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.

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Quaife-Hobbs takes Auto GP victory

Auto GP
The first race of the season began with 16-year-old Sergey Sirotkin stalling on the grid. Adrian Quaife-Hobbs maintained his lead, but was closely folowed by Sergio Campana. Despite being held up by the delayed Sirotkin after his pit stop, Quaife-Hobbs was still able to hold position over Campana to take a close win. Behind them, Pal Varhaug found himself in third where the Norwegian maintained a decent gap between himself and those on either side. Chris van der Drift began well for Manor MP, but a mistake coming out of Parabolica saw him lose places. Though he fought back, taking as late a pit stop as possible, he was only able to finish sixth. His teammate Daniel de Jong gained several positions to finish fourth on the road.
However, the MLR71 team were discovered after the race to have changed the front tyres instead of the rear tyres. All teams had been instructed to change the rear tyres at Monza. This meant Campana and Michele La Rosa both received 1-minute penalties, promoting Varhaug to second and de Jong to third. Campana was demoted to tenth.
Sirotkin took the point for fastest lap, which doesn’t really make up for his stall but it’s forgivable with the Russian’s limited experience. Quaife-Hobbs leads the championship with 26 points – 25 for his win, and one for pole. While we don’t know if he will be driving in the next round, it seems highly likely considering his brilliant performance today. Incredibly, the Brit had never done a standing start in the car before today, and it was also his first ever pit stop.
The second race is at 10:45 GMT tomorrow, where Antonio Spavone starts from pole having finished eighth after Campana’s penalty. Former F2 driver Max Snegirev starts next to him.

GP3
Ocean Racing Technology announced their first GP3 drivers today. Spanish driver Carmen Jorda, who participated in some of the 2010 Indy Lights series and has taken podiums in the F3 Open Copa F306/300, will join Irish driver Robert Cregan. Cregan was driving in V8 supercars last year, and he came second in the UAE GT Championship for the GTC classification. He last drove in single-seaters back in 2006 for the FFord 1600 Walter Hayes Trophy.

FR 3.5
Giovanni Venturini will take the final space on the grid in the series, partnering Nicolay Martsenko. Initially Daniel Zampieri had been suggsted at the team. Venturini comes from Auto GP, where he finished ninth with two wins and one pole position.

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.

F2 field doubles in size

F2
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.

Eurocup
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.

FR 3.5
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.

(Part 2/2)

Silverstone is on for FR 3.5!

FR 3.5
For a long time, there have been questions about the presence of Silverstone in the World Series by Renault calendar this year. A round had been declared for 25th-26th August, but with no location given. Was the track to be left off the calendar? It seemed even more likely with the WEC’s 6 Hours of Silverstone set for that weekend.
However, today it was revealed that Formula Renault 3.5 will be supporting the WEC event that weekend, which is great news for British fans who can go and see Sam Bird, Nick Yelloly and other great drivers. It remains to be seen whether the series will be able to offer free tickets as they have done in the past, but I hope so!

Eurocup
Formula Renault Eurocup, which will not be present at Silverstone, is testing for two days at Paul Ricard. There’s a huge number of drivers who are going to be there, and you can follow the progress on the WSR Twitter account @WSR_Live.

F2
According to F2 commentator Jack Nicholls, drivers are set to be announced over the next few weeks. He said, “Some interesting drivers are set to be announced for #F2 in the coming weeks. It’s going to be a very competitive season.” (@Jack_Nicholls) The first test is coming up at Silverstone on March 26th.

GP2
The teams get back to work tomorrow with three days at the Circuit de Catalunya. Many of the drivers were already out at the track, either with F1 teams or just to watch testing before they have their own turn. Giancarlo Serenelli (winner of the (South American) Latam Challenge Series and third in the SEAT Leon Super Cup Mexico) will be with Lazarus, Jon Lancaster – who had a brief spell in F2 last year – will be with Ocean, Sergio Canamasas and former Caterham test driver Ricardo Teixeira will be with Rapax.

