 2nd in 1989 British F3, 1st in 1998, 2008 and 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans,
1st in 2000, 2006 and 2007 ALMS, 1st in 2013 FIA WEC


McNish testing the 1995 Lola. Photo credit: unknown via F1Rejects.com archive

McNish started his sporting career with football, but it wasn’t until he moved to karting that he found something he was successful at. After winning the 1988 Formula Vauxhall Lotus championship and coming second in 1989 British F3, he managed to land an occasional testing job with McLaren while continuing with his career in F3000. While he managed 4th overall in his first full season in 1990, this didn’t lead to any further success in F3000 in the next couple of years. The Scotsman was however determined to get into F1, so he continued to test for McLaren, before taking on further testing opportunities from Benetton and the abortive 1995 Lola project (a precursor to the 1997 project which ended miserably).

However, his testing efforts didn’t land him a F1 race drive, so in 1997 he moved to GT racing with Porsche. This would prove fruitful with him being part of the winning lineup at the 1998 24 Hours of Le Mans. After a one-off with Toyota in the 1999 edition of the race (which ended up in a DNF), he continued with Porsche for the inaugural season of ALMS before switching to Audi in 2000. This turned out to be a great move, as not only would he be in the 2nd-place Audi in a 1-2-3 Audi sweep of the 2000 24 Hours of Le Mans, but he also conquered the ALMS title in the same year.

McNish could have continued to reap more success with Audi, but instead he was contacted by Toyota to be a test driver for their F1 program, despite only ever driving for them once in 1999. McNish jumped at the chance, figuring he could finally make his F1 dream come true, and spent the entirety of 2001 developing Toyota’s F1 challenger for 2002. He was rewarded with a race seat for that season alongside Mika Salo, but aside from a couple of narrow misses from points and a huge crash at the Japanese Grand Prix which prevented him from starting the race, he barely made a blip on the radar.

After spending 2003 in the rather crowded Renault F1 testing lineup, he moved back to sports prototypes with Audi while also trying out DTM in 2005. After a long and successful career both in the 24 Hour of Le Mans as well as ALMS, culminating in winning the 2013 FIA WEC championship, he hung up the helmet and took on a liaison role with Audi.

Emmanuel Collard

Nationality  French
Date of Birth  3rd April 1971
F1 teams/projects tested for  Ligier (1990-91, 1995), Williams (1994), Benetton (1995), DAMS (1995, did not drive),
Jordan (1995), Tyrrell (1995-96), Prost (1997), Arrows (1998)
Races Entered  0
Races Started  0
Select non-F1 highlights 1st in 1996 Porsche Supercup, 2nd in 2005 24 Hours of Le Mans, 1st in 2005, 2006
and 2011 ELMS, 1st in 2016 and 2019-20 FIA WEC (GTE Am class)


Collard testing for Tyrrell in June 1996. Photo credit: Alastair Ladd via Tests in F1

Like most racing drivers Collard started his career in karting, winning the 1982 French Minime and 1988 CIK-FIA Formula A 100cc championships. He then moved up to French Formula Renault, finishing 2nd overall in 1989 and winning the title in 1990. This brought him to the attention of the Ligier F1 team, and he tested for them regularly in 1990 and 1991. Moving up to French F3 and then International F3000 brought him little success, so his competitive career in single-seaters stalled. In 1994 he moved to Porsche Supercup, eventually winning the title in 1996. 

His F1 opportunities weren’t over yet. With backing from Elf, he was signed on as a test driver for Williams in 1994 and reportedly racked up thousands of kilometres of track time. Next year he would be even busier with F1 testing. Again with the help of Elf money he initially signed on as Benetton’s official test driver, but his testing opportunities there were limited (presumably due to a personality clash with Flavio Briatore) so he also did testing work for Tyrrell, Ligier and Jordan – the last one not backed by Elf – that year. He was linked to the DAMS F1 project and was supposed to test the car, but this never happened before the project was wound down.

