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.

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GP2 and GP3 calendars announced

The 2012 GP2 calendar was released today, and as well as supporting the European F1 races, GP2 will also support the Malaysia, Bahrain and Singapore Grands Prix. There will also be a second Bahrain round in a standalone event one week after the first round.
Malaysia will open the proceedings in March, giving Anglo-Malaysian team Caterham a home race. Next is the double-header at Bahrain, before they follow the European F1 season. After Monza, the teams head out to Singapore. I am curious to know whether the Singapore races will be in the day (as with the Abu Dhabi GP2 final) or at night.
Some of the drivers do not seem to be happy about the Bahrain repetition. James Calado on his Twitter said: “Bahrain twice.. Stupid” His thoughts are backed up by fans. If you’re going to have two rounds at the same track, why not make it somewhere more exciting? Even ignoring the political situation, Sakhir has never been the most enthralling place to race.

The GP3 calendar features seven guaranteed races on the European circuits, and one hopeful at Monaco. Last year GP3 were unable to race there due to a lack of garage space, but despite the inclusion of the Formula Renault 3.5 series, they are trying again. Good luck!

Meanwhile, Force India have finally confirmed what we all knew – their 2012 lineup will be Scot Paul di Resta alongside German and Brazil 2010 polesitter Nico Hulkenberg. It’s a young but skilled team who should do well. Nico Hulkenberg, the 2009 GP2 champion, was dropped from Williams after 2010 despite securing that pole. This was so that the team could hire better-funded Pastor Maldonado. But Williams had a disastrous 2011, while Force India (who hired Hulkenberg as reserve driver) finished very close behind fifth-placed Renault this year.
After driving for five years at Midland/Spyker/Force India, Adrian Sutil now has to move on. He is a good driver, but has probably reached the limit of his potential. Meanwhile di Resta and Hulkenberg are yet to prove themselves, and both shone in their rookie seasons. With an improving team and two potential champion drivers, Force India should do well in 2012.

Maldonado still in F1

Williams announced today that Pastor Maldonado will continue to drive for them in 2012. The Venezuelan had flashes of brilliance in Monaco and Belgium but otherwise did not impress fans, receiving two penalties in Abu Dhabi for ignoring blue flags and suffering more crashes in practice and the race than can be accounted for by Williams’ unreliability.
Third driver for the team will be GP3 champion Valtteri Bottas. What the Finn will be doing besides his reserve position remains unclear, as ART have already signed up Esteban Gutierrez and James Calado to their GP2 team. A vast number of spaces in GP2 remain open, and he could also take his chances in Formula Renault 3.5.

The question remains over who will take the second Williams seat. Current speculation sees Barrichello losing his seat to Sutil, with Petrov, Bianchi and Senna the other options.

More to come over the next few weeks! The 2012 lineup under the F1 tab reflects the FIA entry list plus De La Rosa and Maldonado.

Raikkonen to Williams – opinion

Kimi Raikkonen has had an interesting year. Being removed from the WRC championship for not competing in the two required overseas rounds, and having a rather troubled attempt at NASCAR, perhaps he’s regretting his move away from F1.
Interest in the championship-winning Finn has been shown from Williams, who also had Adrian Sutil looking around. But will Kimi race his whole heart in F1? And is it right to bring a veteran back into the sport when there are so many youngsters looking for a seat?
Williams could take a look at Sauber, whose drivers have both done spectacular jobs in the first half of the season though the car’s poor development – and gearbox problems – have lost them points more recently. Though Kobayashi and Perez have limited time in F1, they can drive well. Could Williams go with two junior drivers?
It is unlikely. After their disasterous 2011, they’ll want an experienced driver to help with the car’s development (though Barrichello should have been able to do that). And having a champion on their side could give another boost. But Adrian Sutil is an experienced driver too. He has spent all his career at the same team – albeit with a name change – and could do with a new team although he says he is happy at Force India. Well I would be too – sixth in the championship! But I am biased and want to see Nico Hulkenberg return to F1, which a Sutil move would do.

I think Barrichello retiring would be good for F1 after 19 seasons of the Brazilian in the series. Once you have been around for such a long time, even if you love driving, it’s time to give youngsters a chance. As it is, it is hard to see anywhere for even GP2 champion Romain Grosjean to fit in. Therefore I do not think it is right for ex-drivers to return, no matter how prematurely they left the sport.
So if you want my thoughts, it would be Sutil to Williams, Hulkenberg up to second driver at Force India. Valtteri Bottas will remain Williams test driver with a hope of coming to F1 in a season or two, and meanwhile make Max Chilton or Luca Filippi the Force India tester.

Summer day 16 – Adrian Sutil

Adrian Sutil – 12
After pre-season testing, the Force India looked like being one of the weakest cars on the track. It didn’t seem to have improved at all since 2010, and seemed likely to be stuck behind the Toro Rossos and Saubers. This was pretty-much the case in Australia, when both Force Indias picked up points only thanks to the Saubers’ disqualification, but since then they have made some major improvements to now stand seventh overall.
Adrian hasn’t had an easy year, what with the ‘glassing’ incident causing people to question his future. But he’s done well on track. With the car’s improvements, he has gone from risking going out in Q1, to challenging for Q3. So far he has succeeded three times – qualifying tenth in Valencia before taking eighth in the last two races.
Race-wise, the Force India has done well at a number of tracks, and with its natural strength being at Monza (there Fisichella score the team’s first pole, points and podium in the same race) there should be more points to come. Like his teammate, retirements have been limited to a problem in Canada.
One of his best races this year was at the Nurburgring when he finished 6th, though his 7th place at Monaco was resoundingly applauded as well. He failed to score in Hungary after getting stuck behind Heikki Kovalainen for the majority of the race.

