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.

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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.

BARC graduates join F2

F2
With the first round coming up fast, more names have been confirmed on the roster. Others seem to have vanished. Iranian Kourosh Khani is one of those confirmed. Last year Khani drove in the Formula Renault BARC Championship, taking one win and three podiums on his way to fourth. He also finished third in the MRF Formula 1600 Delhi Championship supporting the F1 in |India. He picked up a podium in one of the two races.
One of Khani’s BARC opponents was Dino Zamparelli, a British-Italian driver who won the championship with 4 wins, 6 poles, 8 podiums and 1 fastest lap. Zamparelli was nominated for the McLaren Autosport BDRC Award. In previous years he has also won the Ginetta Jr Championship, where a lot of young British drivers start out before progressing to single seaters. In 2012, Zamparelli will also be in F2, at least for the opening round at Silverstone and hopefully longer.

GP3
Dry for most of the day, Silverstone turned wet in the final hour of testing. This gave plenty of time for the nine teams present at the test to get some work in, and for Mitch Evans to go fastest just ahead of his MW Arden teammate Matias Laine. On the face of it, Arden are most likely to provide the champion for GP3 this season. However, they will need more consistency than in 2011 when two of their three drivers could have taken the championship.
The names at the top of the timing screen today were much as expected: Tio Ellinas, Antonio Felix da Costa and Conor Daly. Will Buller and Alex Brundle were both doing well for Carlin, and Romania’s Robert Visoiu has been shining for Status.
Alice Powell was fastest of the three ladies, though she had caused a red flag in the morning. Most of her day has been spent getting used to the car, and she didn’t put on fresh tyres in the afternoon, so we can surely expect improved times from the British driver tomorrow.
Maxim Zimin will be in the car for Jenzer tomorrow.

F1
Suzie Wolff has become the latest female development driver in F1, taking on the role for Williams. Wolff is married to Toto Wolff, a Director at the team, though he did not take part in the decision to give her the position. Wolff drives in the DTM, and you may know her better as Suzie Stoddart.

Kaltenborn to become first female Team Principal

F1
Monisha Kaltenborn is set to become the first female Team Principal in F1 following Peter Sauber’s intention to resign at the end of this season. Kaltenborn, who has been involved in F1 and motorsport for many years, will be a great replacement for Sauber’s namesake and founder. Monisha is currently CEO, and I expect her to do a great job. She is only 40 years old and hopefully we will have plenty of years with her around the paddock. It’s nice to see Team Principals who are experienced in motorsport, rather than wealthy businessmen (ie: Mallya and Fernandes).

F2
It was confirmed today that Romanian Mihai Marinescu will return to the series for 2012. He did very well towards the second half of the season last year, and should be challenging for wins and the championship.

GP3
Pre-season testing returns with two days at Silverstone this week. Notably, the Status lineup includes British driver Alice Powell. Alice is undoubtedly one of the most talented young female drivers out there, and will be competitive – unlike the other two girls on the grid. However, you have to wonder if there are even more talented male drivers who are being left out because teams want a female driver.
If Alice is hired by Status, I expect her to pick up a few points finishes at least this year. She did reasonably well in Formula Renault UK last year, and I can’t recall her ever being a backmarker.
The unsigned Will Buller is another unsigned British face who will be at Carlin. Meanwhile RSC Mucke Motorsport have once again failed to make an appearance. Surely it would be better for them to sell the GP3 team on to somebody else who wants to participate? Unlike F1, there are no excuses for missing testing since the chassis are made by Dallara. And there must be a lot of young drivers who want to drive in the series.

Bahrain
Nobody wants to make a decision. The general feeling of fans particularly is negative though a few faces have said F1 should go. As for me, I think F1’s reputation will struggle to survive if it goes ahead, especially if something happens. All the media and team members who go out there are incredibly brave. But it should not need to come to that. I won’t re-hash arguments again; you all know where I stand.

This weekend I’m going to Silverstone for the opening round of the Formula Two. I’ll come back with loads of pictures and autographs, and hopefully an exciting story of an amazing day out.

Ceccon gets Oceans of chance in GP3

F2
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.

GP3
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.

F1
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.

Other
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.

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!