Last season, GP3 rookie Mitch Evans became the youngest driver in the series to win a race. The year began well, as he took points in his first race before winning the feature in Spain from pole. The Kiwi went on to finish third in the Valencia feature. His second half of the season was not so good, as Mitch made some driving errors and only scored three more points – two for pole in Germany (a dry to wet race) and one for an eighth place at Monza. His qualifying results, however, were excellent. As he signs for Arden for another year, let’s see if he can translate that to more results for the team.
Mitch is joined by Italian driver David Fumanelli, while his 2011 GP3 teammate Simon Trummer moves up to Arden’s GP2 team. His other teammate Lewis Williamson will be driving for the team in Formula Renault 3.5 as they join the series for the first time.
Formula Renault 3.5’s 2011 champion Robert Wickens takes to the track for Marussia Virgin in the first practice session at Abu Dhabi next Friday. He will replace Jerome d’Ambrosio. The Canadian has shown great form over the past three years of racing, finishing second in GP3 and F2 before this year’s victory. It is unlikely that he will be an F1 driver next year, with GP2 being the most likely option, but he has the backing of Marussia. As the FR3.5 champion, he will also be taking part in the young drivers’ test at Abu Dhabi for Renault.
Kevin Ceccon will be taking part in the test as well, and like teammate Stefano Coletti will be in the Toro Rosso STR06. It’s a big step up for Ceccon, who only turned 18 this year and was moved into a GP2 seat after Davide Rigon’s accident. Though he wasn’t able to shine in GP2, he fought well in Auto GP to emerge victor in the final race of the season.
Carlin have announced that their full-time driver Max Chilton will be driving alongside Jan Charouz the Renault reserve and FR3.5 driver in the GP2 final. AirAsia have their driver Luiz Razia alongside Alexander Rossi for the final, and Razia will also be taking part in the F1 young drivers’ test for Team Lotus. Razia also took part last year for Virgin when he was their test driver.
Team Lotus and Red Bull, Virgin and McLaren, HRT and Williams. Each of the three ‘baby teams’ has a collaboration with one of the more experienced teams on track. HRT have renewed their deal with Williams for 2012, which includes the use of Williams KERS. Now that the British outfit have had a year to work on their KERS, it should be much more reliable. Hopefully it will help the Spanish outfit to boost their performance next year. Virgin/Marussia might have more trouble than the other two teams, as unlike Team Lotus/Caterham and HRT it does not share the same engine supplier as its partner. They will have to get KERS from somewhere if they are to be competitive, otherwise they will once again finish 12th overall.
Speaking of ‘Finnish’, Williams are rumoured to be announcing at Abu Dhabi that they have signed Kimi Raikkonen for 2012. The Finn quit F1 after 2009 in order to pursue rallying. He has also had a go at NASCAR. At the start of this year, it seemed unlikely he would ever return. Now, however, the Iceman could be back. A great racer, he will be an additional boost for the struggling team. It could provide a good challenge for him in a less competitive car.
After a meeting of the Formula One Committee today, it has been confirmed that from 2012 Team Lotus will be known as ‘Caterham’, Renault will be known as ‘Lotus’, and Virgin will become ‘Marussia’. It remains to be seen what team names they will adopt.
Meanwhile, Stefano Coletti returns to racing in Abu Dhabi alongside Kevin Ceccon at Scuderia Coloni for the GP2 final. Afterwards, he will be taking part in the F1 young driver test for Toro Rosso. Stefano injured his back in the Spa-Francorchamps GP2 feature race. He won two races this season – the Turkey and Hungary sprints – despite being a rookie. He has a lot of potential, and should do well.
Another driver taking part is, unsurprisingly, Alexander Rossi. The young American will be driving for Team AirAsia, as well as taking part in the young drivers’ test for Team Lotus.
GP2’s iSport International team today announced half of their 2012 lineup, along with their two drivers for the final in two weeks’ time. Marcus Ericsson, one half of the team’s lineup this season, will continue to race for them next year and will also participate in the final. Alongside him in Abu Dhabi will be GP3’s Tom Dillmann. As far as I am aware, Tom is the second GP3 driver to be signed up for the final after James Calado.
For the final, Pirelli will be awarding a cash prize to the top two points-scoring GP3 graduates; 15,000 Euros to the best, and 10,000 to the second-best. Hopefully, more GP3 graduates will be signed up to give Tom and James a run for their money.
For the current finals lineup and 2012 lineup, check the links above in the GP2 section.
The big news today is that the GP2 2012 lineup is already being filled up. 2010 GP3 champion Esteban Gutierrez had a great season with Lotus ART this year, and will be continuing with the team for the next season.
Aside from that, it’s the GP2 tests tomorrow and Thursday at Jerez. The lineups in full can be found here. Notably, the following GP3 drivers are taking part:
Champion Valtteri Bottas with Lotus ART. Race winners James Calado, Nico Muller, Rio Haryanto, Nigel Melker and Antonio Felix da Costa. Simon Trummer.
Several past and present GP2 drivers are taking part, including Javier Villa, Adam Carroll, Sam Bird and Max Chilton. The remaining drivers mainly come from Formula Renault, including Daniel Ricciardo’s teammate Nathanael Berthon.
There are a couple of changes to the GP2 lineup this weekend. Alvaro Parente returns for Carlin now that his McLaren commitments are over, so no Mikhail Aleshin. After his injury at Spa, Stefano Coletti’s place is taken by fellow Monagesque driver Stephane Richelmi. Richelmi currently drives in Formula Renault 3.5, and has taken six points so far in his debut season. Those six all came at Monza, which is encouraging.
Renault has signed a number of sponsorship deals recently, including with a Brazilian oil company and Gillette. Cue jokes about how they couldn’t sign with Gillette before because of Nick Heidfeld’s beard. After the amicable parting of Heidfeld and Renault, Bruno Senna will be driving for the remainder of the season.
At Toro Rosso, there’s also a sponsor coming on board in the form of Spanish company Cepsa. This might be good news for Jaime Alguersuari who of course is looking for a race seat next season. If Jaime doesn’t get the seat, he does have an alternative income as he moonlights as DJ Squire. The Spaniard is launching his debut album next week.
Virgin have got a sponsorship deal with Belgian company Soleco, who are renewable power company mainly dealing in solar panels and other forms of environmentally friendly power generation.
Finally, it is Vitaly Petrov’s birthday today. The Russian is 27 years old.
Alvaro Parente won’t be driving in GP2 this weekend, as he’s in Spa driving a McLaren MP4-12C in the 24 hour race. Good luck Alvaro! The Portuguese driver will be replaced at Carlin by their original driver – Mikhail Aleshin. Aleshin has struggled to find a regular seat this year as he has had budget difficulties. He began with a complete GP2 Asia series for Carlin, then took part in the Turkey and Spain rounds of GP2. An injury meant he failed to start in Turkey, and he had miserable results in Spain – 16th and 18th. After a gap of just other a month, the Formula Renault 3.5 champion went to the Hungaroring with the series, picking up four points.
His next stop was Zolder, where he drove for Russia in Superleague Formula. In the first race he finished 11th, but took advantage of the reversed grid to finish 3rd as he got used to the V8 engines. Because England failed to finish the second race, he got into the Super Final, but stayed at the back and finished 8th.
Germany race winner Luca Filippi leads the Auto GP championship with 98 points over Kevin Ceccon’s 80 – a second place in race one or a win in race two – but has decided not to contest this weekend’s round. Instead, he will continue with Coloni in GP2. This is also an advantage to his Auto GP teammate Jon Lancaster, who is currently sixth in the championship and 47 points behind Luca.