Much like Schlesser in the previous decade, he was valued for his great technical feedback, particularly regarding engines. At the end of the year it was announced that he was signed as Jordan’s test driver for 1996, but instead he went to Tyrrell where he was their official test and reserve driver throughout the year. In 1997 he was evaluated as a potential replacement for the injured Olivier Panis at Prost, but narrowly lost out to Jarno Trulli. Rumour has it that Briatore, who managed Trulli and still held some influence within Prost, made sure Collard would not get the seat. The test also happened right after the 24 Hours of Le Mans which certainly did not work in his favour. His final F1 opportunity came with Arrows the following year, where he was named as the official test and reserve driver but due to the team’s limited budget he didn’t get much time in the car, with a single shakedown at Santa Pod in the summer being his only verified test session.

Outside of F1 testing, Collard continued to have a successful career in GT and LMP cars. After a first outing in 1995, he finished 2nd overall in the 1996 24 Hours of Le Mans, and narrowly missed out on the overall win in 1997 when his Porsche retired two hours from the end. He then won the GT class in 2003, before starting a successful association with Pescarolo Sport in 2004. This resulted in 2nd overall at the 2005 24 Hours of Le Mans and ELMS overall titles in 2005, 2006 and 2011. He also won the LMP2 class in the 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans, driving a Porsche RS Spyder. After 2012 he moved back to mostly racing GT cars, which resulted in two more class titles in the FIA WEC. In 2017 he made a switch to LMP2 with TDS Racing, but returned to GTs the following year. He continues to race today, having just recently participated in the Asian Le Mans Series in the GT class.

Marco Apicella

Nationality  Italian 
Date of Birth  7th October 1965
F1 teams/projects tested for  Minardi (1987, 1990-92), Reynard-Mugen (1990), GLAS/Modena (1990-91),
Larrousse (1991), Jordan (1993), Dome (1996)
Races Entered  1
Races Started  1
Select non-F1 highlights 2nd in 1986 Italian F3, 1st in 1994 Japanese F3000


Apicella testing the Dome F1 project in 1996. Photo credit: unknown via F1Rejects.com archive

Marco Apicella started his single-seater career in Italian F3 in 1984, and already in his debut season he managed three podiums and two pole positions, finishing 7th overall. He improved to 4th overall and two race wins in 1985, before eventually finishing runner-up to team mate Nicola Larini – and ahead of future F1 points scorers Alex Caffi and Stefano Modena – in 1986. A move to International F3000 followed, but a 5th at the rain-shortened race in Spa-Francorchamps was his only points finish. The year ended on a high note though, as Minardi gave him a test session at Estoril.

Apicella then landed a drive in the better-funded FIRST Racing squad, and he scored his first F3000 podium in 1988. Unconfirmed reports state that he also drove FIRST’s F1 car for a bit, and he was on the shortlist of race drivers had their F1 entry materialised in 1989. However, the F1 chassis was structurally too weak (and too heavy after being strengthened to pass crash testing), so FIRST cancelled their F1 program and Apicella continued in F3000 for 1989. This would be his best season in the series, as he finished 4th overall with four podiums. In 1990 he scored three podiums and finished 6th overall, while continuing to chase the F1 dream by taking more testing opportunities. He had another test with Minardi and then with GLAS, soon to be taken over by Lamborghini and renamed as Modena.

Sometime during this year he also had a more obscure test in a specially modified Reynard 89D F3000 car called 89M, fitted with a prototype Mugen F1 engine and Bridgestone tyres. At the time Mugen were planning an F1 entry independent from Honda, either as a full constructor or engine supplier, while Bridgestone had a semi-official project to become a F1 tyre supplier (which would become official a few years later). After testing with multiple drivers, Mugen decided to ditch the project and became a supplier for customer Honda engines in F1.

