Adrian Quaife-Hobbs takes Auto GP pole at Monza

Auto GP
The Auto GP season kicked off at Monza today with sixteen drivers battling for pole position. In the end, it went to former GP3 race winner Adrian Quaife-Hobbs, driving for Super Nova. Adrian, like Super Nova, is British. Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin will line up next to the Brit, having gone just 0.041s slower; Sirotkin is the current Formula Arbath Europe champion, and Formula Arbath Italy runner-up.
Third was Sergio Campana, an Italian, driving for Team MLR71. Campana is the current Italian F3 champion, despite only winning two races in the year. Pal Varhaug was fourth, while former Superleague Formula driver Chris van der Drift will start fifth.

FR 3.5
Since Arden announced their partnership with Caterham, today’s driver announcement has been on the cards. Alexander Rossi, who has been supported by AirAsia – which of course means Tony Fernandes and Caterham – since their driver academy began last year, will partner Red Bull-supported Lewis Williamson. There are strong ties between Arden and Caterham, partly thanks to Red Bull supplying the F1 team with gearboxes. Christian Horner and his family founded Arden initially so that Christian could race before he realised he was better at management. Heikki Kovalainen drove for Arden in his GP2 days. It is also interesting that former Caterham AirAsia driver Luiz Razia has moved to the Arden GP2 team this year.
So Alex Rossi will be at Arden-Caterham, and as well as that he will be a test driver for the F1 team. Rossi has a very good chance of winning the FR 3.5 championship this year, with more experience than some of the other brilliant drivers in the series. There is going to be some fantastic racing there!

F2
The series has announced its fifth driver for 2012 today, in the form of Alex Fontana. Fontana won Swiss F3 in his debut season last year, and also participated in two GP3 races scoring 1 point (he was sixth in the Belgium sprint). Fontana, currently the youngest to sign for F2 this year, will be in car number 10.

KERS, confusion and GP2

F1
Team Lotus and Red Bull, Virgin and McLaren, HRT and Williams. Each of the three ‘baby teams’ has a collaboration with one of the more experienced teams on track. HRT have renewed their deal with Williams for 2012, which includes the use of Williams KERS. Now that the British outfit have had a year to work on their KERS, it should be much more reliable. Hopefully it will help the Spanish outfit to boost their performance next year. Virgin/Marussia might have more trouble than the other two teams, as unlike Team Lotus/Caterham and HRT it does not share the same engine supplier as its partner. They will have to get KERS from somewhere if they are to be competitive, otherwise they will once again finish 12th overall.
Speaking of ‘Finnish’, Williams are rumoured to be announcing at Abu Dhabi that they have signed Kimi Raikkonen for 2012. The Finn quit F1 after 2009 in order to pursue rallying. He has also had a go at NASCAR. At the start of this year, it seemed unlikely he would ever return. Now, however, the Iceman could be back. A great racer, he will be an additional boost for the struggling team. It could provide a good challenge for him in a less competitive car.
After a meeting of the Formula One Committee today, it has been confirmed that from 2012 Team Lotus will be known as ‘Caterham’, Renault will be known as ‘Lotus’, and Virgin will become ‘Marussia’. It remains to be seen what team names they will adopt.

GP2
Meanwhile, Stefano Coletti returns to racing in Abu Dhabi alongside Kevin Ceccon at Scuderia Coloni for the GP2 final. Afterwards, he will be taking part in the F1 young driver test for Toro Rosso. Stefano injured his back in the Spa-Francorchamps GP2 feature race. He won two races this season – the Turkey and Hungary sprints – despite being a rookie. He has a lot of potential, and should do well.
Another driver taking part is, unsurprisingly, Alexander Rossi. The young American will be driving for Team AirAsia, as well as taking part in the young drivers’ test for Team Lotus.

Another American Grand Prix

Monte Carlo. Singapore. New York. In 2013, all three will feature on the Formula One calendar. While some may feel it is unfair that the US will have two races, it is a large country. Certainly it’s a lot larger than Spain, which has hosted two Grands Prix since 2008.
Officials in New Jersey announced the proposed race today that will take place across the river from the famous Manhattan skyline. Though not in New York Ci9ty itself, this video of the route taken by a local shows that the race will certainly afford some great views:

Adam Hay-Nicholls of GP Week and the Metro also posted some photos on Twitter: view from the pits; pit buildings under construction; the local ferry that takes 8 minutes to get to New York. (All pics, of course, by Adam)

I think this is a great opportunity for America. It may have a smaller F1 fanbase in terms of percentage, but I have met via Twitter plenty of enthusiastic racing fans from the US who pay attention to ‘European’ racing. And with Alex Rossi in the wings at Team Lotus, as well as Conor Daly and Jake Rosenzweig hoping for F1 in the future, they could have drivers to support as well.