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.

Advertisements

Great racing under a shadow

GP2
It was almost a perfect weekend for Davide Valsecchi, coming from eighth to first to win the Bahrain sprint race in the closing laps. Calado had made a good start, getting in the lead ahead of Leimer and Gutierrez. Gutierrez and Leimer scrapped, and the Racing Engineering driver eventually won. Leimer also took the Brit, who had a bit of wear of his tyres and also lost out to his teammate Esteban Gutierrez. In the lead, Leimer was judged to have gone too fast under yellow flags and had to take a drive through penalty. Gutierrez was back but not in charge as Valsecchi was right behind him. The Italian took the win in the penultimate lap.
Felipe Nasr, despite his penalty and having to start from the pitlane after stalling on the way to the grid, finished 6th. It was an excellent drive from the young Brazilian. Simon Trummer also did well and took the final point in eighth – his first in GP2. Razia finished fourth, Chilton fifth, and Jolyon Palmer also had a great race to finish seventh. For a sprint race, there were a lot of drivers coming from the back into the points. Even Ricardo Teixeira had a good race to finish 13th, van der Garde finished 9th and also took fastest lap to make sure Valsecchi didn’t have a perfect weekend. Grid staller Tom Dillmann finished 10th.

F1
Usually when Vettel starts in the lead, he’ll get miles down the road and nobody will be able to catch him. Today, however, Lotus were flying. Grosjean and Raikkonen soon found themselves second and third, and after pit stops it was the Finn in second. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to quite get close enough to Vettel, but they put pressure on the Red Bull. The team were delighted with their double podium – the first for the Enstone team since 2006. It was also the first double podium for a team called Lotus since the 1970s!
Behind, things weren’t quite so simple. McLaren were struggling with pit stops especially for Hamilton. The Brit was released late after wheel nut trouble, putting him in the path of Nico Rosberg. Rosberg squeezed Hamilton as he overtook, in an incident that was put under investigation by the stewards. He later had another, similar, incident with Alonso. Button was doing well until he had problems in the final laps, and was forced to retire two laps from the end. Senna also had to end his race early.
A two-stop strategy paid off for Force India’s Paul di Resta, and he took sixth behind Rosberg. Webber was well off Vettel’s pace, but managed his traditional fourth. In seventh was Alonso, doing well for Ferrari, and then Hamilton behind. Massa was racing well and took ninth, at times faster than his teammate during the race. Button’s retirement saw Schumacher promoted to the final points position.

Frankly, the race was fantastic and if it weren’t for the circumstances in Bahrain, I’d be delighted. I’m happy for all the guys, but I hope they stay safe as they celebrate and prepare to leave Bahrain. I also hope the GP2 boys stay safe as they remain in the country for another week. James Calado reported seeing “A lot of black smoke around the villages on way back from track. Police with stun grenades at the ready.” (@JamesCalado)

Force India skip free practice – should we be in Bahrain?

F1
Practice One saw limited running due to the sandy conditions. As per usual, Lewis Hamilton came out fastest with Vettel close behind. Force India were busiest, and even put their cars on softs in the first session. Paul di Resta was third fastest, Hulkenberg sixth. As the session closed, it emerged that the Silverstone-based team planned to only run a part-session in FP2, or maybe even miss it, due to safety fears. What is most confusing is that qualifying is at the same time as FP2, and the race tomorrow will be later. So why miss FP2 but not the other sessions?

Force India did indeed miss Q2, while the Caterhams moved closer to the midfield – their drivers split Senna and Maldonado. Nico Rosberg was fastest, though he has concerns about the heat with the tyres. Button was not happy with the McLaren, but the Red Bulls were doing well. Webber was second, outpacing his teammate who was third. Then it was Hamilton, Schumacher, Button. Kobayashi got the Sauber into seventh ahead of Alonso, Grosjean and Perez.

Some Sauber team members were also involved in an incident last night, but escaped without harm.

Protests have been escalating in Bahrain for the last while, and there have been serious clashes with the police. We can only hope that nobody is seriously injured – Bahraini or F1. With more protests planned for the next two days, surely things will only get worse?

GP2
In practice Davide Valsecchi easily went fastest, 0.67 ahead of Max Chilton in second. Johnny Cecotto was third-fastest, 0.87 off Valsecchi.
Qualifying saw the Italian repeat his effort, going fastest on options on his third lap. Esteban Gutierrez will start second, with Felipe Nasr third to continue his spectacular rookie season. Racing Engineering’s Fabio Leimer took fourth, ahead of Johnny Cecotto – the Venezuelan having a good weekend so far. Ericsson took the sixth-fastest time but his 10-place grid penalty from Malaysia sent him down to sixteenth, promoting Stephane Richelmi. James Calado was seventh, Luiz Razia eighth. Chilton and Haryanto shared the fifth row for Carlin.
Brendon Hartley was given a five-place grid penalty for an incident with Giedo van der Garde, knocking him down to last behind Ricardo Teixeira. Slow Serenelli beat Teixeira by nearly two tenths of a second, but both were way off the pace.

