BARC graduates join F2

With the first round coming up fast, more names have been confirmed on the roster. Others seem to have vanished. Iranian Kourosh Khani is one of those confirmed. Last year Khani drove in the Formula Renault BARC Championship, taking one win and three podiums on his way to fourth. He also finished third in the MRF Formula 1600 Delhi Championship supporting the F1 in |India. He picked up a podium in one of the two races.
One of Khani’s BARC opponents was Dino Zamparelli, a British-Italian driver who won the championship with 4 wins, 6 poles, 8 podiums and 1 fastest lap. Zamparelli was nominated for the McLaren Autosport BDRC Award. In previous years he has also won the Ginetta Jr Championship, where a lot of young British drivers start out before progressing to single seaters. In 2012, Zamparelli will also be in F2, at least for the opening round at Silverstone and hopefully longer.

Dry for most of the day, Silverstone turned wet in the final hour of testing. This gave plenty of time for the nine teams present at the test to get some work in, and for Mitch Evans to go fastest just ahead of his MW Arden teammate Matias Laine. On the face of it, Arden are most likely to provide the champion for GP3 this season. However, they will need more consistency than in 2011 when two of their three drivers could have taken the championship.
The names at the top of the timing screen today were much as expected: Tio Ellinas, Antonio Felix da Costa and Conor Daly. Will Buller and Alex Brundle were both doing well for Carlin, and Romania’s Robert Visoiu has been shining for Status.
Alice Powell was fastest of the three ladies, though she had caused a red flag in the morning. Most of her day has been spent getting used to the car, and she didn’t put on fresh tyres in the afternoon, so we can surely expect improved times from the British driver tomorrow.
Maxim Zimin will be in the car for Jenzer tomorrow.

Suzie Wolff has become the latest female development driver in F1, taking on the role for Williams. Wolff is married to Toto Wolff, a Director at the team, though he did not take part in the decision to give her the position. Wolff drives in the DTM, and you may know her better as Suzie Stoddart.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Kubica will not make the start of 2012

Sadly, Renault have confirmed today what we all suspected: Robert Kubica will not be returning to F1 for the start of the 2012 season. The Pole, who has kept out of the media spotlight since his accident, made an announcement via the team’s website to say that he would be unable to be drive-ready on time. Though he has 100% mobility in his hand and the rest of his body, getting back to race fitness and getting used to driving a race car again is hard work. It will take a long time to get there. Hopefully, Robert will be ready to return mid-season.
However, this does leave the future Lotus GP in a bit of a conundrum, with three drivers to fill two spaces. Romain Grosjean, the GP2 champion, is likely to take one of those seats. The remainder will be fought over by Petrov and Senna. Though Petrov has a contract for next year, Senna also brings good sponsorship and is in negotiations with the team. Having a Senna in a black and gold Lotus is obviously a very attractive option.

Meanwhile, F2 driver Alex Brundle will be taking part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans next season along with his father Martin. The endurance race does not fall on an F1 weekend this year, meaning that whether or not Brundle Sr is working for Sky or the BBC, he will still be able to race that weekend.

The GP3 teams have been testing in Valencia today. At midday of day one, Daniel Abt was fastest followed by Niederhauser, Guerin, Daly, Laine, Stockinger, Ellinas, Stevens, Zimin and Blomqvist.