FIRST Racing were now running low on money, so for 1991 he moved to Paul Stewart Racing, but results were nearly identical to the previous season with just two podiums and 5th overall in the standings. Minardi was still happy to give him more testing time and he reportedly also had a one-off test session with Larrousse. Being (at the time) record holder for the most International F3000 starts ever and with a career heading seemingly nowhere, Apicella decided to try his luck in Japan and moved to their F3000 championship full-time in 1992 (having had a one-off in 1989). He scored his maiden victory in Autopolis that year and another in 1993 en route to 4th overall in the championship. Then, a surprise turn of events led to his one and only F1 race start.

Jordan had endured another difficult year in F1. Although they had better reliability than last year, they were still lacking pace, and while debutant Rubens Barrichello had shown promise in the first car, the second car had seen both Ivan Capelli and Thierry Boutsen give up and retire from F1 for good. After Boutsen retired following his home race in Belgium, Eddie Jordan wanted to promote their test driver Emanuele Naspetti to the race seat. Surprisingly, Naspetti declined the offer. Desperate to find a driver for the Italian GP, Jordan called up Apicella who had an opening in his Japanese F3000 schedule. While he was reportedly quick in a test session before the GP, he only managed to qualify 23rd, half a second and four places behind Barrichello. All of this proved to be a moot point, as both Jordan drivers were taken out in a pileup triggered by JJ Lehto in the first corner. For the next race Naspetti had agreed to drive, so Apicella returned to race in Japan. This gave him the second-shortest career of any F1 driver who actually started a race (behind Ernst Loof).

In 1994 he won three races and the championship title with Dome, scoring points in all races apart from the season finale where he was punted out. This upturn in fortune was short-lived however, as a switch to Team 5Zigen for 1995 proved disastrous and he failed to score a single point. He also had his first outing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, finishing 6th in the GT class in a SARD Co. Toyota Supra (his only finish in the event). The next season in what was now called Formula Nippon was hardly better, with only a single points finish to his name. At the same time his connection with Dome landed him a role as Chief Test Driver for their Mugen-powered F1 project, but despite media buzz and extensive testing the project lacked serious sponsorship and never really got off the ground.

At the start of 1997 he was initially out of work, before replacing Érik Comas for one race in the NISMO Skyline GT-R in JGTC, finishing 4th. Soon afterwards he replaced Michael Krumm in the STP Stellar FNippon team and had a slightly better season than last year, with three points finishes in seven races. After spending 1998 on the sidelines, Apicella returned to Europe in 1999 with Monaco Motorsport in the new Italian F3000 series. While he started off strong with a win in the first race, consistency was lacking and he only managed to finish 3rd overall despite winning one more race later in the season. He also entered the International F3000 round at Spa, but failed to qualify in atrocious weather. In the same year he also tried out his luck in sports cars in a Riley & Scott Mk III, but another attempt at Le Mans ended up in a retirement due to an engine failure, before a Sports Racing World Cup race in Brno resulted in a 4th place finish.

A planned drive at the 2000 Daytona 24 Hours was cancelled at the last minute, so Apicella moved back to Japan to do JGTC with MTCI Racing Team. The initial plan was for him to drive a Mercedes-Benz CLK-LM in the GT500 class, but the deal fell through so the team opted to participate in the GT300 class in a custom-built Porsche Boxster, finishing 15th in the standings. A move to the GT500 class followed with JLOC next year, but their Lamborghini Diablos were severely outdated and Apicella managed no points finishes in the next two seasons. Things improved slightly as he was selected to drive the second TOM’s Toyota Supra. After finishing 18th overall in the standings in 2003, Apicella was promoted to the first Supra and had his best season in the series, scoring points in seven races en route to 7th overall.

