Ceccon gets Oceans of chance in GP3

F2
There’s just one week until the 2012 season kicks off, and it looks like a number of talented drivers will be on track. Swiss driver Mauro Calamia is the latest to be officially announced, but there are also a number of drivers listed on the website who are yet to be confirmed, including 2010 champion Dean Stoneman. With the new faster, better cars, this year looks set to produce some good racing. We can only hope that there aren’t too many regulars at the back of the field.
Mauro Calamia joins F2 from Formula Renault Alps, where he finished 10th of 25 drivers. He picked up a reasonable 125 points. He tended to be in the bottom half of the timesheets during testing, but hopefully the 20-year-old rookie will catch up as the season progresses.

GP3
As well as Tamas Pal Kiss, two other drivers have been announced this week. Status Grand Prix have a second driver in Kotaro Sakurai, a Japanese driver who was British F3 national class champion last season. The youngster has tested GP3 before, but this will be his first season in the series.
Meanwhile, Auto GP champion Kevin Ceccon will be joining Carmen Jorda and Robert Cregan at Ocean Racing Technology. Ceccon participated in GP2 for Scuderia Coloni last season after Davide Rigon was injured, but it was a premature step up for the Italian. Ceccon should do well in GP3, and I expect him to be a frontrunner from the first race.

F1
If you thought the Lotus saga was over, think again! Group Lotus, who were title sponsors of Renault last season, have pulled out of that role by mutual consent with the team. Group Lotus have been struggling, and their owners Proton have been cutting back. Lotus F1 Team will still keep the name, however, until 2017. So there will be a Lotus with no connection to either the original team or the car manufacturer for the next few years in F1. In fact, Caterham probably have more connection to the original Team Lotus than Lotus F1 now!
All you need to know is, Lotus are still called Lotus. They have no connection to Lotus but they still have the name. Ow my head!

Meanwhile, news out of South America suggests that Argentina are likely to be hosting an F1 race from 2013 and replacing South Korea, despite the Asian venue arranging a lower hosting fee. This will be confirmed (or not) within the next few weeks. If it does go ahead, this means there will be two new races for 2013: Argentina and New Jersey. The question is, which races will be set aside?

Things are hotting up once again in Bahrain, with the F1 race looking set to be the focal point of protests. While F1 should be careful not to take sides, I think that the situation merits a cancellation. I fear that the protesters would target the media and team personnel, to make sure that their voices are heard. It would be awful if anyone were injured or killed just because Bernie Ecclestone insisted the race go ahead. The protesters might see it as a victory, but it would be a hollow one. The government might be in the wrong, but I doubt they would target anyone connected to F1. I fear the protesters would have no such qualms.

British F3
The new season starts this weekend at Oulton Park. At the time of writing, only free practice has happened so far. Alex Lynn was fastest by almost 0.5s from Felix Serralles, which is a good start from the Formula Renault UK graduates who are both at Fortec. Jack Harvey was Carlin’s fastest, only 0.04s slower than Serralles, and his teammate Harry Tincknell was fourth-fastest.

Other
Formula Renault 3.5 champion Robert Wickens is setting his single seater career aside to join Mercedes’s DTM team this year. There are a lot of drivers taking part in the series, from a wide variety of nations. Most of them are talented, and if you can watch it then it should be good fun! The season starts on April 29th at Hockenheim.

GP3 has live timing!

It’s been ‘one of those days’ for Jules Bianchi. Having announced his 2012 drive with Tech 1 in Formula Renault 3.5 (alongside Estonian Kevin Korjus), he set off in the Force India for morning testing in Jerez. This lasted all of three laps, where he caused the first crash of testing. Though the car was not severely damaged, the team lacked the necessary parts for repair. This meant that neither Jules not Nico Hulkenberg (taking over in the afternoon) were able to do any more testing. Nico should get a full day tomorrow.
Generally teams have expressed pleasure with their new cars, though Ferrari have been making unhappy noises. It is probable that these teams are hiding the true facts – do Ferrari want others to underestimate them? Do other teams want to be overestimated? We shall see…
HRT have had a setback in their 2012 car as it failed an FIA crash test. They will need to make changes to the car quickly, as there are only around two weeks before the next test in Barcelona.

