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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Two driver announcements and one engine announcement today:
Indian racing driver Parthiva Sureshwaren returns to F2 this year following a pointless 2011 campaign. However, he showed improvement towards the end of the season and should do well for 2012. In 2010 – his first F2 season – he picked up a single point after finishing tenth at Monza.
Romania’s Robert Visoiu, who last season came 4th in the Formula Arbath European Series with 2 wins, and 6th in Italian Formula Arbath with 1 win, has been signed for Jenzer Motorsport after a highly successful post-season GP3 test for the team. He is the first driver signed by the team, and the second Romanian to take part in GP3 after 2010’s Doru Sechelariu.
In the US, Ed Carpenter’s new team has signed for Chevrolet engines in 2012, just as Andretti, KV, Panther and Penske have. I am looking forward to seeing what the engine competition will do to racing in the series, hopefully making it more exciting for casual and serious fans alike.
F2 announced its first driver today with Luciano Bacheta, a British racer of Indian and Italian descent. In 2011, Bacheta began in GP3, taking fifth in the Silverstone feature race having started 24th after a great decision to start on wet tyres. He left GP3 to compete in a part-season of F2, taking top-ten finishes in all his races including a best of fifth in the second race at Monza. He beat Jordan King, who also had four top-ten finishes, by a single point, and only lost out to Thiemo Storz, who was doing a complete season, by the same amount.
Bacheta, who will be driving the number four car, said on Twitter “It’s confirmed, I’m racing F2 this year!!! So happy and excited for the season :-).” (@LucianoBacheta)
Also confirmed today was Johnny Cecotto, Jr., who will be driving for Addax in the 2012 GP2 season. The German-born Venezuelan who is the son of motorbike champion Johnny Cecotto will be entering his third full season in the sport.
Finn Aaro Vainio, meanwhile, continues his GP3 campaign as Lotus confirm he will be partnering Daniel Abt at the team. Vainio picked up 12 points last season, including third in the Barcelona feature race. Though his results were inconsistent, this should improve with the change of team.
Renault have announced today that what Eddie Jordan said about Bruno Senna replacing Nick Heidfeld for the remainder of the season is at least partly-true. The Brazilian driver will be taking Quick Nick’s place at Spa – a track he has experience of in the car from a World Series by Renault demo earlier in the year. Check out his video here.
In the other series who return this weekend, there are changes in GP3 and Formula Two. In GP3, ART have dropped Brazilian Pedro Nunes for German F3 leader Richie Stanaway, Jenzer have replaced Vittorio Ghirelli with Alex Fontana, and Mucke Motorsport have dropped Luciano Bacheta for Daniel Mancinelli.
Italian driver Mancinelli is currently competing in Italian F3, though since winning the first race he has struggled. Last season he came fourth in the series. Kiwi Stanaway has won all but three German F3 races this season and taken a lot of pole positions too. Swiss Alex Fontana currently leads the European F3 Open.
In F2, Jose Luis Abadin is unable to take part at the Red Bull Ring but will return to Monza. Luciano Bacheta will make his F2 debut at the ring as will Austrian driver Rene Binder. Binder will be in the 25 car and Bacheta in the 26 car.
Rene Binder is also taking part in German F3. He is currently 8th in the series having taken a podium in the second race. Luciano Bacheta picked up his only GP3 points this season at Silverstone after some good tyre strategy.
In GP2, the lineup from Hungary will be retained, with Filippi driving for Coloni and Aleshin for Carlin.
British racing driver Jordan King will be making his Formula Two debut at Spa at the end of this month. He will also do the Nurburgring and Brands Hatch races. The driver is also competing in Formula Renault UK. Aged just 17, he will be driving in the F2 test at Snetterton next week as the youngest-ever F2 driver. He only gave up karting last year, and began competing in the Formula Renault winter cup coming 15th with 43 points. This year he is 7th in FR 2.0 UK, with 82 points after the same number of races as the winter cup (although to be fair there are only 12 drivers who have competed in every race thus far). He drives for Manor in that series.
As you probably already know, the FIA has voted to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix. It will go ahead on October 30th, and the Indian GP will be moved to December. In all likelihood, the championship will have been decided by then since Vettel is doing so fantastically. Max Mosley has criticised this decision as being a PR disaster, and since he knows all about PR disasters he’s a fair critic. Damon Hill is backing those opposed to the race. A majority of fans are also opposed and many will boycott the race. I will also do so, though it pains me greatly to miss a race. It would have been better for the FIA to skip the race for this year, especially with Bahrain heading up next year’s season.
The FIA released the provisional calendar for 2012 today, with an incredible 21 races. The season would start on March 11th with Bahrain and Australia back-to-back, then Malaysia and China back-to-back after a two week break. Korea will be moved to the first half of the season and come two weeks after China. Then Turkey (subject to confirmation by the Turkish officials), Spain, Monaco, Canada and the new US Grand Prix back-to-back, Valencia, Britain, Germany and Hungary back-to-back, then the summer break. Belgium and Italy will go back-to-back, then a two week break before Singapore, then Japan, India, Abu Dhabi and Brazil to end the season. It’s good to see that Brazil will end the season, on November 25th. It’s still a long season, with a lot of back-to-back races squashed in to make it fit the schedule. Of course they’ll have to change the regulations, as right now there’s a maximum limit of 20. This will not go down well at all with the teams, who struggle enough with the 20 we have this year.