Title deciding weekend – F2 and Auto GP

The morning’s qualifying session saw Mihai Marinescu take pole for the first time this season, with Alex Brundle next door on the front row. Behind, Ramon Pineiro and championship leader Mirko Bortolotti shared the second row. The only remaining championship contender, Christopher Zanella, was on the third row ahead of Tobias Hegewald.
When the lights went out, Brundle took the lead from Marinescu, while Pineiro headed Bortolotti and Hegewald got ahead of Zanella. Marinescu got his position back after the first lap, but it remained tight between the pair while the Pineiro-Bortolotti and Hegewald-Zanella battles continued behind them.
About a third of the way into the race, Bortolotti got the better of Pineiro and prepared for his next goal – Brundle, who was slowly falling behind Marinescu. And Zanella behind knew he had to overtake Hegewald, to prevent the Austro-Italian from taking the title today should Bortolotti get Brundle.
Bortolotti soon closed on Brundle, and it was a tight battle between the pair for the remainder of the race. The Brit held on to second for all but the final lap, as he refused to give in to the pressure. But on the final lap, Bortolotti had his way as he got past Brundle and took a close second. Brundle took the final podium spot, while a trailing Pineiro came fourth. Zanella, who had overtaken Hegewald, had tried to fight with Pineiro but ended up fifth. Hegewald came sixth, with Thiemo Storz seventh, Jack Clarke eighth, Mikkel Mac ninth and Luciano Bacheta picking up the point for tenth after struggling all weekend.
If Zanella is to take the title, he will need Bortolotti to DNF all the remaining races, whilst winning them all himself. Not quite as hard as Jenson Button’s task in F1, but about as unlikely!

Auto GP
The penultimate race of a closely-fought championship took place today. Polesitter Adrien Tambay (son of Patrick Tambay) took the win, just ahead of GP2 runner-up Luca Filippi who had fought hard. Tambay is now fourth in the championship, and needs the win at least (he could also do with fastest lap) – plus disaster for his opponents – if he’s to take the title.
More likely to win are the top three. Leading the championship is Kevin Ceccon. Already the under-21 champion, he’s already taken part in the GP2 test he won. Ceccon came fourth in today’s race and will start fifth tomorrow with the reversed grid. Luca Filippi is in second – nine points behind Ceccon – and will start seventh tomorrow. In third is Sergei Afanasiev of Russia, who finished sixth today and starts third tomorrow. He is 11 points behind Ceccon.
Third-placed in today’s race was Fabio Onidi, who also took part in this week’s GP2 test. Eighth was Adam Carroll, who stalled on the grid but came back to take reversed pole tomorrow and also set the fastest lap.

Summer day 20 – Alex Brundle

Alex Brundle – 8
In comparison with his first Formula Two season, Alex Brundle is doing brilliantly. But he should be doing even better. Bad luck has struck him at both home rounds, with punctures and crashes. He also ended up out of the Nurburgring first race after an incident. Yet apart from the punctures and crashes – none of which were his own fault – he has had good finishes. He took pole and second in the two races at Magny-Cours, and also started second at the first race at Spa. He’s also had good finishes in general. Alex could easily have been challenging the leaders without the bad luck. Unsurprisingly, he’s considering a different style of racing next year.

Points: 59
Best qualifying: 1
Worst qualifing: 11
Best finish: 2 (Magny-Cours race 2)
Worst finish: 19 (Silverstone race 1)
Retirements: 3

F2 Birthdays: 7/8/2011

Alex Brundle, the son of British F1 Commentator and former F1 driver Martin Brundle, celebrates his 21st birthday today. A racing driver himself, he currently participates in Formula Two.

In 2006, Alex began his open-wheel career, moving into Formula Palmer Audi from T Cars – both series run by Jonathan Palmer. He took part in the Autumn Trophy and finished 21st.
The next year he took part in the main series and finished 11th, then 8th in the Autumn Trophy. On the rise, he took part in the main series in 2008 and got three podiums and his first pole position. He came sixth.
With the revival of F2, Alex joined in the 2009 season but struggled. He gained only five points (under the old 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 system) to finish 19th. So the next year he switched to British F3. He got 11 points and finished 17th.
This year, Alex returned to F2 fresher and hoping for better. He has been a good qualifier, but has been hit with problems in his home races with punctures and mechanical problems. His best weekend was at Magny-Cours when he secured his first F2 pole position and finished on the podium in both races. He has 59 points and is eighth in the championship.
Still to secure his first win in open-wheel racing, Alex is likely to race with his dad in endurance racing next year. But it all depends on how the rest of the season goes. Certainly he has plenty of other driving opportunities even if they take him away from where Martin went. But you don’t always have to follow in your parent’s footsteps. Good luck to him.

