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!

Penalties for Karthikeyan, Ericsson and Teixeira

F1
Narain Karthikeyan was given a 20-second penalty after the race in Malaysia for causing the collision with Sebastian Vettel. Considering how wet the edges of the track were at the time, and how the Indian needed to move away from the edges to make sure he didn’t spin, I’m not sure he was to blame. Vettel should have given the HRT more room – it was a wide stretch of track – and been less enthusiastic to move onto the racing line.

GP3
As expected, Antonio Felix da Costa has been confirmed at Carlin for 2012. The Portuguese driver who won the final GP3 race last year with Status, will be Alex Brundle’s teammate. da Costa was 2009 FR NEC champion and came third in the Eurocup. Clearly talented, he should have a great year at the British team.

F2
2010 champion Dean Stoneman returns to F2 for the pre-season test at Silverstone this week. The Brit, who was due to drive in FR 3.5 last season but was diagnosed with cancer, has made a good recovery. It is possible that he will be back in the series this year.

GP2
Marcus Ericsson was handed a 10-place grid penalty for the accident with Davide Valsecchi’s during the weekend’s sprint race. The Italian had gone off the road trying to overtake Luiz Razia, and when he came back onto the track, the Swede hit him and caused the car to flip over. GP2 cars are built to F1 safety standards, which was good news for the Indian. iSport believe the penalty to be unfair.
Meanwhile Ricardo Teixeira was fined for coming back onto the track in an unsafe manner. The Angolan driver had gone the wrong way down the access road after going off the track, then turned himself around once back on it.

Button beats Bulls brilliantly

Formula One
The biggest event of the weekend was of course F1. McLaren shone, taking a 1-2 on the front row and the first British 1-2 since Adelaide 1995. Romain Grosjean was brilliant and started third, while Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher was fourth. Webber and Vettel were only able to manage fifth and sixth.
The race began, and immediately Hamilton lost out to Button. From there, Button streaked away in a Vettel-esque fashion, with Hamilton close behind. Schumi remained third, while Grosjean lost out to Vettel. Webber dropped to 9th, tapping Hulkenberg by accident and making the German drop out. Grosjean dropped to sixth. Pastor Maldonado was behind the French driver, while Alonso was up to 8th from 12th.
Soon, however, Grosjean was out. The French driver was passed by Maldonado, but failed to drop back when he was in the Venezuelan’s blind spot. A while later, Schumacher had a gearbox failure.
Massa and Rosberg both had tyre troubles, while McLaren were apparently in major fuel saving mode due to a miscalculation – yet they still stayed ahead. The race passed without major incident until the second round of pit stops. The gap between the McLarens allowed them to pit both drivers on the same lap, and the team made a very slick job of it. Ferrari, however, did the five fastest stops of the race. As Button and Hamilton were on their out lap, Vitaly Petrov had a steering failure in his Caterham and pulled up on the pit straight. The safety car came out. Vettel pitted, and emerged between the McLarens.
The field bunched up, and unlapping took place except for Heikki Kovalainen, who was also having car trouble and pitted. He was too fast going onto the pit entry and overtook Vettel and Hamilton, so the Finn has a 5-place grid penalty in Malaysia.
There were more retirements after the safety car, with Senna and Massa having a clash. Massa was out, while Senna retired after a few laps. The other Williams of Maldonado was in sixth behind Alonso, while Perez, Rosberg, Kobayashi and Raikkonen were in another battle with Ricciardo, Di Resta and Vergne behind.
On the final lap, Maldonado crashed as Rosberg’s fuel tank came close to empty. The German fell back to 12th, and there was a big mix-up between the remaining drivers. Kobayashi took sixth, with Raikkonen seventh just ahead of Perez, Ricciardo, Di Resta and Vergne. Those four crossed the line right on top of each other.

McLaren now lead the constructors’ championship with Red Bull second and Sauber third. Jenson Button leads the drivers’ championship. Webber made his best ever finish in his home GP. Perez improved from 22nd to 8th, while Raikkonen went from 17th to 7th.

Formula Renault UK
Young British drivers have been really struggling to find funding for the 2012 season, and with only six entries by today, the organisers have been forced to cancel the series. This is a real disappointment for a series that has seen drivers like Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and even Pedro de la Rosa. There were 30 drivers in the winter series, but many of them are in the NEC and Eurocup. Many drivers were hoping to take part, but now they will have to look elsewhere to start their racing careers – if they can still find a space.

F2
German driver Markus Pommer was today announced in the 2012 season, He finished well in the German F3 championship and was good in winter testing. However, he does have some dodgy sponsors.

GP2
Rapax have signed French driver Tom Dillmann and Angolan Ricardo Teixeira for 2012. Dillmann shone in GP3, driving the first weekend for Carlin where he got a podium. Despite this, Carlin dropped Dillmann and he missed the second weekend before returning with Addax. In the GP2 final he drove for iSport, qualifying 9th (best of the GP3 drivers) and finishing 6th in the feature race. In the sprint he finished second to James Calado.
By contrast, Teixeira has not had a good racing career. He drove in GP2 2009 for Trident, not qualifying for several races and scoring no points. In 2010 he drove in F2, taking fifth place at Marraketch but struggling otherwise. Last year he test drove for Team Lotus (now Caterham).