However, TOM’s elected to not renew his contract so Apicella was once again out of a drive at the start of 2005. After testing a Lamborghini Murciélago with Reiter Engineering for a potential FIA GT drive, Apicella returned to JLOC in what was now called Super GT. As JLOC’s Murciélagos were uncompetitive in the GT500 class, a decision was made to homologate the car for the GT300 class midway through the season. This allowed Apicella to score a points finish in the first race after the re-homologation, resulting in an 18th overall finish in the GT300 championship. 2006 then started brilliantly with a class win, but this was his only major success that year, as he only managed three more points finishes and 11th in the championship. He also entered the 24 Hours of Le Mans with JLOC, but severe technical problems prevented them from completing enough laps to be classified.

For 2007 JLOC’s main focus shifted to the new Gallardo model, and Apicella was relegated to part-time status in the second Murciélago. A pole position and second-place finish at the Fuji 500 km was the only highlight of his season. Another attempt at Le Mans ended quickly as Apicella had a massive crash in the first qualifying session, and while the car was repaired in time for the race it only lasted a single lap before succumbing to driveshaft failure. After another year without a drive, he entered the 2009 Fuji 400 km as the third driver of JLOC’s ageing Murciélago, before also entering the first round of Lamborghini Super Trofeo in Adria. One point and a fastest lap at that event would be his final recorded race results. His last competitive race entry would be at Le Mans, but after numerous technical issues in the practice sessions Apicella threw in the towel for the race – and his racing career.

Outside of racing, Apicella has acted as a driving instructor, consultant and occasional test driver, most recently for Dallara and Stilo Helmets.

Jörg Müller

Nationality  German
Date of Birth  3rd September 1969
F1 teams/projects tested for  Ligier (1994), Arrows (1996-97), Sauber (1997-99), Williams/BMW/Michelin (1999-2001)
Races Entered  0
Races Started  0
Select non-F1 highlights 1st in 1994 German F3, 1st in 1996 International F3000, 2nd in 1998 24 Hours of Le Mans,
1st in 2001 ALMS (GT class), 2nd in 2002 and 2003 ETCC, 2nd in 2006 WTCC,
1st in 2004 and 2010 24 Hours of Nürburgring


Müller during a 1999 Williams-BMW test at the A1-Ring. Photo credit: unknown via Unusual F1

After graduating from karting as the 1985 German Junior Kart champion, Müller showed great early promise in single-seaters by winning the 1989 Formula Opel Lotus Germany and 1990 European Formula Ford titles – the latter one while also racing the entire German F3 season. He would remain in German F3 until the end of 1994, when he finally won the title while driving for RSM Marko. During this time he also won the prestigious F3 Macau GP in 1993 on his first attempt.

His German F3 title would land him his first F1 test with Ligier in December 1994, but his lap times were less than promising. With no single-seater opportunities in sight he moved to the German Supertouring Championship in 1995, finishing 12th overall while driving for BMW. The next year he returned to single-seaters with RSM Marko in International F3000, and after a tightly fought out season he was declared the champion after his title rival Kenny Bräck was rather controversially disqualified from the last race of the season, following a collision which took out Müller. During the same year he maintained a part-time STW schedule while also winning the 24 Hours of Spa – the first of his many endurance triumphs. Arrows then hired him as a test driver (not long after Bräck had left them due to lack of opportunities). He tested multiple times during the autumn and early winter, some which were tyre tests for Bridgestone, and was on the shortlist of candidates to partner Damon Hill in 1997 before Pedro Diniz came along with his very thick wallet. 

As such Müller was retained as a test and reserve driver, where he remained for most of the year. His only race entry was at the 24 Hours of Le Mans driving for TWR’s Nissan R390 GT1. The car was decently fast but unreliable, and the gearbox overheated after 139 laps. An accident while testing the Nissan in mid-September sidelined him for a few weeks, before his next F1 test with Sauber in early December. He impressed Sauber enough that he was signed on as their test and reserve driver for 1998, replacing Norberto Fontana who had proven to be less than adequate in his few race outings. To maintain his racecraft he raced for Porsche in the FIA GT championship, finishing 7th overall in the GT1 class, and also took part in Le Mans again – this time finishing 2nd.

