Auto GP drivers join F2 ranks

F2
Having competed in the first three rounds of Auto GP, and picking up reasonable results in the first two of those rounds, Max Snegirev returns to Formula Two for its remaining rounds. With F2’s round at Paul Ricard clashing with Auto GP at Curitiba (Brazil) on July 20-22, he could still compete in the majority of the Auto GP season, though it would create a rather hectic timetable. Max picked up 14 points in last year’s F2 season, but the smaller field should allow him to pick up more points this year.
He will have competition from another driver in this year’s Auto GP championship, Victor Guerin. Guerin has been Adrian Quaife-Hobbs’ teammate at Super Nova, and has struggled in comparison to the Brit, only taking two fifth-place finishes. Guerin has a good record, however, and will hopefully do well.

With Paul Ricard returning as an F1 track from next year, F2 now has six F1 tracks on its calendar, alongside Brands Hatch and the Algarve. F2 is at the Algarve circuit this coming weekend, with live TV coverage on the F2 website as well as on Motors TV.

GP2
The F1 feeder series is back this weekend as well, with its back-to-back rounds at Sakhir. It will be a standalone event, with practice, qualifying and race one on Friday, followed by race two on Saturday. As usual, every session will be on Sky TV. Hopefully, Jon Lancaster will be back but we shall just have to see.

F1
Testing in Mugello starts soon: May 1st-3rd, to be exact. Originally planning to run Gary Paffett and Oliver Turvey, it seems McLaren may need to give Lewis Hamilton some running time as well after Bahrain (though honestly I think it’s their pit stops, not their drivers, who need testing time). Jerome d’Ambrosio will get a day in the Lotus E20 before Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. Other teams have yet to confirm their lineups.

As mentioned above, Bernie Ecclestone has done a deal to secure Paul Ricard as a Grand Prix venue for the future. It will alternate with another track – presumably Spa – and have its first race next season.

111 is the magic number!

F1
After 110 races and six seasons in Formula One, it was easy to believe that Nico Rosberg would never win an F1 race. Since his win at Bahrain in the 2005 GP2 championship (which he won), he has struggled to prove in F1 that he’s got what it takes to do it. Today, however, that all changed. A combination of good strategy and fast pace, as well as the right temperatures to get the Pirellis working on the Mercedes, brought him home with a good 20s to spare.
Behind Nico, things weren’t quite so simple. A huge train of drivers from second backwards showed just how close it is this year. There isn’t really a definite midfield, with cars changing from track to track. Even Massa was running in second for some time, but after a pit stop he fell to the back of the train in 13th. Perez, who led the race for a couple of laps, finished outside the points in eleventh after a battle with his teammate.
Only Jenson Button had the opportunity to challenge for the win today, but a botched McLaren pitstop put an end to that idea. And that was when the exciting racing really kicked off. In the first half of the race, few overtakes happened. But as tyres collapsed towards the end, the situation changed.
Raikkonen was running second after the final round of stops, but he’d been on his tyres longer than the others. When his tyres fell off the cliff, he could only go backwards. Vettel overtook, and Button was third with Hamilton and Webber behind. Raikkonen kept going backwards and was fourteenth at the end of the race.
Vettel had also been on his tyres for a while, and the three-stopping McLarens had the advantage. First Button and then Hamilton took their turn at the Red Bull, pushing the German off the podium. Finally, even Webber was able to overtake his teammate.
Grosjean beat Senna to sixth, while Maldonado had his best result with eighth. Alonso and Kobayashi (who got fastest lap) took the final points. But from Hamilton backwards there were only small gaps between the cars, and seventeenth-placed Daniel Ricciardo was only 63s behind Rosberg.

Schumacher was the only retirement. Having held back the pack for Rosberg before the first pit stops, a mistake in the Mercedes pits saw his right rear fail to be fitted with its wheel nut and he had to stop.

F2
Mihai Marinescu led all but the final laps of the second F2 race today. Once again it was Luciano Bacheta who was in second, and once again he overtook on the last-but-one lap and took the chequered flag. Bacheta leads the championship with a perfect 50 points. Could this be the first year the champion has the same number as the previous year? Mirko Bortolotti also had car number 4. I’d love to see it!

Auto GP
Manor MP’s Chris van der Drift clinched the win today, with Sergey Sirotkin close behind. Championship leader Pal Varhaug finished fourth, with Pal Varhaug seventh. Manor MP are still second in the team championship, with Daniel de Jong failing to finish. They have 9 points less than Super Nova.

