Power does what it says on the tin

IndyCar
After last week’s opening round of the 2012 IndyCar series season, I didn’t have high hopes for today’s race. But what a race it was! It seems all Indy needs for a decent race is a proper track and fewer caution periods. Surprisingly, there were only two in the whole race!
Strategy was still important, but Will Power capitalised on a pit stop error from Scott Dixon’s team to take the lead after the second restart. With only a few laps to go, he pulled slowly away for his first win of the season. Behind, polesitter Helio Castroneves was third after a tussle between himself, Graham Rahal and brilliant rookie Simon Pagenaud in the final laps.
Sixth was James Hinchcliffe, while Mike Conway capitalised on the restart and a struggling Andretti to take seventh. Barrichello was challenging Conway in those final laps, having gained several places on the restart, but lost distance to the Brit while trying to overtake Andretti. The Brazilian finally managed it and finished eighth. This left Sebastien Bourdais sandwiched between Andretti and Dario Franchitti. Bourdais in the Lotus-engined car did brilliantly, and took ninth. In a race to the line, reigning champion Franchitti just beat Andretti to tenth.

Auto GP
At Valencia it was chamionship leader Adrian Quaife-Hobbs who shone. The Super Nova driver, still in his 2011 Marussia Manor overalls, got up to third by the end of the first lap but made an early pit call to get fresh tyres that saw him in the lead after everyone had pitted. Meanwhile Facu Regalia took second, holding off Sergey Sirotkin. Daniel de Jong managed fourth for Manor, while Victor Guerin was able to finally have a good race and finished fifth. Rounding off the points were Max Snegirev, Chris van der Drift and Pal Varhaug.
Quaife-Hobbs now leads the championship by 21 points from Pal Varhaug, while Sirotkin is only 5 behind the Norwegian driver. Both Manor drivers are on 37 points, with Facu Regalia 2 behind them.
In the teams’ championship, Super Nova have overtaken Manor and lead by 11 points. Euronova are third, with Virtuosi UK sinking to fourth. Campos Racing, who have scored points with at least two of their three drivers in every race, are fifth.

Other
The Superstars series saw some brilliant racing from former HRT driver Tonio Liuzzi. Starting from the back row in the first race he finished third. This left him sixth in the reversed grid second race, where he dominated and won the race. The Italian is definitely going to be one of the title favourites, though he is currently second in the championship as Max Pigoli – who won the first race – came second in the second race.

In the first BTCC weekend, there was some incredible racing. A seven-car pile-up in the final race caused a red flag, and experienced racer Jason Plato was fourth just after the restart. As the cars ahead faded, Andrew Jordan and Jason Plato fought through and Plato keep pushing the Honda driver. Finding a gap, Plato got into the lead with five laps to go and won the first race for his new team despite their not testing until a week ago. The other races were won by Rob Collard and Matt Neal. Plato now leads the championship ahead of Neal and Jordan.

The WTCC races were won by Yvan Muller and Alain Menu respectively.

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1-2s for McLaren and Penske around the world

Indycar and Formula One – the two top single-seater series in the world. Today, Indycar’s first round and F1’s second round both had their qualifying sessions. Despite popular perception, Indycar is NOT just cars going round and round in circles – especially since there are only a few oval tracks left on the calendar. Unlike NASCAR, there are several permenant race tracks and street courses.
Indycar’s 2012 series features an all-new car: the DW12 named after Dan Wheldon. There are also two new engine suppliers, meaning that the series has a new dimension that will allow much more interesting racing. However, the chassis are still single-make.
Twenty-six drivers are taking part this weekend, though the number will change over the season, including reigning champion Dario Franchitti who is cousin to Force India’s Paul di Resta. Unlike the 26 taking part in GP2, however, these guys are all competitive. Rubens Barrichello, taking part in his first race weekend in the series, was soon on the pace. During qualifying, he barely missed out on the second session. He will start 14th, just behind his KV Racing teammate EJ Viso and just ahead of Takuma Sato.
Pole position was taken by Will Power, who has regularly been barely beaten by Dario Franchitti to the championship. His teammate at Penske, Ryan Briscoe, will be next to him.