In 1999 he rejoined forces with BMW while initially also being maintained as Sauber’s reserve driver. From the start of the year, BMW rigorously tested their new F1 engine after signing a deal with Williams to supply them from 2000 onwards. As one of the more experienced F1 test drivers around he was the natural pick for these tests. His racing was limited to driving BMW’s V12 LMR at a select few events, winning the car’s debut at the 12 Hours of Sebring and suffering a late DNF at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Towards the end of the year his testing schedule also included tyre tests for Michelin who would enter F1 in 2001. In late 1999 and early 2000 there were rumours that BMW wanted him to get a race seat at Williams after Alex Zanardi’s departure, but Williams were less keen on him and it was young Jenson Button who eventually got the nod.

He continued doing engine and tyre tests in 2000 while racing in all but one of the ALMS races that year in the V12 LMR, finishing 5th overall with two wins and eight podiums. Before the last race of the season BMW decided to wound down the LMR project to concentrate on F1. A bit of tyre testing for Michelin early in 2001 would be his last contact to F1, after which he switched to tin tops in the form of GTs. This would give him his first world championship title in five years, as he won the GT class of ALMS with four wins and eight podiums in 10 races. A move to ETCC followed, and he finished runner-up in both 2002 and 2003 – losing the latter season by a single point. In 2004 he was 4th overall in a closely-fought season, but finally managed to win the 24 Hours of Nürburgring on his fifth attempt. ETCC then evolved into WTCC and Müller continued racing there until the end of 2009 – again narrowingly missing out on the title in 2006.

He moved back to GT and endurance racing in 2010, winning the 24 Hours of Nürburgring for the second time and finishing 6th in the GT2 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. More spotty race entries followed next year, including a fifth and final entry at Le Mans which ended in a DNF. He continued in various GT series – ALMS, ADAC GT Masters and then Super GT (where he finished 3rd overall in 2014) – until the end of 2017, after which he has concentrated his efforts on various endurance races, with his most recent entry being at the 2022 24 Hours of Nürburgring.

Gary Paffett

Nationality  British
Date of Birth  24th May 1981
F1 teams/projects tested for  McLaren (2000-14), Williams (2016-17)
Races Entered  0
Races Started  0
Select non-F1 highlights 1st in 2002 German F3, 1st in 2005 and 2018 DTM, 2nd in 2004, 2009, 2010 and 2012 DTM


Paffett during the Young Driver Test 2013. Photo credit: Nic Redhead via Flickr

At a young age Paffett looked like the next big thing in motorsports, with plenty of karting success before he moved to Formula Vauxhall in late 1997. The next year he dominantly won the Class B Junior title with a clean sweep of 13 pole positions and wins, before winning the main title in 1999. This success won him the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year award at the age of 18, and like all winners of the prestigious prize he would get a F1 test with McLaren.

A move to the British F3 Scholarship class followed and he once again swept the table with 12 wins in 14 races. He got his BRDC award test with McLaren in December 2000 before embarking on a campaign in German F3 with Team Rosberg, finishing 6th overall in his debut season. He then won the title next year and was looking to move on to International F3000 with Brand Motorsports. At the same time he was given further testing opportunities with McLaren.

After just a single start in F3000, Brand Motorsports folded and Paffett had to look elsewhere for a race seat. Team Rosberg came to the rescue and gave him a seat in DTM, starting his association with Mercedes-Benz machinery that would last until the end of his career. Good results were hard to come by in the year-old car, and he only managed two points finishes en route to 11th overall. As the best non-factory Mercedes driver of the season, he was promoted to the factory-supported HWA Team in 2004 and finished runner-up, before winning the title in 2005.