British F3
It was raining at Monza as Carlos Sainz took his first British F3 victory for Carlin yesterday. Today, the first win was taken by Fortec’s Felix Serralles, while the second race went to Sainz at Carlin. Sainz now leads the championship ahead of Serralles.

NEC
The entry list has been announced! It’s long, but there are some good names on it: Jordan King and Josh Hill of course, and some others who might have a chance. The first race is next weekend, and is probably worth a watch much more than the F1 in Bahrain. I’m not sure where it will be on TV, but hopefully it will be somewhere!

IndyCar
There’s IndyCar tonight! It’s worth a watch if you can. I probably won’t be able to as I’m busy at the moment. Blog posts are also likely to be less regular.

Super-DRS leads to Super Pole for Super German!

With such a mixed-up grid, and so many strong teams and drivers, the question of who will win is unknown. Perhaps Kobayashi could get his first podium, and maybe Rosberg will get that long-awaited first win.

F2
It was a fascinating F2 race. I was unable to make it out to Silverstone, but I was watching the live timing and can’t wait for it to be shown on Motors TV. Tuscher fell back quickly from pole, and Zanella took the lead with Marinescu and Bacheta behind. As the race went on, these three pulled a small gap over the drivers behind, including Dino Zamparelli who was fifth for all but the final lap when his car got a problem. In the closing laps, Marinescu began to struggle but Bacheta picked up the pace. First he took the Romanian, and on the penultimate lap he overtook Zanella for the lead. It was close, but he maintained his position for the win. So far, the Brit has a 100% record of scoring points in F2, and he also leads the championship.
Marinescu took fastest lap but fell to fourth, with Alex Fontana third making it two Swiss drivers on the podium. Daniel McKenzie did excellently and finished fifth after Zamparelli fell back. Tuscher ended up sixth with rookie Hector Hurst seventh. Zamparelli finished ninth, with Iranian Kourosh Khani taking the final point.

Auto GP
Sergey Sirotkin took his debut pole position at Marrakech, but stalled briefly on the line to lose position. Pal Varhaug took the lead, and maintained it until his pit stop when he stalled the car. The team got it going again, but he was only able to finish third. Championship leader Adrian Quaife-Hobbs didn’t make the best start and struggled on his tyres. As soon as possible, he pitted for fresh tyres and then he improved. He managed several slick overtakes, before getting behind Sergio Campana – then running second. After Varhaug’s muddled stop, this became the race for the win. Quaife-Hobbs had many opportunities, but he wasn’t taking any risks and I’m sure he was satisfied with second. Campana took his first win.
Adrian Quaife-Hobbs still leads the championship with 95 points, while Varhaug is now 24 points behind in second. Sirotkin came home sixth and has 60 points, while Chris van der Drift has 49 in fourth. Both Manor MP boys are about equal, and de Jong is fifth with 43 points. Race winner Campana is sixth with 39.

Tomorrow, the same series will be on track once again. Can Rosberg win his first race? Will it be a double for Bacheta on home turf? And what adventures await in the reversed-grid Auto GP? There’s also BTCC and WTCC action.

Power does what it says on the tin

IndyCar
After last week’s opening round of the 2012 IndyCar series season, I didn’t have high hopes for today’s race. But what a race it was! It seems all Indy needs for a decent race is a proper track and fewer caution periods. Surprisingly, there were only two in the whole race!
Strategy was still important, but Will Power capitalised on a pit stop error from Scott Dixon’s team to take the lead after the second restart. With only a few laps to go, he pulled slowly away for his first win of the season. Behind, polesitter Helio Castroneves was third after a tussle between himself, Graham Rahal and brilliant rookie Simon Pagenaud in the final laps.
Sixth was James Hinchcliffe, while Mike Conway capitalised on the restart and a struggling Andretti to take seventh. Barrichello was challenging Conway in those final laps, having gained several places on the restart, but lost distance to the Brit while trying to overtake Andretti. The Brazilian finally managed it and finished eighth. This left Sebastien Bourdais sandwiched between Andretti and Dario Franchitti. Bourdais in the Lotus-engined car did brilliantly, and took ninth. In a race to the line, reigning champion Franchitti just beat Andretti to tenth.

