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.

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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.

New test driver for Marussia

F1
Marussia have announced their new test driver for the 2012 season: Maria de Villota. Maria had initially tried for the Renault team, but the Spanish driver has ended up at the Sheffield-based team instead. Since she does not qualify for a super license yet (she needs more test mileage), the team will probably have to find another reserve driver.
Maria participated in the first round of the truncated 2011 Superleague Formula series, finishing 12th in both races to take home Spain’s only points in the series. She also participated in the 2010 season for Athletico Madrid, picking up several top-ten finishes in her races (though she was also excluded from one round for crashing into Sebastien Bourdais).

Pirelli also had news today, with the team gaining a new test car from Renault. The R30 – two-year-old predecessor to the Lotus E20 – will be in their hands for tyre tests throughout 2012. This is the car that was driven by Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov, gaining three podium positions.

GP2
Today was the second of three testing days for the series, and 2010 GP3 champion Esteban Gutierrez at Lotus GP set the pace in the morning. He was unbeaten by the afternoon times. Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde was only four thousandths slower, and Carlin’s Max Chilton was four thousandths slower than the Dutchman. Davide Valsecchi was 15 thousandths slower than Gutierrez for DAMS, before a slightly bigger gap to Stefano Coletti. Those top four were the only ones who made it into the 1:28 lap times, and look set to be title contenders this year. Fabrizio Crestani put Lazarus into the top ten as well. Race simulations were the order of the afternoon, which saw some rookie faces in the top ten – notably Jon Lancaster and Ricardo Teixeira who have not typically been high on the timesheets.

GP3
Tiago Monteiro’s Ocean Racing Technology have replaced Tech 1 in the bottom tier of F1’s support races. Ocean, who have signed GP3 graduate Nigel Melker and Jon Lancaster in their GP2 squad, have been showing interest in the series. Tech 1 began the 2011 season of GP3 well, with a win in the second sprint from Tamas Pal Kiss, but the loss of Andrea Caldarelli didn’t help and they struggled for the remainder of the races. They have a better record in Formula Renault 3.5, where they will be running Jules Bianchi alongside Kevin Korjus this year.

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Alguersuari joins the BBC

F1
Dumped Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari has a new job. His voice will soon be broadcast throughout the UK on BBC Radio 5 Live as he becomes the station’s expert F1 analyst – a role previously held by Sky’s Anthony Davidson. Alguersuari has a clear desire to return to F1, and this will give him every opportunity to stay around the paddock; he will be karting throughout the year to help keep up his physical training, and no doubt he will also do some DJing.
Whilst it’s not the best place to be in, it could be much worse for the Spaniard – who became the youngest ever to start an F1 race in 2009. Hopefully he will adapt well to radio, and soon be back on track. He was regarded by fans as a great prospect, and at only 21 he has a good chance of a return. Meanwhile, I will look forward to hearing him for the first race of the season.

Marussia also presented good news today, as their car passed the final crash test. It’s been a hard winter, but now they are ready for Melbourne.

GP2
It was a choppy 2011 for new Ocean Racing signing Jon Lancaster. The Brit participated in the F2 round at Magny-Cours, finishing both times in the points, but dropped out of the series. He then moved to Auto GP, participating in four races. He scored in all four of them, including a win and fastest lap at Donnington Park. But it’s hard to find sponsorship, and Lancaster was struggling. However, the Brit now has an opportunity to shine with what will hopefully be a full season at GP2.

The GP2s were testing in Barcelona today, and Fabrizio Crestani surprised everyone by going fastest for new team Lazarus. Carlin’s Max Chilton was fastest in the afternoon – a great improvement on 2011, as the team get used to the series. Second was Julian Leal, with Marcus Ericsson third. James Calado continued to be the best of the GP3 graduates, and he has a good chance of being a rookie champion.

Auto GP
This series gets under way in just a few days at Monza, supporting the WTCC. A few drivers have been confirmed, including Max Snegirev, Pal Varhaug and Daniel de Jong. The strange make-up of the calendar may be somewhat off-putting to drivers, but more should be revealed in the next few days.

IndyCar
2011 GP2 runner-up Luca Filippi has confirmed that he will be participating in the IndyCar championship this year from the Indy 500. He will be driving at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, which have Honda engines, alongside former F1 star Takuma Sato.

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.

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.