During this time he had continued to test for McLaren regularly, and instead of defending his DTM title in 2006 he decided to become a full-time test driver alongside Pedro de La Rosa. This however did not lead to a race seat, as the more experienced de la Rosa got the nod when Juan Pablo Montoya left the sport mid-season, and hopes for a 2007 seat were dashed when one Lewis Hamilton was confirmed to partner Fernando Alonso. This made Paffett briefly leave McLaren for a few weeks to pursue other opportunities, but he quickly rejoined and agreed to stay on as a test driver.

Paffett rejoined DTM in 2007 with Persson Motorsport and again had to make do with a year-old car, finishing two seasons in a row as 9th overall. He was also linked to a F1 seat with Prodrive, but the project never really took off. In 2009 he was once again promoted to the HWA Team, and managed three runner-up seasons before a disastrous 2014 season saw him switch to ART for the next two seasons. He returned to HWA for 2017, and conquered his second and final DTM title in 2018.

Due to his vast experience Paffett remained a regular sight behind the wheel of a McLaren, even after the 2009 ban on unlimited testing. While his role gradually shifted more to simulator work, he was still seen on track in some pre-season and Young Driver tests, the last one in 2013 at the young age of 32. Finally, at the end of 2014 Paffett and McLaren parted ways due to McLaren switching to Honda engines, ending a long-standing cooperation rivalling Luca Badoer’s attachment to Ferrari. His F1 career wasn’t over yet, as at the start of 2016 Williams (now running Mercedes engines) took him on board as a simulator driver, before giving him one last on-track test day at Sakhir in April 2017.

Seeking new challenges after his 2018 DTM title, he moved on to Formula E with HWA, finishing 19th overall with three points finishes. After this and a few GT races, he decided to retire from full-time racing and took on a managerial and advisory role within the team as it morphed into a fully-fledged Mercedes factory effort. True to his form, he also remained as the official test and reserve driver for a while. Under his guidance as team manager, the team finished 3rd in their debut season before taking two back-to-back championship titles. Before the 2022-23 season the team was taken over by McLaren, returning Paffett to the motorsport franchise he was very familiar with. In 2023 his role was expanded to being the sporting director of their Extreme E team.

Oliver Gavin

Nationality  British
Date of Birth  29th September 1972
F1 teams/projects tested for McLaren (1993, 1997), Pacific (1994-95), Benetton (1997-2001), Renault (2002-06)
Races Entered  0
Races Started  0
Select non-F1 highlights 2nd in 1993 British F3, 1st in 1995 British F3, 1st in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2012 ALMS (GT1 class)
,1st in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans (GTS/GT1/GTE Pro classes),
1st in 2016 IMSA (GTLM class)
Nationality: British


Gavin during one of his many test sessions in September 2002. Photo credit: unknown via wookey.forumotion.com

Gavin started his single-seater career in Formula First GB, winning the championship in 1991 which also landed him the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year award. He then moved on to Formula Vauxhall Lotus and finished 2nd. The next logical move was British F3 where he was a runner-up to the championship-winning Kelvin Burt who was in his second season. His award test with McLaren then followed in October 1993.

The fledgling Pacific F1 team offered him a role as their test driver for 1994 in return for a £350,000 loan from his father, although due to the team’s severely limited funding the majority of testing was still carried out by the team’s regular drivers Bertrand Gachot and Paul Belmondo. In fact, Gavin only ever got a total of five laps of testing in a car which had half of its suspension taken from a F3000 car. Gavin tried to complement his schedule by entering International F3000, but like many British drivers of his time he lacked funding to get a seat in a good team and after five entries which resulted in just a single 10th-place finish, the money ran out.

A return to British F3 followed, and this time he managed to narrowly win the title. Pacific had retained him in the test driver role despite not being able to give him any time in the car, and had plans to enter him as a race driver at the season finale in Adelaide. Due to an administrative mixup between the RAC and FIA, his super licence was not available before driver nominations for the race had already been locked in place, so Gavin missed out on his only chance at a GP start. Considering that he was supposed to drive in place of Gachot whose seat had already been shuffled around plenty of times throughout the season to keep the team afloat, Gavin wouldn’t have been allowed to drive anyway due to regulations limiting the amount of driver changes in a single season. According to Gavin himself, Gachot was supposed to fake an injury so he could be replaced based on a force majeure.