Auto GP
At Valencia it was chamionship leader Adrian Quaife-Hobbs who shone. The Super Nova driver, still in his 2011 Marussia Manor overalls, got up to third by the end of the first lap but made an early pit call to get fresh tyres that saw him in the lead after everyone had pitted. Meanwhile Facu Regalia took second, holding off Sergey Sirotkin. Daniel de Jong managed fourth for Manor, while Victor Guerin was able to finally have a good race and finished fifth. Rounding off the points were Max Snegirev, Chris van der Drift and Pal Varhaug.
Quaife-Hobbs now leads the championship by 21 points from Pal Varhaug, while Sirotkin is only 5 behind the Norwegian driver. Both Manor drivers are on 37 points, with Facu Regalia 2 behind them.
In the teams’ championship, Super Nova have overtaken Manor and lead by 11 points. Euronova are third, with Virtuosi UK sinking to fourth. Campos Racing, who have scored points with at least two of their three drivers in every race, are fifth.

Other
The Superstars series saw some brilliant racing from former HRT driver Tonio Liuzzi. Starting from the back row in the first race he finished third. This left him sixth in the reversed grid second race, where he dominated and won the race. The Italian is definitely going to be one of the title favourites, though he is currently second in the championship as Max Pigoli – who won the first race – came second in the second race.

In the first BTCC weekend, there was some incredible racing. A seven-car pile-up in the final race caused a red flag, and experienced racer Jason Plato was fourth just after the restart. As the cars ahead faded, Andrew Jordan and Jason Plato fought through and Plato keep pushing the Honda driver. Finding a gap, Plato got into the lead with five laps to go and won the first race for his new team despite their not testing until a week ago. The other races were won by Rob Collard and Matt Neal. Plato now leads the championship ahead of Neal and Jordan.

The WTCC races were won by Yvan Muller and Alain Menu respectively.

Sirotkin powers to Auto GP victory

Auto GP
Polesitter Adrian Quaife-Hobbs made a costly tire decision today. Choosing, like the rest of the field, to start on softs, he was unable to keep up with 16-year-old Sergey Sirotkin. Sirotkin had chosen the mediums, which general experience would suggest to be slower than the softs. But this was not the case, and the Russian storned ahead of his rivals. While Quaife-Hobbs was able to get a decent gap on Facu Regalia in third, he lost over 5s to Sirotkin before they pitted.
The lap before the pit stops, the gap had begun to decrease, and after it the British driver was able to narrow the gap. But though he was starting to catch up, he never had the opportunity to challenge for the lead.
Victor Sendin, his Super Nova teammate, was the reason for this. Probably the Brazilian – having a much better weekend than in Monza – had been hit from behind. He spilled oil and span off the track. Two others also spun in the oil and went off, though one recovered. But the hazard called out the safety car.
The race restarted with one lap to go, Pal Varhaug now in third. Sirotkin pulled away from Quaife-Hobbs, who also gained a short lead on Varhaug who had to overtake a lapped driver. So it was a fairly simple win in the end for Sergey Sirotkin, though Quaife-Hobbs is now championship leader once again. He has four points over Varhaug thanks to his pole position. Sirotkin took fastest lap – his third in three races – and now sits third in the championship ahead of Chris van der Drift and Daniel de Jong. Adrian, Pal and Sergey also sit in that order for the under-21 trophy.
Manor MP’s consistency sees them continue to lead the Teams’ Championship by three points over Super Nova, whose points have all been scored by Quaife-Hobbs. Pal Varhaug’s Virtuosi UK are in third, with Sten Pentus adding one point to their total. Sirotkin’s Euronova are fourth by a single point.

Auto GP continues tomorrow at 13:00 CEST, or 12:00 BST.

IndyCar
The winner of the GP of St Petersburg, Helio Castroneves, has qualified on pole for this weekend’s GP of Alabama. Next to him is James Hinchcliffe, only in his second year of the series. Since it is a ‘proper track’ this weekend as opposed to a street course, it will be interesting to see how the racing changes. Hopefully, Rubens Barrichello will also do better as he learns to understand the series.

Other
Formula Arbath Europe and Italian Formula Three were both on track at valencia, with Prema Powerteam doing incredibly well in both series. Not only that, but Sergey Sirotkin was also participating in Italian F3 on top of his Auto GP campaign. Luca Ghiotto won both Arbath races, with Kevin Jorg second in the first, and Emanuele Zonzini (a rare racer from San Marino) second in the second. Bruno Bonfacio, who took part in TRSNZ this winter, came third in both races.
In Italian F3, the same drivers took to the podium each time. Eddie Cheever won the first race, then came third; Henrique Martins came second then first; Brandon Maisano came third then second. Also taking part were GP3 drivers Patric Niederhauser and Robert Visoiu.

Outside of single-seaters, BTCC and WTCC were preparing for race day tomorrow. Dave Newsham, newly at Team ES Racing but with familiar yellow livery, took an unexpected pole ahead of reigning champion Matt Neal in the British championship. For WTCC, Yvan Muller (Chevrolet) took pole for the first race, while Stefano D’Aste (Wiechers-Sport, an independent team) will be on pole for the second race.