NEC
Kevin Kleveros was Manor MP’s unannounced driver in car 31 for the opening round of the Formula Renault NEC. In Q1, Stoffel Vandoorne took pole with Pierre Gasly second and Jordan King third. The session had been held up for a few minutes because of hail!
Q2 was also red flagged due to rain and a huge number of crashes. In the end, Vandoorne took pole again. Reigning Intersteps champion Jake Dennis took second, while an impressive run from Shahaan Engineer saw him go third.

Worrying times in Bahrain

Bahrain
A car carrying four members of the Force India team was involved in a car bombing incident in Bahrain yesterday. While none of them were injured, it is believed that tear gas and Molotov Cocktails were thrown near the car. The action was sparked by protestors with petrol bombs, and the tear gas was the natural retaliation of the police. One team member not involved has asked for and been given permission to go home, while I have also heard from Twitter that one of those in the car has also asked to go home.
This may have been an isolated incident, but unlike the media who are bravely taking on extra responsibilities to seek out the protestors and find out what is really going on, the Force India guys were just there to do their job. Protests are expected to increase over the weekend, with one scheduled for tomorrow after FP2, and others over the remainder of the weekend.
Force India will still race on Sunday, though Nico Hulkenberg has expressed reservations. The team have put in additional security measures to make sure everything goes well.
This race will be overshadowed by the political situation, but I am going to watch it. Not to support the government, but because if the F1 and GP2 guys are going out there despite fears for safety, how can I – in the safety of Britain – not support them? I hope that they all stay safe and that no more incidents happen. F1 people are not a target, but they could get caught up in things.

Meanwhile many members of the press who were expecting to report on the race have been forbidden from entering the country, being turned back at the airport, while it’s rumoured that tourists are being forced to buy F1 tickets in order to enter the country.

GP2
In a very last-minute change, Brendon Hartley will be replacing Jon Lancaster at Ocean this weekend. Even the Ocean website has quotes from Lancaster, as well as his teammate Nigel Melker, about Bahrain. The British driver did tweet last Friday: “All that media attention in Bahrain, hope nobody tries to prove the decision wrong to race in Bahrain. #risky” (@Lancaster4F1)
Hartley drove two rounds for Ocean in the 2011 championship, picking up four points for the team in the feature race in Belgium. Shockingly, these were the team’s only points of the season. The Kiwi also picked up several podiums to finish fifth in the FR 3.5 series, but had not been given a drive this year.
I hope that Lancaster is OK. I recall last year that he had been hoping to drive in the Spa-Francorchamps round of F2 but had been unable to compete, leaving him without a drive for the rest of 2012 after budget problems. He’s a good driver and definitely deserves a seat in GP2.

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.

Mercedes super-DRS is legal

Sorry for the delay to this post. I wrote it, and thought I had posted it, but apparently not! I’ll write up practice reports for F1 and F2 in my next post.

F1
The legality of Mercedes’ ‘Super-DRS’ has now been decided, with Lotus bringing the case before the stewards on Thursday. After much deliberation, they decided that since the Mercedes additions did not constitute an additional moving part, and that it was just making use of the DRS’s functionality, then it was a perfectly legal thing for the team to do. Lotus will not be appealing the decision.

Lewis Hamilton seems set to receive a 5-place grid penalty in China after McLaren found a defect in his gearbox. While the gearbox hasn’t been changed yet, it probably will be changed before qualifying.

The FIA have made the decision that it is safe for F1 to go to Bahrain. They do not believe that there is enough of a threat to drivers to merit cancelling the race. I would suggest that the FIA have forgotten that F1 is only a sport, and in the end there are more important things to worry about. Even if nobody from F1 is hurt, this will have a direct effect on the protestors who do not want F1. Injuries and deaths their will surely also be placed on the shoulders of the FIA.

GP3
On the final day of GP3 testing, Mitch Evans was again fastest. Arden’s trio were all strong, and Carlin’s were as well. Along with Lotus, they seem likely to dominate this season. Robert Visoiu was also doing well for Jenzer.

Will Buller has been confirmed in Carlin’s GP3 team, and will also drive for them in the F3 Euro series. It will be Carlin’s first year in that series, and they will partner Buller with Carlos Sainz. Sainz drives for Carlin in British F3, which will take priority in the case of race clashes.

F2
With the first race weekend kicking off today, the full entry list has been revealed! Seventeen drivers will be taking part, with the most-represented nations being Britain and Switzerland. Former GP2 driver Kevin Mirocha, who is now under a Polish license, will be one of those taking part. Former Auto GP driver Samuele Buttarelli (who picked up some wins last year) is also on the list.
There are two practice sessions today, before qualifying and race one tomorrow, and qualifying and race two on Sunday. I will be at Silverstone all day on Saturday, so look out for my pictures on my Twitter account!

Auto GP
It’s the third race weekend for the Auto GP series, and they have travelled to Marraketch. The entry list is likely to be about the same as last time.