Venezuela GP Lazarus are yet to announce their second driver as the teams head to Malaysia for the first race of the season.

McKenzie moves to F2

some news from the past few days. I know I’ve been silent on the blog front, which is mainly because I am not in a position to dedicate my whole life to motor racing. Not yet, anyway.

F2
Daniel McKenzie has become the latest F2 signee, and the third British driver in the series. McKenzie (no relation to BBC reporter Lee) drove a disappointing campaign for Comtec in Formula Renault last season, and will be hoping for much better this year. He was 2009 British F3 national class champion, which had four regular drivers, and in 2010 came 9th in the main series for Fortec, picking up two wins on the way. F2 has a reputation for slow cars and slower drivers, but hopefully the new car will make things much more exciting.

GP2
Moto GP champion Jorge Lorenzo had the opportunity of a lifetime thanks to Addax, when he had a test in the first edition of the GP2 car at Valencia. The car ran in the series from 2005-2007. Lorenzo has no plans to leave Moto GP, so we’re not likely to see another John Surtees any time soon – Surtees being the only driver to win motorbike and car world championships.

FIA Formula Three
The FIA have begun to reform F3, replacing the existing FIA Formula 3 Trophy with the FIA European F3 Championship. This has been set up as a direct predecessor to F2, with the top three drivers getting tests in the series. The winner will also get to test a Ferrari F1 car, while the runner-up will test in DTM.
It seems from the dates given that the European F3 championship will replace the F3 Euro Series, as there are only a few differences between the calendars. The FIA are clearly trying to break free from GP2 and GP3 so that they can re-establish control over the path young drivers take to F1. With Renault also providing a route through the World Series, this will only make it more confusing to compare young drivers.

Third F2 season for Kralev

F2
39-year-old Bulgarian motorsport ambassador Plamen Kralev returns to the FIA Formula Two championship for a third season, continuing in his number 8 car. Kralev has scored two points in his F2 career – one in each season – and honestly I cannot think there is much hope of him doing better this season. He is the sixth driver to be announced for F2 so far, and more will come over the next weeks.

GP3
It was Antonio Felix da Costa who, despite not being signed for the coming GP3 season, set the fastest time in today’s test. He set a 1:37.934 around the Circuit de Catalunya, beating Arden’s Matias Laine and Mitch Evans – Laine was the only other driver to dip into the 1:37s.
In the afternoon, Daniel Abt went fastest after a troubled morning session. Maxim Zimin – driving for Jenzer as he did last season – showed considerable improvement by going second-fastest. Tio Ellinas was third-fastest with Tamas Pal Kiss fourth.

I have to say, some of the drivers who had a tough season last year in GP3 – Laine, Zimin, and Pal Kiss despite his win – look set to be much better this year. Let’s hope they get signed!

FR3.5
The premier Formula Renault series got its pre-season testing under way today. Fastest was Fortec’s Robin Frijns, setting a 1:47.006 around Paul Ricard in the afternoon. That’s impressive considering his rookie status – the Dutch driver was Eurocup champion last year. Lotus (formerly Gravity-Charouz) went second with a 1:47.125 from Richie Stanaway, another rookie, while Force India’s Jules Bianchi was third-fastest. Alex Rossi was fourth-fastest for Arden-Caterham, and the second Fortec driver of Carlos Huertas was fifth.

Adrian Quaife-Hobbs takes Auto GP pole at Monza

Auto GP
The Auto GP season kicked off at Monza today with sixteen drivers battling for pole position. In the end, it went to former GP3 race winner Adrian Quaife-Hobbs, driving for Super Nova. Adrian, like Super Nova, is British. Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin will line up next to the Brit, having gone just 0.041s slower; Sirotkin is the current Formula Arbath Europe champion, and Formula Arbath Italy runner-up.
Third was Sergio Campana, an Italian, driving for Team MLR71. Campana is the current Italian F3 champion, despite only winning two races in the year. Pal Varhaug was fourth, while former Superleague Formula driver Chris van der Drift will start fifth.

FR 3.5
Since Arden announced their partnership with Caterham, today’s driver announcement has been on the cards. Alexander Rossi, who has been supported by AirAsia – which of course means Tony Fernandes and Caterham – since their driver academy began last year, will partner Red Bull-supported Lewis Williamson. There are strong ties between Arden and Caterham, partly thanks to Red Bull supplying the F1 team with gearboxes. Christian Horner and his family founded Arden initially so that Christian could race before he realised he was better at management. Heikki Kovalainen drove for Arden in his GP2 days. It is also interesting that former Caterham AirAsia driver Luiz Razia has moved to the Arden GP2 team this year.
So Alex Rossi will be at Arden-Caterham, and as well as that he will be a test driver for the F1 team. Rossi has a very good chance of winning the FR 3.5 championship this year, with more experience than some of the other brilliant drivers in the series. There is going to be some fantastic racing there!

F2
The series has announced its fifth driver for 2012 today, in the form of Alex Fontana. Fontana won Swiss F3 in his debut season last year, and also participated in two GP3 races scoring 1 point (he was sixth in the Belgium sprint). Fontana, currently the youngest to sign for F2 this year, will be in car number 10.