Hungary’s got Talent

Last year in GP3, there were 10 different race winners. One of those was Tamas Pal Kiss, a young Hungarian. He took victory at Barcelona, taking the win in the sprint race after finishing 8th in the feature (and so gaining reversed pole). Having driven for Tech 1 last year, Tamas returns to Atech Reid as part of Atech CRS GP, for whom he competed in Formula Renault UK in 2010. That year he finished 3rd in the championship, taking 3 wins and beating all but Lewis Williamson and Tom Blomqvist.
There is no doubt that Pal Kiss is an excellent driver, and will hopefully be one of the championship contenders this season. I expect to see him in GP2 in the near future, and who knows… maybe F1 after that? It’s certainly been a while since Hungary had an F1 driver.

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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.

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).

Trulli out, Petrov in at Caterham

F1
After months of speculation, when people finally began to think that maybe Caterham would honour Jarno Trulli’s contract, the rumours have come true. The Italian driver, who won at Monaco with Renault and has spent two years with the back-of-the-grid team, has been fired despite taking part in the first F1 test of 2012. He has been replaced by Vitaly Petrov, and there is no doubt that the money has helped. You need money to improve your prospects.
Vitaly isn’t a bad driver, and definitely has potential with Caterham, but Trulli had potential too. It is a shame he – like Rubens Barrichello – wasn’t given the opportunity to retire gracefully. At least Barrichello’s replacement was done honestly by Williams, and the Brazilian seems likely to continue his career in IndyCar. What is there for Trulli?
What is done is done. I think Petrov will do well, and he looks alright in green. Much better than black anyway.

GP2
The SuperNova team have left the GP2 championship after seven years. The British team, who have featured such drivers as Giorgio Pantano, Adam Carroll, Luca Filippi and Mike Conway, will be replaced by Venezuela-sponsored Italian outfit Venezuela GP Lazarus. Team Lazarus took part in Auto GP, last year running with Fabrizio Crestani and Fabio Onidi. The drivers finished 6th and 5th respectively in the championship.

GP3
Two drivers have been signed today. Trident revealed their first driver, Vicky Piria. She will be the first girl to take part in GP3. Hopefully she’ll do well, though she has not scored any wins or podiums so far in her career.
Meanwhile Cypriot Tio Ellinas, who came fourth in the 2010 British FFord season and finished third in Formula Renault UK on equal points with Oli Rowland and after dropping 40 points from his total (Rowland dropped none), comes to GP3 with Marussia Manor Racing. He will partner Dmitry Suranovich and Fabiano Machado.

Arden and Caterham announce tie-up

FR 3.5
Racing teams Arden and Caterham – rivals in GP2 – have teamed up for the 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 campaign. Caterham development driver Alex Rossi, who drove for Fortec last season in the series, is likely to partner Arden’s Lewis Williamson but nothing has been confirmed yet. Arden already have connections to Caterham, with their GP3 team sponsored by AirAsia (Caterham boss Tony Fernandes’s airline). There is also a Red Bull connection to Arden and to Caterham.

Lucas Foresti, who drove for Fortec in last season’s British F3 championship, has signed with DAMS for the 2012 FR 3.5 season. The Brazilian, who drove for Carlin in the 2010 BF3 season and has GP3 experience, will partner Arthur Pic at the French outfit.

GP3
Marussia Manor Racing have announced the second driver in their 2012 lineup. Fabiano Machado, who won last season’s F3 South America with 17 wins from 25 races, is older than the average GP3 driver. He will partner Dmitry Suranovich.

F2
The series announced today that alongside the normal F2 championship there will also be a rookie championship open to all drivers who have competed in less than two F2 rounds before the start of the season. Last year many rookies did well, including Christopher Zanella and Ramon Pineiro (finishing 2nd and 3rd in the championship respectively). I’m not sure this is necessary, but perhaps the prize for winning this championship will be encouraging as no doubt it will give some extra funding to support the future of someone’s racing career.

F1
Finally, Pirelli have announced the tyre choices for the first three races of the season:

Location

Option

Prime

Australia

Soft

Medium

Malaysia

Medium

Hard

China

Soft

Medium

While these may seem like strange choices, remember that the tyres are much softer this season.