F1
Marussia launched their smooth-nosed MR01 today at Silverstone. The car is not yet ready to race, still with crash tests to pass despite the first race being 13 days away! HRT also launched at Barcelona, with Narain Karthikeyan driving the few laps allowed. Pedro de la Rosa was also there, of course, as was former HRT driver Tonio Liuzzi. The HRT’s livery is fantastic – white, gold and maroon. In the end, livery doesn’t get you points, but the fact that their car is ready before FP1 is a real step up for the Spanish outfit despite a troubled winter.

Rain falls in Barcelona

F1
Testing has continued at Barcelona, with one more day left to run. Today (Saturday) saw the first rain. After silly rumours about Ferrari sacking Massa flooded Twitter yesterday, the team cancelled all media interviews with the drivers. This may also be connected to the poor performance of the F2012 so far – how bad a season will it be for the Scuderia? Grosjean went fastest for the second day of the test, while Perez was fastest in the dry today.
HRT will not be present tomorrow, but hope to launch their car at a filming day on Monday. While poor, this is still progress for the Spanish team compared to previous years.

GP3
Jenzer have announced Formula Arbath Italia champion Patric Niederhauser as the second of their drivers for 2012. He also came second in the European season.

FR 3.5
Lotus continue their ‘invasion’ into every single seater category with Gravity-Charouz. The Lotus team will have a Czech nationality, and run with Danish driver Marco Sorensen (2nd last year in German F3) and Richie Stanaway (winner of German F3, as well as the Belgian GP3 sprint race).

Valsecchi dominates at Jerez

GP2
After the final day of GP2 testing, new DAMS signing Davide Valsecchi has proved to be the most consistent and fastest driver – leading on all three days. The question is, can DAMS win a second driver’s championship with the Italian? If he wins, he could well become the next Italian in F1 – though Italians have a bad record when it comes to transferring between the series.
Of the GP3 graduates taking part, James Calado was one of the most impressive. Van der Garde was doing well for Caterham, while Stefano Coletti shone for Coloni. Max Chilton showed much improvement on 2011, and Carlin also have improved as they come to their second year (with a little help from Marussia). I expect we will see a good showing from all 2010 and 2011 GP3 graduates, but also from F2 runner-up Jolyon Palmer who is doing well with iSport.
There’s another GP2 test at Barcelona next week before they all head out to Malaysia for the first round of the season.

IndyCar
Rubens Barrichello’s CV boasts Jordan, Stewart, Ferrari, Honda, Brawn and Williams. Now, F1’s most experienced driver can add KV Racing to that list. The Brazilian today announced that he would be racing a full season for the IndyCar team, taking to ovals for the first time. Barrichello admitted to a little help from his kids in persuading their Mum that he could race. He will be partnering his close friend Tony Kanaan and Venezuelan EJ Viso. The team also drove with three drivers last year – Kanaan, Viso and another ex-F1 driver in Takuma Sato. Mika Salo also drove for the team in four races in 2003, back in the days of Champ Car.
KV were supported by Lotus in 2011, but will use Chevrolet engines this season despite the British marque supplying engines to the series. According to the IndyCar website, Barrichello will take number 8 on his car.

F1
The first day of testing, and Heikki Kovalainen was unable to take part due to food poisoning (apparently from one of the team’s sponsor’s!). The mechanics got the car sorted for Vitaly Petrov and he did a full day of running, taking the second-highest lap tally. It was Rosberg who did the most laps, with nearly 130. Fastest of all was Grosjean, with Button second. Williams only managed a small number of laps with Maldonado for unspecified reasons.
HRT hope to get on track by Sunday, while Kovalainen will be back tomorrow (Friday). Kamui Kobayashi was also ill today, but hopefully he will be well by the time he’s needed.

FR 3.5
Andre Negrao and Nico Muller have been confirmed at Draco for 2012. Muller is a GP3 graduate, winning three races in the series and coming 3rd in 2010 (4th in 2011). He won the Silverstone feature race where unexpected rain caused a mass pit stop at the start of the race – all seven other drivers who scored points were British. Brazilian Negrao enters his second year of the series, and with Draco, having graduated from the Eurocup at the end of 2010.