Points: 18
Worst qualifying: 17
Best qualifying: 8
Worst finish: 15 (China)
Best finish: 6 (Germany)
Average difference: 0.82
Laps completed: 652/681 (96%)
Average race position: 11.49 (Best: 6.4 Germany; Worst: 16.3 Spain)

Penalties changing nothing

Reprimands for Kobayashi and Sutil, who retain their amazing points finishes, while Hamilton recieved a 20 second penalty that ended up not affecting his result. The angry McLaren driver allowed himself a rant in his interview with the BBC’s Lee McKenzie, frustrated at his fifth call to the stewards this season. Following the recent FIA decision, the reprimands now have an impact: three of them will equal a five-place grid penalty. This is probably why the drivers were given reprimands as opposed to a more serious penalty.
This means today has been Kobayashi’s best-ever F1 finish. His next-best are the British GP last year, and Abu Dhabi GP in 2009. In his short time in F1, Kamui has done 27 races. He’s had 8 retirements, 15 top ten finishes and one disqualification where he ought to have finished in the top 10. That leaves only three races in which he’s finished but not in the top 10: Spain, Germany and Abu Dhabi last year.
Force India have now scored 10 points, and this lifts the team above Toro Rosso in the standings. Williams scored their first points, sealing their ninth place. Lotus’s Jarno Trulli had his second thirteenth-place finishes of the season, and Heikki Kovalainen had his first fourteenth-place finish. This lifts him above D’Ambrosio in the championship. Barrichello also gets a lift, while Maldonado sadly remains towards the bottom.

Stats and facts
Kobayashi has now entered the top ten of drivers for ‘most points without a win’. Headed by Heidfeld (254) and Rosberg (243.5), Sutil has the eighth-most points without a win (61), going ahead of Andrea de Cesaris (59), and Kobayashi has the tenth-most (54).
Mark Webber has 4 of the 6 possible fastest laps this season so far. He set today’s in the final lap of the race.
Sebastian Vettel, taking his fourteenth total win and fifth this season, now has 8 consecutive podium positions, matching Reutemann, Senna and Montoya’s strings. One more and he will match Clark, Lauda, Piquet, Schumacher (twice) and Hamilton. With six from the start of the season, he matches Fittipaldi and Mansell: one more will match Lauda, Prost, Schumacher and Button. Vettel has scored 143 points already, which is just one less than Massa scored in the entirety of last season!
Jenson Button now has more career points than Ayrton Senna: 617 to 614. To be fair, nearly half of Button’s have come under the new points system. Hamilton has beaten Raikkonen’s career points: 581 to 579, and just one more points finish is needed for Jenson Button to make it to 100 points finishes: the same as Nelson Piquet.

Alonso, Button, Hamilton, Kobayashi, Vettel and Webber have finished in the points in every race. Vettel and Webber, however, are the only ones who have been top five every race.
Vettel, Webber, Hamilton and Button all managed to complete every race lap. Kobayashi and Alonso are the only drivers to have only missed a single lap. The driver who has completed the least F1 laps is Timo Glock, with only 67.2 under his belt after several retirements and a DNS.
With some great performances over the last few races, Kobayashi has gained over 6 places on average per race in the season, as has Nick Heidfeld. Pastor Maldonado has lost over five on average. Today’s loss wasn’t his fault, however.

Rigon’s replacement is called Kevin

GP2
Italian Auto GP driver Kevin Ceccon [no, I don’t think Kevin is an Italian name] will be replacing Davide Rigon at Coloni for the GP2 races at Barcelona and Monaco. Rigon, you may recall, broke his leg in an accident with Fabio Leimer in the GP2 sprint race in Turkey.
Kevin is one of many Italians in the current Auto GP season along with another GP2 driver Luca Filippi and GP3’s Rio Haryanto. He drives for Ombra Racing, and managed the fastest lap in the first race of the season last Saturday, finishing fifth. He finished third in the following race, and currently stands second in the championship. 17-year-old Kevin will be the youngest GP2 driver on the track. In Auto GP there is a trophy for the best under 21-year-old driver, which results in a GP2 test, but now Kevin will be skipping that stage.
He’s had some good results last season in the European F3 Open Championship, finishing 4th with one win and 6 podiums overall. While it is unlikely that Kevin will race for Coloni in every race this season, it is a good opportunity for the team to test out some interesting talent. The comments from Team Principal Paolo Coloni suggest that the driver is being considered for a full season in 2012.

F1
The new paddock complex at Silverstone was unveiled today, with great enthusiasm from the entire British racing community. Attendees included Jake Humphrey, Martin Brundle, Stirling Moss, Ross Brawn, Damon Hill, Valentino Rossi, Nigel Mansell… The facility is still unfinished, but is expected to be ready by the British Grand Prix in July.
Meanwhile, Adrian Sutil is determined to clear his name in the criminal complaint set to be filed against him by Eric Lux. He is currently focused on the Spanish and Monaco Grands Prix coming up in the next two weeks.

Two more days of no racing action, and then Friday kicks off another weekend of GP3, GP2 and F1!