Had Pacific somehow kept going, he was planned to be one of the team’s race drivers alongside shareholder Gachot in 1996. Predictably the team folded in the winter, and Gavin was out of a job. Through his contacts at Vauxhall from the junior formulae days, he found a seat in the ITC driving a Joest Racing Opel Calibra, but Joest concentrated their resources on Manuel Reuter (who would win the title) and as a result he struggled to consistently score points, finishing 23rd overall. At the same time he also tried to secure a testing role with Arrows but Tom Walkinshaw preferred his old F3 rival Kelvin Burt and F3000 hotshot Kenny Bräck. In 1997 he attempted a return to International F3000 but after three DNQs in an underfunded team, he once again gave up and concentrated on his new job as the official F1 safety car driver.

This tentative connection with F1 landed him two more tests with McLaren in July and October, before having his first test with Benetton a few weeks later. The Benetton test was supposed to be for purely PR purposes, but he impressed the team and was asked to test more. Aside from a single race in Porsche Supercup, he spent all of 1998 driving the safety car while getting the occasional testing job from Benetton whenever their regular drivers were unavailable. He continued in the same roles for 1999 while also having one last attempt at International F3000. While this time he lasted the entire season, he only managed a single points finish and failed to qualify for half of the races.

In 2000 he was replaced as the F1 safety car driver by Bernd Mayländer, so Gavin headed to the USA to partake in the Grand American Road Racing championship in an Intersport Racing Lola-Judd. He continued in 2001 as the championship was renamed to Grand American Rolex Series, while also making his first forays into GT racing in ALMS and FIA GT, winning his class in the Sebring 12 Hours. He also entered the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time, finishing 3rd in the GTS class in a Saleen S7-R. Throughout the first half of the 2000s he continued to collaborate on-and-off with Benetton and then Renault with their F1 testing, being particularly crucial in the development of their launch and traction control systems.

The most successful period of Gavin’s career started when he joined Corvette Racing in 2002. For the next seven seasons, he was a force to be reckoned with, taking dozens of race victories and podiums, four class wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and three class titles in ALMS. After a fallow period of two years, he returned to form for the next three seasons and was 2nd, 1st and 3rd in the ALMS GT class. Throughout this time he continued to enter various endurance races, most notably the Daytona 24 Hours. In 2011 he also did almost all of the races in the Grand American Rolex Series, driving a Chevrolet Camaro, and also entered the Surfers Paradise V8 Supercars race in the same year.

As ALMS became IMSA in 2014, Gavin struggled for a while and could only score three podiums in two seasons, although he would get his fifth and final class win at the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans. He also entered the Bathurst 1000 V8 Supercars race in 2014 and 2015, managing 3rd in 2014, and scored two wins in the ADAC GT Masters. In 2016 he would have his final triumph with his fifth American sports car class title, in a season which included his first and only class victory at Daytona 24 Hours after 11 previous attempts. He continued on for four more seasons, adding three more race wins and a handful of podiums to his impressive tally.

After close to 20 years of success with Corvette Racing, Gavin retired from full-time professional racing at the end of the 2020 IMSA season. In 2021 he would still participate in the 24 Hours of Daytona in a Lexus RC before having his last ever race at the 6 Hours of Spa – in a Chevrolet Corvette of course, finishing 4th in the LMGTE Pro class. After his racing career, he has continued as a brand ambassador for Corvette and formed the Oliver Gavin Driving Academy to teach performance driving for Corvette owners.

