Ceccon gets Oceans of chance in GP3

There’s just one week until the 2012 season kicks off, and it looks like a number of talented drivers will be on track. Swiss driver Mauro Calamia is the latest to be officially announced, but there are also a number of drivers listed on the website who are yet to be confirmed, including 2010 champion Dean Stoneman. With the new faster, better cars, this year looks set to produce some good racing. We can only hope that there aren’t too many regulars at the back of the field.
Mauro Calamia joins F2 from Formula Renault Alps, where he finished 10th of 25 drivers. He picked up a reasonable 125 points. He tended to be in the bottom half of the timesheets during testing, but hopefully the 20-year-old rookie will catch up as the season progresses.

As well as Tamas Pal Kiss, two other drivers have been announced this week. Status Grand Prix have a second driver in Kotaro Sakurai, a Japanese driver who was British F3 national class champion last season. The youngster has tested GP3 before, but this will be his first season in the series.
Meanwhile, Auto GP champion Kevin Ceccon will be joining Carmen Jorda and Robert Cregan at Ocean Racing Technology. Ceccon participated in GP2 for Scuderia Coloni last season after Davide Rigon was injured, but it was a premature step up for the Italian. Ceccon should do well in GP3, and I expect him to be a frontrunner from the first race.

If you thought the Lotus saga was over, think again! Group Lotus, who were title sponsors of Renault last season, have pulled out of that role by mutual consent with the team. Group Lotus have been struggling, and their owners Proton have been cutting back. Lotus F1 Team will still keep the name, however, until 2017. So there will be a Lotus with no connection to either the original team or the car manufacturer for the next few years in F1. In fact, Caterham probably have more connection to the original Team Lotus than Lotus F1 now!
All you need to know is, Lotus are still called Lotus. They have no connection to Lotus but they still have the name. Ow my head!

Meanwhile, news out of South America suggests that Argentina are likely to be hosting an F1 race from 2013 and replacing South Korea, despite the Asian venue arranging a lower hosting fee. This will be confirmed (or not) within the next few weeks. If it does go ahead, this means there will be two new races for 2013: Argentina and New Jersey. The question is, which races will be set aside?

Things are hotting up once again in Bahrain, with the F1 race looking set to be the focal point of protests. While F1 should be careful not to take sides, I think that the situation merits a cancellation. I fear that the protesters would target the media and team personnel, to make sure that their voices are heard. It would be awful if anyone were injured or killed just because Bernie Ecclestone insisted the race go ahead. The protesters might see it as a victory, but it would be a hollow one. The government might be in the wrong, but I doubt they would target anyone connected to F1. I fear the protesters would have no such qualms.

British F3
The new season starts this weekend at Oulton Park. At the time of writing, only free practice has happened so far. Alex Lynn was fastest by almost 0.5s from Felix Serralles, which is a good start from the Formula Renault UK graduates who are both at Fortec. Jack Harvey was Carlin’s fastest, only 0.04s slower than Serralles, and his teammate Harry Tincknell was fourth-fastest.

Formula Renault 3.5 champion Robert Wickens is setting his single seater career aside to join Mercedes’s DTM team this year. There are a lot of drivers taking part in the series, from a wide variety of nations. Most of them are talented, and if you can watch it then it should be good fun! The season starts on April 29th at Hockenheim.

Vietoris has crazy GP2/DTM calendar

GP2 driver Christian Vietoris is in for a very full year of racing in 2011. He’s also taking on DTM, as one of the replacements for Mercedes’ 2010 drivers who are now leaving the sport behind. Will he be the next Paul di Resta? Who knows. DTM is tough. He will be driving alongside teammates Renger van der Zande (another rookie), David Coulthard, Susie Stoddart and Maro Engel.
The DTM races do not coincide with F1 weekends (otherwise Coulthard would not be able to take part), so he will be able to do both. But there are 20 GP2 races over 10 weekends, and 11 race weekends for DTM (mostly in Germany).
Christian Vietoris, who just celebrated his 22nd birthday, is German and drives in the number 8 car for Spanish team Racing Engineering alongside Dani Clos. He didn’t race in GP2 Asia, but in the recent tests at Silverstone he was second-fastest overall – just 0.064s behind Marcus Ericsson.

F1 birthdays: 24/3/2011

Gary Paffett, DTM driver and McLaren test driver, and of course today’s birthday boy, has not made it into F1 many times. In 2006 he was one of McLaren’s trio of test drivers, alongside Pedro de la Rosa and Lewis Hamilton. But it was GP2 champion Lewis who got the McLaren drive the next year when JP Montoya left the team.
It’s not like 30-year-old Gary has a bad racing record. He was DTM champion in 2005, having come second the year before, and in the last two seasons he came second both times as well, since he finished runner-up to Force India’s new boy Paul di Resta. Still, with Paul out the picture he might be able to get another DTM championship.
He’s definitely a good driver, if a little old to become an F1 rookie now. DTM isn’t as popular as F1, but it’s a good challenge. He still gets to drive F1 cars, having taken the MP4-25 out this year in winter testing. Alongside de la Rosa he’s a valuable asset for the team.

24 drivers in 24 days – fourteen

Obviously the 15 below relates to the car number. There’s no 13 in F1.

#15 – Paul di Resta DTM isn’t the typical route into Formula One, but expensive single-seater racing isn’t always a viable option. After competing very well in F3 Euroseries, Paul departed from the chosen course of fellow competitiors Hamilton and Vettel to go into touring car racing. But DTM isn’t that dissimilar from F1; though slower, it has a similar style and regulations. Last season, di Resta was Force India’s test driver, so he does have recent experience with F1 cars, and he has shown in testing at Abu Dhabi and in Spain that he can set times that compare to those with more experience.
His final season in F3 Euroseries was excellent. He won, in fact, with 11 points on second-placed Sebastian Vettel, and one more win than the German as well. In the four races where the pair shared a podium, Paul finished higher than Sebastian three times. Kamui Kobayashi was also around that season, with an eight-place finish as was Sebastian Buemi (who had one win). Current GP2 drivers Giedo Van Der Garde (6th), Romain Grosjean (13th), Michael Herck (15th) and James Jakes (16th) also took part. As well as his wins he also had five poles and one fastest lap: the first Brands Hatch race was where he got all three.

DTM: Paul Di Resta wins title

There was some great racing in DTM – Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters – yesterday. I don’t really follow it, but several of the F1 test drivers are in it. The final race took place yesterday on the Shanghai Street Circuit, with Bruno Spengler (a Canadian not currently in F1), Gary Paffett (McLaren’s test driver, British) and Paul Di Resta (Force India’s Scottish test driver) out for the title. Spengler was in the lead going into the race, with Di Resta second and Paffett third.
In the end, Spengler had a bad race and finished 13th, while Di Resta got enough points to win by finishing second. Nice! This leaves Force India with a big question mark – do they take on Paul Di Resta? I’d love to see another Brit in F1, and particularly a Scot. We haven’t had a racing Scot since David Coulthard. It remains to be seen, but this has to help the young man in his bid to go beyond test driver status.