As the opening round of the GP3 series draws closer, the final drivers announcements are being made. At Status, the series’ third female driver has found her place – Alice Powell. Unlike Jorda or Piria, Powell can claim race victories to her name. She was the first Formula Renault BARC female champion, and finished 9th last season in the Formula Renault UK championship ahead of Dan Wells, and only just behind her teammates Josh Hill and Jordan King. Certainly she is one of motor racing’s best female prospects, and despite her lack of experience she outperformed both other girls in the last GP3 test.
I don’t think she’s going to be a championship challenger, but she should pick up a few points.
Two days of testing have just taken place at Aragon, with Formula Renault UK runner-up Oliver Rowland (the winner of the Autosport McLaren BDRC Award) taking the fastest time overall. Alex Riberas was second-fastest, with Norman Nato third. All the fastest times were set this morning, with the track at optimum conditions for the cars. The first race gets underway at the start of May.
Several drivers missed the closing session in order to head to Hockenheim for this weekend’s opening round of the Formula Renault NEC. Other NEC drivers stayed for the final session. The NEC recently started a Twitter account where you can follow the progress of the series: @FR2NEC.
HRT reserve driver Dani Clos is set to replace Josef Kral at Addax for the second round of the series in Bahrain. No reason has been given for this change, though money is likely to have been a factor. Currently, Kral is the highest-placed driver in the championship who hasn’t scored a point. Last year Clos finished 9th in the GP2 championship; his results included two second-place finishes.
Dani Sordo is set to replace an injured Jari-Matti Latvala at the Argentinian round of the WRC. Latvala broke his collarbone in a skiing accident. Sordo, who has impressed for Prodrive in the Mini, is expected to take the Finn’s place at Ford but only for one round. Latvala is currently sixth in the championship, seven points ahead of Sordo (who has only competed in three rounds compared to Latvala’s four).
Two drivers were announced to the series today, doubling the numbers. David Zhu, a Chinese racing driver, (his given name is “Dai Wei”) becomes the first driver in all forms of F2 from that country. He will take number 7 on his car, with a red and yellow livery. Meanwhile Briton Hector Hurst has also signed up. Hurst set some good times in post-season testing, and will drive in car 35.
2011 F2 driver Sunghak Mun has announced on Twitter that he intends to return to the series this year as well. The Korean has been recovering from a back operation, but seems to be in fighting spirit. He didn’t have the best start to last season, but was starting to challenge at the back towards the final races.
The Formula Renault Eurocup was completing its testing today, with Korainen’s Daniil Kvyat going fastest overall. The Russian impressed in the series last year, and is definitely one of the favourites for 2012. FRUK graduate and Fortec driver Oliver Rowland, who was the 2011 Autosport McLaren BDRC winner, was second-fastest overall. Oscar Tunjo was third fastest for Tech 1. There were 45 drivers taking part in the test, and the drivers who finished top ten on both days are: Kvyat, Rowland, King and Hansen.
Comtec, who struggled in 2011, have signed Italian driver Vittorio Ghirelli to partner Nick Yelloly. Ghirelli graduates from GP3, where he was the best driver not to score a point, though he was somewhat inconsistent. With Alex Rossi all but confirmed at Arden-Caterham, Ghirelli was the last question-mark on the lineup this season.
Finally, Sky announced their new opening titles for F1 today. Take a look here.
As the second F1 and first GP3 tests get going today, it’s time to talk about the news that’s been released over the last few days.
British team Fortect have announced that Nick Cassidy – deserved winner of the Toyota Racing Series – will be driving for them in Eurocup Formula Renault this year. There are a strong team of drivers in this year’s Eurocup, including several FRUK graduates, so it will be a great challenge for Cassidy.
Testing today saw strong performances from Mitch Evans (MW Arden) and Nico Muller (testing for Trident) in Estoril. Other drivers who did well included Antonio Felix da Costa (testing for Carlin), Aaro Vainio (Lotus GP) and Tio Ellinas (Manor). In total 25 drivers took part in the test, with Mucke Motorsport absent, while Tech 1 and Atech only fielded two drivers each.
After a few laps of the Circuit de Catalunya, Romain Grosjean was uncomfortable with the feel of the E20 chassis that had been upgraded from the one used in Jerez. Lotus believe this to be an issue with the chassis, and have pulled out of this week’s test.
Fastest today was Sebastian Vettel, but Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was close behind. Times, of course, mean nothing, but Nico has been making positive noises about the car. Caterham had a problem with a broken track rod that left the CT-01 stranded on the final corner, but got just under an hour of running at the end of the test with Heikki Kovalainen. Daniel Ricciardo also caused a red flag in the STR7.
The new Mercedes was put through its paces by Michael Schumacher, whilst Charles Pic put in 121 laps as he got used to driving an F1 car. Marussia are still using the MVR02. Lewis Hamilton also put in over 100 laps, coming third-fastest in the McLaren.
Williams have hired former F1 and current WEC driver Alex Wurz as a driver coach for their team. They have a young duo in terms of races, as well as the inexperienced Valtteri Bottas as reserve driver. It is not common for teams to hire driver coaches, but hopefully this will have a positive effect on Maldonado and Senna.