Debut pole for Razia and AirAsia

Celebrations today for Caterham Team AirAsia as they took pole by 0.140s ahead of Luca Filippi – admittedly, they were helped by a spin from Adam Carroll in the middle sector which caused yellow flags to be waved, and Filippi had to abandon his hot lap. However, Luiz Razia had been fast all session and you take the chances where you can. He completely deserves to have pole.
This is Luiz’s first ever GP2 pole position, though he has previously been a race winner in 2009 with Scuderia Coloni in Italy. It is also the team’s first pole, coming hot on the heels of their win at Monaco when polesitter Sam Bird stalled off the line. Seize the day. AirAsia’s form has been up and down this season, with the team sometimes finishing in the points and sometimes barely finishing at all. But Monaco shares similar characteristics with Hungary so the team should do well on both tracks.
On the second row behind Razia and Filippi are Marcus Ericsson and Charles Pic, with the two French drivers Romain Grosjean and Jules Bianchi on row three. However, Bianchi is in trouble for an incident with Julian Leal, and may end up losing some grid positions. Davide Valsecchi has been penalised 5 grid places from the German GP, and starts 19th.

Meanwhile, in Formula One the fastest lap each session was taken by Lewis Hamilton as the Red Bulls continue to fall back into the main field. They’ve lost their edge over everyone else. For once, Jarno Trulli was enjoying his power steering, and went faster than his teammate in the second session. Webber clipped the astroturf at turn 9 during the first session, bashing off his front wing for a marshall’s souvienir, immitating GP3’s Luciano Bacheta, who had rolled severely at the same place in their first practice session. Webber was faster than Vettel in the second session, but still only finished fourth. Vettel was fifth. Button and Alonso were both faster than the Red Bulls.

In GP3 practice, aside from Bacheta’s roll it was fairly standard. The amazing guys at Mucke Motorsport managed to get a new car built up for the young Brit for practice two. He didn’t quite have the pace, but seems confident for qualifying tomorrow morning. Fastest in P2 was last week’s race winner Valtteri Bottas, with James Calado, Tom Dillmann, Mitch Evans, Antonio Felix da Costa, Rio Haryanto, Nico Muller and many other drivers close behind. Surprisingly, Ivan Lukashevich got himself 13th fastest, buoyed by the support from the Russian fans who had travelled to the circuit. But there’s all to play for tomorrow morning in qualifying.

AirAsia storms it

That was an amazing GP2 race, beginning in extraordinary fashion with Sam Bird stalling off the line. Davide Valsecchi took the lead with Alvaro Parente behind him. There were incredibly no crashes or safety cars for the first laps. Some of the drivers began pitting around lap 8, while Valsecchi – who had been challenged by Parente at the start – waited until the second-place driver pitted. By then Parente had fallen back some distance. After the first round of pit stops, drivers began dropping like flies.
Romain Grosjean and Luca Filippi both waited to pit, and the Frenchman managed to get up to P2. After his pit stop he had enough of a lead to be able to finish P4 with Filippi in front on the podium. Valsecchi managed to stay in the lead despite a safety car caused by a collision between the two iSport drivers, who ended up retiring, and brought home AirAsia’s first victory! He now stands P3 in the championship.
Sam Bird leads the championship on 23 points, with Giedo van der Garde – who retired from the race – still on 21. Carlin got their first points with Turvey and Chilton finishing P7 and P8, which gives them the front row in the sprint tomorrow. DAMS’ Jules Bianchi retired and also failed to score points. The driver had been expected to challenge for the championship, but he is only P11 currectly.
Local boy Stefano Coletti finished fifth, and Josef Kral brought Arden in a few more points with a sixth-place finish. It was a race of very high attrition, with only fourteen drivers finishing. Fifteenth-placed Fairuz Fauzy was classified after crashing on the first lap. Jolyon Palmer, Arden’s other driver, retired for a while, and ended up circulating too far back to get into the points so was not classified.
In the lap before last, Davide Valsecchi managed to also obtain the fastest lap, taking it from Luca Filippi. It was an excellent drive around the tricky course.

The sprint race is tomorrow, with P1-P8 reversed. There should be no pit stops, so it will be harder for retired drivers to get up in the points. But if the race is anything like today’s, it will be a Monaco crash-fest classic.

GP2 Asia 2011 summary

Romain Grosjean has won GP2 Asia for 2011. Although with only four races in the series, it wasn’t exactly difficult. The Renault test driver (and former driver for Renault in 2009) had a 20s penalty putting him out of the points in the final race, though he had the fastest lap, but his nearest opponent Jules Bianchi (Ferrari test driver) failed to finish in the points at all after having to retire from the sprint. Grosjean had 24 points, and Bianchi had 18. Third-placed driver Giedo van der Garde brought in 16 points for the Barwa Addax Team.
This meant that DAMS finished top of the teams, with Lotus ART second. The full results of the GP2 Asia season can be found in the link above or on the 2011 GP2 Asia Series season page on Wikipedia.

Spanish driver Dani Clos brought home Racing Engineering’s only points in the feature and sprint races, finishing seventh in the feature and winning the sprint. The team finished ninth overall: behind Rapax, AirAsia and Colini but ahead of Arden. Unfortunately, a disqualification for Davide Valsecchi left AirAsia struggling (he’d originally finished sixth in the feature), and they didn’t earn any points, but got nine at Abu Dhabi.

Friday F1 summary

Here’s a quick summary of all the day’s exciting Formula One news:

First, Hispania‘s F111 was launched today, but since some of their parts are stuck in Spanish customs (aren’t they a Spanish team? Surely customs shouldn’t be a problem) they didn’t get any running in.
Secondly, David Valsecchi and Luiz Razia the Team AirAsia drivers from GP2 have been confirmed as Lotus‘s third drivers along with Ricardo Teixeira. It’s disappointing for Karun Chandhok, but good for the young drivers who are in with a chance at a drive next year with Trulli considering NASCAR.

Coming later is a summary of today’s test session, but it’s been a good day altogether with minimal red flags and a lot of running for an unusually reliable Lotus.

Bahrain GP in Danger

It’s 24 days to go until the Bahrain GP weekend, but things are really hotting up over there politically, and it remains to be seen whether or not the event will go ahead. Perhaps it would be better for Formula One to back out for now, as the protestors will see the Grand Prix as a prime opportunity to get their message out there. The image that goes through my head is of someone running into the path of an oncoming car, but there are also worries about what might happen on the start grid.
As things stand, the GP2 Asia race this weekend in the country is going ahead. I don’t know about the other teams, but Team AirAsia were supposed to get their freight at lunchtime today, but it hasn’t arrived yet. I hope this wasn’t caused by the problems in Bahrain, but it’s the first thing to come to mind. Hopefully it will arrive soon, and then they will be able to move into their garages at the track and get the cars ready for practice, qualifying and the feature race on Friday, and the sprint on Saturday.
GP2 isn’t really a big enough event for protestors to really go out to the track, but F1 is a much greater level. It has a massive TV audience, and the implications of an incident at an F1 race are massive.

In other news, Hispania have been filming in a wet Monza for Pirelli. Looks like they’re gonna be the team with the best knowledge of the wet tyres before the season starts!