Alex Lynn will now be contesting the Euro F3 Open winter series with Team West-Tec, a British outfit. The FRUK champion will be in Portugal at the Algarve circuit the weekend after this one, and at Paul Ricard on the weekend of March 3rd. The Brit will go on to compete with Fortec in the British F3 series this year.

The new GP3 website has launched, featuring for the first time what we all wanted to see – live timing! Now it is possible to follow along with the races without TV coverage.

Don’t forget that Rally Sweden has started this weekend, with Mini’s Dani Sordo quickest on the opening superspecial stage. The Spaniard, who chose to run 11th on the road after the drivers picked their starting positions for the first time, is likely to lose ground over the next few days. However it is a good start for the team.

Title deciders – Formula Renault UK and F1

It was a weekend of championship deciders as the British Touring Car Championship and support races had their final weekend of 2011. This included Formula Renault UK, and with 10 wins under his belt Alex Lynn was always likely to confirm his victory today.
He did so in style, winning the first of the races and taking fastest lap. But the second race did not go so well. Though starting from pole, he had a battle with teammate Oliver Rowland which left Lynn spinning. He came back into the race further down the field. He began his comeback, but a recurring problem for all the support races came back to bite him. In almost every race, the drivers had been running wide and putting all four wheels over the white line. Race control took a hard line: three offences were okay, fourth got a warning, and the fifth got a drive-through penalty. Lynn, Alice Powell, Oscar King and Felix Serrales all had to suffer this indignity. A few others, including Jordan King, came very close.
Winner of the race was Rowland, who secured second in the championship as Tio Ellinas chose to fight for third in the race (and hence second in the championship) rather than retire. Retiring would have seen him come second under the dropped points system.
Lynn will probably be in British F3 next year, and I expect several other drivers will be looking around at their options. Alice Powell even mentioned GP3 when she was doing commentary for the Formula Renault BARC race. Some of the graduates will hopefully return to Formula Renault, and compete for the championship next season.

Another championship decided today was the Formula One constructors’ championship. Vettel was behind Hamilton at the start, but got ahead and stayed there for the rest of the race. But Hamilton had a great show of form, and his faster McLaren defended well against the Red Bull of Webber to secure second. Though Webber tried and tried, the car’s straight-line speed with DRS and KERS was not enough. At one point he overtook Hamilton just before the DRS detection point, but the McLaren had the advantage and took the place back.
In fourth was Jenson Button, who had a quiet race as Massa had held Alonso up for too long in the first half. Though Alonso had caught up to Button in the final two laps, it was too late to have a go as he was running low on fuel. Massa was sixth.
Jaime Alguersuari had a good race. Able to pit later than the other frontrunners, he was behind Nico Rosberg after his second stop. The Mercedes held on for a long time, but on the final lap his tyres fell away and the Toro Rosso driver overtook on the final corner to come home for a great seventh-place finish. This matches his best all-time finish. Rosberg took eighth. Behind, Buemi was battling with the Force Indias and won to take ninth, while Di Resta was tenth. Just outside the points, Sutil came 11th, Barrichello 12th. Senna was the first of the lapped drivers as his tyres had gone two laps before the end. A rapidly-closing Kovalainen was not quite able to beat the Renault, but took a decent fourteenth. In a strange turn of fortune, both Saubers did three stops and finished behind Kovalainen but ahead of seventeenth-placed Trulli. Ricciardo split Glock and D’Ambrosio, while Liuzzi had another torrid race.
The retirees were Maldonado (with technical problems), Petrov and Schumacher. Petrov hit Schumacher just after he had overtaken Alonso, destroying the Merc’s rear wing and causing a safety car. The Russian has a five-place grid penalty for India. HRT had a 5000 Euro fine for an unsafe release of Daniel Ricciardo.