Stockinger gets a new Status

GP3
Marlon Stockinger, who drove for Atech CRS in 2011, will continue in the series but with Status GP. Filipino-Swiss driver Stockinger was consistently fast in post-season testing, and hopes to do better than the 0 points he scored last season. This wasn’t completely Marlon’s fault, as the team only scored seven points in the whole season – all of which came at the extraordinary British Grand Prix from Nick Yelloly.

Formula One
Three more cars were launched today – Sauber, Red Bull and Toro Rosso. Sauber’s livery features notably more black than last season, covering the back, and the front wings. All three feature the now-familiar stepped nose, and you have to ask – if Adrian Newey’s team thought the stepped nose was the best answer to the rule changes, have McLaren made a mistake somewhere? Out of the eight cars so-far launched (Williams’ will be revealed tomorrow), only McLaren lacks the ‘step’. All will soon be revealed, with pre-season testing starting tomorrow and the Australian Grand Prix only 40 days away.

Jaime Alguersuari has revealed that he was offered a seat with a leading team before the end of last season – and no wonder, he did a brilliant job! – but turned it down because he had verbal assurance from Red Bull and Toro Rosso that he would be retained for this year. This is not how it played out, of course. While Alguersuari considered HRT, he decided not to go there as he is still a young driver, with hopes of driving for a midfield team. It seems likely that the Spaniard will find a place as a reserve driver at one of the better teams this season.

Finally, it was one year ago today that Robert Kubica was badly injured in a rallying accident. While we all hoped he would be back on the grid for 2012, it was not to be. The Pole hopes to get back in a racing car some time this year, and who knows whether we’ll see him in a Ferrari come 2013?

New driver announcements

It has been a busy day in the world of motor racing, with driver announcements across all levels of the sport, in single-seaters and tin-tops. Here’s a summary of the single-seater news:

Formula One
First up, HRT revealed their second driver to be none other than Narain Karthikeyan, who drove a part-season for them last year. He and Pedro de la Rosa will make up the oldest team on the grid, and will have a combined age of 76 years at the Melbourne GP. Despite this, they have less F1 experience than several other teams, having only 113 F1 starts between them.
Ferrari and Force India both launched their cars today – the F2012 and the VJM05. Ferrari’s rather ugly, square design and Force India’s smoother design both have the platypus nose that was first seen on the Caterham CT-01.

GP2
Josef Kral is the latest driver to be confirmed for the series. The Czech, who drove for Arden last season and picked up podiums in Monaco and Belgium, will be driving alongside Johnny Cecotto at Addax.

GP3
Marussia Manor Racing have confirmed their first driver as Dmitry Suranovich, who is currently competing in the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand. Born in Belarus, Suranovich is a Russian citizen and drives under a Russian license. The 16-year-old last year competed in Formula Arbath Europe and Italy. He did not have brilliant results. However, his rookie season in TRSNZ is going well and he is 9th in the championship, having picked up a podium at Timaru.
Carlin have also been confirming drivers in various series, including one in GP3. This is Alex Brundle, son of Martin, who will also be competing in European rounds of the WEC. Brundle had mixed luck in F2 last year, taking one pole and three podiums and finishing 7th in the championship.

British F3
A number of drivers have now been confirmed for the 2012 BF3 season, very few of whom are British. Carlin have five drivers signed so far – Pietro Fantin (BRA), Jazeman Jaafar (MAL), Jack Harvey (GBR), Carlos Sainz, Jr (ESP) and Harry Tincknell (GBR). At Fortec, Pipo Derani (BRA) joins FR UK champion Alex Lynn and another graduate of the series Felix Serralles. Only one driver – Spike Goddard (AUS) has been confirmed for T-Sport so far.

IndyCar
Takuma Sato, who drove for KV Racing for the last two seasons, was today announced as Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (wow, long name or what?) lead driver. The Japanese driver has taken two poles and a best finish of fourth in his career so far. This will be Rahak’s first full IndyCar season since 2008, and they also hope to run a second car at some point.