Quaife-Hobbs begins weekend on a high

Auto GP
Today the teams were testing in Valencia, minus Chris van der Drift who will be back in action for Manor MP tomorrow. Championship leader and winner at the first race in Monza, Adrian Quaife-Hobbs, went fastest for Super Nova. Sergey Sirotkin, whose weekend in Italy was marred by a stall, was second-fastest. Adrian’s teammate Victor Guerin – who had an appalling weekend last time out, was third-fastest.
Sten Pentus and Yann Cunha both did well on their first Auto GP outings, with Pentus beating his teammate Pal Varhaug by 0.02s. Yann Cunha was 0.4s faster than his teammate Giancarlo Serenelli.
Matteo Beretta has moved from Virtuosi to Zele, becoming teammate to Giacomo Ricci. Beretta is currently last in the championship (yep, even Giancarlo Serenelli is ahead). Speaking of Serenelli, he might be better to focus his attention on Auto GP as he returns to motorsport, considering his disasterous first weekend of GP2. I suspect, however, that the money flowing from Venezuela will secure his seat for the near future.

Chris van der Drift was not present for today’s tests, but will be back tomorrow for practice and qualifying.

NEC
Fortec Motorsport confirmed today that in light of the FR UK championship’s cancellation for 2012, they will be entering their four drivers into the Formula Renault NEC. Those are Josh Hill, Shahaan Engineer, Jake Dennis and Dan de Zille.
Josh drove for Manor in FR UK last season, and shone in the Finals as well but with Fortec. He also picked up some excellent results in the Toyota Racing Series.
Dan de Zille came sixth in British Formula Ford last season, picking up five podiums, and drove for Fortec in the FR UK Finals.
Jake Dennis won the InterSteps Championship, with eight wins out of 20 races. He also drove for Fortec in the Finals.
Finally Shahaan Engineer is the only Indian driver in the group (the others are British). He, like the others, participated in the Finals with Fortec, and also drove in TRS NZ. His younger brother Cyrus is also a racing driver.

Sunny day for F2 testing at Silverstone

Auto GP
The second weekend of the championship is coming up this weekend at Valencia, and there are some changes to the drivers. Brazilian Yann Cunha, who won F3 Sudamericana in 2010, came second in the Brazilian F3 open last season, and won one race in the European F3 Open, joins Ombra Racing. He will also be driving for Pons in the Formula Renault 3.5 series this year. He will be replacing Adderly Fong, who took a seventh place at Monza.
Former FR 3.5 driver Sten Pentus will also be joining Auto GP as part of the Virtuosi UK team. Virtuosi had a great first weekend with Pal Varhaug, and will be hoping to continue their success. Estonian Pentus has had a reasonably successful career in the FR 3.5 series, his best year being 2010 when he won two races and overall finished fourth with Fortec.

F2
It’s just a few weeks now until Formula Two gets back into racing action, and testing was underway today in glorious sunshine. While one driver dominated proceedings, others were also doing well including Britain’s Luciano Bacheta, and Romanian Mihai Marinescu. Dean Stoneman was also doing well on his return to the series. In session three, Alex Fontana was the only driver to come out on top apart from the German who had led the other sessions.
Present at the test were all the signings for 2012, including last year’s runner-up Christopher Zanella. Naturally, the Swiss driver will be looking for the championship this year, but I think Marinescu, Bacheta and the other driver will be giving him a run for his money.
Dino Zamparelli, winner of the 2011 FR BARC championship and runner-up in the McLaren Autosport BDRC award, was also present at the test. He had been hoping to drive in Formula Renault UK this year, though his hopes have been dashed, and has set a future target of driving in F2. The way he has driven today, hopefully that will not be far off.
Formula Pilota China champion Matheo Tuscher was also at the test, setting reasonable times, as was 2011 F2 driver James Cole. Axcil Jefferies, a Zimbabwean driver, and Kourosh Kahni of Iran (another BARC graduate) were also present and setting reasonable times. 2011 part-timer Jose Luis Abadin was also back to try out the new F2 car.
I hope we will be able to get a full field of 24 drivers for the first round at Silverstone, but there’s a reasonably strong field signed up already so there should be some good racing.

Other
While Dino Zamparelli was driving around Silverstone, Dan Wells – another who had hoped to drive in FR UK this year – was making announcements about his future. He will be heading east to take part in Formula Pilota China 2012. Good luck Dan!