Formula 2 race 4

For some reason F2 qualifying 2 always seems to take place right before I need to leave on a Sunday. Anyway, in qualifying today the front row again turned out to be Brundle and Zanella. In this case, however, it was Zanella who took pole. There were 0.057s between the two drivers. Alex Brundle is looking like a serious competitor for the championship. Hopefully, Silverstone will be his only problematic race this season. Bratt and Lancaster were the other two Brits in the top 10, taking P7 and P8, with Clarke in P11.
The front row remained that way throughout the race. Lancaster, Bratt and Clarke all finished in the top 10, with Ramon Pineiro falling backwards to finish 9th. Zanella now leads the championship, with Bortolotti maintaining second. Brundle has pushed his way from 24th to 5th in two days. The young British driver has definitely put Silverstone behind him.
Next F2 race is Spa, 24th-26th June, which is the same weekend as the European Grand Prix in Valencia.

In GP3 news, according to Autosport magazine “Andrea Caldarelli has quit GP3 and will race with Formula Nippon instead.” This is confirmed by Italia Racing and Formula Nippon, where it can be seen that he is listed amongst the drivers. Indeed he has been driving in the series this weekend. It seems a strange move to me, because he is currently second in the GP3 championship. So Tech 1 could be looking for a new driver.

F2 Magny-Cours Race 1

It was wet in Magny-Cours for the race this afternoon. Alex Brundle had taken pole, and shot off into the lead before being reeled back later by Christopher Zanella – who won – and Tobias Hegewald – who came second. But compared to his Silverstone experience, it was a great weekend for the young Brit who shoots from 24th to 8th in the F2 championship.
The conditions caused plenty of drivers to spin off, and James Cole slumped to finish 18th. Mihai Marinescu spun out very early on and was unable to continue, with the same happening to Plamen Kralev. Jon Lancaster, however, improved to finish 7th and take home 6 points. With no pit stops in the championship, it was down to the drivers to keep their wet tyres going on a track that wasn’t quite where it could be, and with slow lap times all the way through it was no surprise that the race was cut short: 40 minutes instead of 24 laps because each lap was just under the 2-minute mark.
So Miki Monras leads the championship on 52 points, having finished fourth in the race, with Mirko Bortolotti second on 51 after finishing sixth. Christopher Zanella’s win jumps him up to third, with 46 points only 6 away from the lead. This one is going to be close. The full standings championship standing as usual has been updated in the link above, but subject to change depending on penalties.

No weekend break for these guys!

GP3 leader Nigel Melker is having another good weekend. He’s participating in F3 Euroseries as a rookie alongside the F1 feeder series’ feeder series. Anyway, he doesn’t lead F3 Euroseries, which has had two rounds of three races each so far. But the Dutchman did win the first race. This week, he’s on pole position for the first race; then the second race has the top 8 finishers from the first race reversed. In the final race, he has qualified P2. He drives for the same team in F3 Euroseries as GP3, but he is the only driver to be competing in both series. Definitely Melker will be one to watch. There are seven rounds of three races left, so the results could go anywhere.
Winning the F3 Euroseries is usually a sign of a good driver. In 2005, Lewis Hamilton won with Adrian Sutil second; in 2006, Paul di Resta won with Sebastian Vettel second. In 2007, Romain Grosjean won with Sebastien Buemi second and Nico Hulkenberg third; the Hulk won in 2008, and Julies Bianchi came third; Bianchi won the next year, and current GP2 driver Christian Vietoris came second. Christian Klien came second in 2003, with Lucas di Grassi coming third in 2005. Valtteri Bottas (currenly 7th in GP3) came third for the last two seasons. IndyCar driver Ryan Briscoe won the 2003 series. However, GP3 seems to be causing attendance in this series to diminish, with only 12 regular drivers for the last two seasons compared to at least 20 in 2009.