Kelvin Burt

Nationality  British
Date of Birth  7th September 1967
F1 teams/projects tested for  Williams (1993), Tyrrell (1993), Jordan (1994), Ligier (1996, did not drive), Arrows (1996)
Races Entered  0
Races Started  0
Select non-F1 highlights 1st in 1993 British F3, 1st in 2001 British GT Championship (GTO class), 2nd in 2002 ASCAR 


Burt during his 1993 test for Tyrrell. Photo credit: unknown via UnracedF1.com

A name mostly familiar to mid-90s BTCC and Grand Prix Manager 2 enthusiasts, Kelvin Burt started his career in earnest in 1987 at the age of 19. After a couple of years in Formula Fords, he moved to Formula Vauxhall Lotus in 1990 while also doing a few BTCC races with BMW, taking a class B win on his debut. Next year, he won the Formula Vauxhall Lotus championship and moved up to British F3. After finishing 3rd overall in 1992, he won the title in 1993 and was 3rd at the F3 Macau GP, putting him on the radar of F1 teams. He first tested with Williams in November as part of a PR event, before getting another nod from Tyrrell in December. A move to Japanese F3000 was on the cards, but Eddie Jordan convinced him to take a testing role in his F1 team instead.

Jordan had thought that Burt could bring a decent amount of finances with him, but when this turned out to not be the case his testing opportunities were rather limited. Regardless, when he did get to drive he posted similar times to Eddie Irvine – who had originally suggested Jordan to sign Burt. Outside of testing, he took part in a single Porsche Supercup race and won it despite technical difficulties. He also did one weekend in BTCC in a works Ford Mondeo, and capped off the year by finishing 2nd at the F3 Macau GP.

With no funding to continue his F1 dream, he signed on for a full season as a works Ford driver in BTCC, replacing Andy Rouse who moved on to a management role. He finished 8th overall and took one win, being closely matched to experienced teammate Paul Radisich. At the end of the year he took part in the FIA Touring Car World Cup finishing 6th overall.

Tom Walkinshaw then signed him to drive for Volvo in 1996, promising F1 test opportunities on the side. While Burt was named as Ligier’s official test driver and was present at the car’s launch, he apparently was never able to test the car before Walkinshaw bought Arrows and took Burt with him. There he was able to get some limited testing alongside the team’s other tester Kenny Bräck, but money was severely lacking. In BTCC things got off to a decent start and he was able to take a win, before a huge crash in Oulton Park caused him a severe concussion and forced him to miss the next weekend. Miraculously, he recovered and was able to regularly score points throughout the rest of the season, finishing 11th overall.

While his 1997 season was mostly similar in terms of results (10th overall), intra-team politics turned things very sour and Burt even tried to get an Indycar seat mid-season. At the end of the year he packed his bags and moved to Japan to do a full season of both JTCC and JGTC with TOM’s Toyota, finishing 5th and 9th overall, respectively. After struggling to find a drive for a couple of years, he dominantly won the 2001 British GT Championship GTO class title. He then moved to ASCAR – Britain’s own take on NASCAR – in 2002 and finished runner-up, before participating in the FIA GT championship the following year. However, he only managed 19th overall in the NGT class, while an entry at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Prodrive resulted in a DNF. For the next few years he only had occasional drives in various touring car and GT series, including BTCC and Porsche Supercup. His final recorded race entry would be at the 2010 24 Hours of Silverstone, but the car failed to finish. Since then, he has acted as a driving instructor for the W Series.

Sources: The Welsh Grand Prix Blog: F1 Test Drivers Archive, F1Rejects.com archive, Autosport.com (and its forums), atlasf1.autosport.com, Crash.net, GrandPrix.com, UnracedF1.com, Motorsport.com, motorsportmagazine.com, 8w.forix.com, f1forgottendrivers.com, DriverDB.com, Wikipedia, Bridgestone.co.jp, garypaffett.com, second-a-lap.blogspot.com, racingsportscars.com, 24h-lemans.com, linkedin.com, dailysportscar.com