Formula One saw the McLarens sandbagging until the final qualifying session, when they suddenly gained pace. It wasn’t as big a gap as in Melbourne, but Lewis went top fairly early on and Jenson Button lines up next to him. In third was Michael Schumacher. Mercedes engines last had a 1-2-3 in the 2009 European Grand Prix: Hamilton on pole, with Kovalainen and Barrichello second and third.
Mark Webber once again outqualified his teammate, who starts fifth due to Kimi Raikkonen suffering a five-place grid penalty. Then it’s Grosjean, Rosberg, Alonso, Perez and the demoted Raikkonen. Starting at the back after his penalty is Heikki Kovalainen, who is behind the HRTs. Both managed to beat the 107% rule.

Lotus F1’s hospitality unit suffered a major fire on the Friday night just before the curfew began. It was caused by a dodgy fuse on a fridge. Fortunately they saved a race suit for each driver as well as some helmets – but not all of them. Lotus also lost a lot of food and gifts for their guests. They have been relocated down by the Marussia garage, and seem to be taking the situation well judging by their Twitter account.

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.

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.

Jenzer signs Robert Visoiu

Two driver announcements and one engine announcement today:

F2
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.

GP3
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.

IndyCar
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.

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.

GP2 and GP3 head to Sky

There has been plenty of motor racing news over the past few days, so this might be a long post!

Formula Renault 3.5
Eurocup champion Robin Frijns graduates to the elite Renault series, where he will be driving alongside Carlos Huertas at Fortec. Meanwhile Kevin Korjus, who came sixth in his rookie season with three wins, continues with Tech 1. P1 Motorsport, as last season, will field Daniil Move alongside Austrian driver Walter Grubmuller.
There are well-founded rumours that Arden and Caterham will be joining together for the 2012 FR 3.5 campaign, with Alexander Rossi alongside Lewis Williamson. However, these have not yet been confirmed. Wikipedia also lists a number of other drivers, but these have not been confirmed by the teams.

GP2 and GP3
The two F1 support series will no longer be shown by Eurosport but by Sky, which is good news for fans fed up with delayed GP2 coverage. The races will be shown on Sky Sports F1. This will definitely make the series more popular with fans. The series have changed their Twitter usernames to @GP2_Official (formerly @feeder_series) and @GP3_Official (formerly @stepping_series) respectively, which will help avoid confusion in the future.

Former F1 drivers
Rubens Barrichello has been testing the new IndyCar chassis at Sebring, primarily to help out his friend – KV Racing’s Tony Kanaan – but also to get a taste for the cars. He has said that he would consider entering the series next year, but this would depend on his wife giving him permission. Motor Racing is a scary sport, and especially with Dan Wheldon’s death so close at hand it would be a hard decision to make.
Adrian Sutil has had his court case after the incident with Eric Lux in a Chinese nightclub last year. The former Force India driver was given an 18-month suspended sentence and a large fine. This is likely to kill the German’s racing career, as he will find it difficult to get a visa for many countries.
Nick Heidfeld is moving on, and has confirmed that he will be taking part in the new FIA WEC at the Sebring 12 Hours, Spa 6 Hours and Le Mans alongside Neel Jani and Nicolas Prost. This will be for the Rebellion team in a Lola-Toyota LMP1 car. The last time Heidfeld competed at Le Mans was in 1999.

Formula One
McLaren’s MP4-27 was successfully launched yesterday, with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button as well as test drivers Gary Paffett and Oliver Turvey. The event was streamed online. The car is generally quite similar to the MP4-26, though it has a lower nose. Unlike Caterham, however, the nose does not have a strange dip in it to pass technical regulations.
Ferrari, however, have had to cancel tomorrow’s launch due to an overabundance of snow at Maranello. Photos and a technical Q&A will be launched on their website.

i1 SuperSeries
The 2012 i1 Super Series has been cancelled. The series will now begin in 2013. This is disappointing for all the drivers hoping to take part, and for everyone wanting to watch. The names associated with the series suggested it would be a great thing to watch, but now we shall have to wait another year.