Rio Haryanto and Luca Filippi have also been off in Auto GP, the new name for Euroseries 3000. They were qualifying today in Monza, with Luca in P4 for Super Nova and Rio P11 for DAMS. Rio drivers for Manor Racing in GP3, while Luca is still a Super Nova driver in GP2.

In F2, there were two practice sessions today. Miki Monras headed both of them. Three Brits featured in each top ten: Will Bratt (5th, 5th), Jon Lancaster (7th, 6th) and Alex Brundle (9th, 9th). As for Natalia “I’m a girl so you have to mention me” Kowalska, she was P15 in the first session. In the second session she was P11, but only 0.002s off P10 (Kelvin Snoeks), 0.015 off P9 (Brundle) and 0.016 off P8 (Bortolotti). That is incredibly close between P11 and P8. I’ll be back with a race report tomorrow.

F2 testing Magny-Cours

It was announced today by Formula Two and “Team Silver Lining” that Jon Lancaster will be driving in the Formula Two series this weekend, and I would guess for other races in the year. Drivers don’t enter F2 in teams, but Silver Lining sponsor one of the cars, and Lancaster will be replacing Tom Gladdis who drove in Silverstone.
Jon Lancaster – appropriately enough from Leeds – began his career in FR 2.0, taking part in the UK winter series in 2006 before moving into the French and European cups in 2007. He came second in the 2007 Eurocup FR 2.0. In 2008 he moved to F3 Euroseries, finishing 12th, and coming third in the Masters of F3 race. For 2009, he moved to FR 2.0, finishing 13th, and continued in the series last year to finish 13th again, having taken one podium, one pole position and two fastest laps. Series director Jonathan Palmer has high hopes for Jon, so let’s hope he lives up to them and does well in 2011.

Today the F2 cars have been testing at Magny-Cours. 22 cars registered times, though one of those was the test car so only 21 drivers actually set a time. Leading the first session was Miki Monras, who took podiums in both rounds at Silverstone and is second in the championship. Alex Brundle came second, and Jack Clarke (who took points in both Silverstone races) came third.
In the second session, Will Bratt – 2nd in the first race at Silverstone and disqualified from the second – set the fastest time, with Brundle again second and Monras third. In the third session, excluding the test car Tobias Hegewald was fastest, suspiciously over a second faster than second-placed championship leader Mirko Bortolotti. In third was Miki Monras. The final session was led impressively by Christopher Zanella, currently 4th in the championship, with Benjamin Lariche second and Mihai Marinescu third. The fastest overall times are listed below:






Miki Monras (ESP)



Christopher Zanella (SUI)




Benjamin Lariche (FRA)




Mihai Marinescu (ROM)




Alex Brundle (GBR)




Ramon Pineiro (ESP)




Johannes Theobald (GER)




Jack Clarke (GBR)




Will Bratt (GBR)




Tobias Hegewald (GER)




Jon Lancaster (GBR)




Mikkel Mac (DEN)




Mirko Bortolotti (ITA)




Armaan Ebrahim (IND)




Kelvin Snoeks (NED)




Max Snegirev (RUS)




Jose Luis Abadin (ESP)




Natalia Kowalska (POL)




Plamen Kralev (BUL)




James Cole (GBR)




Sung-Hak Mun (KOR)



It remains to be seen who will join these 21 for the race at the weekend. Let’s hope for another full field! It’s the first time F2 (in its current format) has been to the track, which last saw an F1 race in 2008. Its facilities have been substantially improved, but it’s doubtful that a French GP will be returning any time soon, with F1 taking to many different parts of the world. But all the same, a good race is on the cards, and will be broadcast for free on the F2 website as well as on pay-to-view Motors TV.