With the Autosport show beginning in Birmingham today, the usual decline in racing news over the winter has been given a boost. I’m not in Birmingham for the show, as I live too far away most of the time. However, I have gleaned some news from the Autosport website.
Firstly F2, which is changing its tyre supplier as it moves to a faster car. For the past three seasons the supplier has been UK-based Avon. However, the new car will use Japanese Yokohama tyres, purpose-built for the series and the car. It will also feature new carbon composite brakes. The changes made will allow newcomers to be able to work out their set-up more easily, and also should provide better racing.
British GP3 driver Alex Sims, who drove for Status in 2011, is putting his single-seater career on hold to become a McLaren works driver in the GT3 championship. Sims won the sprint race in Turkey last year, but had a run of bad luck in the second half of the season, scoring no points after the German Grand Prix weekend.
2011 Team Lotus reserve driver Karun Chandhok is also taking his focus off single-seaters as he joins the World Endurance Championship with the JRM Racing team. The series includes Le Mans 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours, and Chandhok will be the first Indian driver to take part in both those races.
Finally, the BBC have announced their complete lineup for TV and radio in 2012. Joining the TV team will be Gary Anderson, who will be pitlane reporter and technical analysit. Anderson was formerly the Jordan technical director. Meanwhile Jennie Gow, who was one of the BBC’s Moto GP reporters, joins the radio team in the pitlane.
Alex Sims – 2
One of GP3’s oldest drivers, Alex had a great start to the season by winning the sprint race at Istanbul from reversed pole. He also took the fastest lap. Immediately he went downhill at Barcelona, retiring from both races. Valencia was a return to form with sixth and second, before at Silverstone he came second and third to claim the championship lead. That lasted throughout the Nurburgring round, when despite not picking up points in the feature race he came second in the sprint. At Hungary, he was disqualified from the first race, but pushed back in the sprint to come ninth. By missing out on the points, however, he gave up the championship lead to Valtteri Bottas. He should continue to do well in the remaining races and is a strong challenger for the lead.
Best qualifying: 5
Worst qualifing: 16
Best finish: 1 (Istanbul sprint)
Worst finish: 12 (Nurburgring feature)
Watching the GP2 and GP3 races was hard this afternoon. Not because of the races, which were very exciting, but because of the Portuguese commentators who did their best to make them sound as boring as possible.
Lots of drivers did well today. Starting in the rain behind the safety car, the drivers changed to slicks as soon as the pit lane opened. But Bianchi delayed and cut his advantage to Christian Vietoris. The ART and Racing Engineering drivers battled in the second-half of the race, but Bianchi took the win with Vietoris taking his first GP2 points in second. Swede Marcus Ericsson finished 3rd with iSport. Meanwhile, Romain Grosjean finished 4th from 13th, Stefano Coletti finished 7th from 21st, and Van der Garde finished 8th from 19th. Dani Clos took 6th to give Racing Engineering a double points finish, and Bird did the same for iSport by finishing 5th.
The grid was dry, but as they pulled away for the formation lap it began to rain. Many drivers were on slicks and pulled in to change tyres. But a few smart drivers from the back of the grid had the right tyres on. Swiss driver Nico Muller found himself in the lead with pointless Nick Yelloly and Luciano Bacheta behind him. Behind them, the front half of the grid were trying desperately to make up for their mistake.
It was Alex Sims and Adrian Quaiffe-Hobbs who made up the most. Sims overtook Yelloly right at the end, and Quaiffe-Hobbs finished 4th. Bacheta scored his first points, meaning every single Mucke Motorsport driver has scored points in the season and promoting the team to 2nd in the championship. Behind Bacheta came James Calado for ART, Lewis Williamson for Arden, and Dean Smith for Addax. Not only does this mean that all seven British drivers finished in the points – and will take pole to P7 in tomorrow’s sprint race – but every team except for Carlin and Tech 1 scored points. A fantastic and unusual result. Thomas Hylkema managed his first race finish.
Mitch Evans still leads the GP3 championship on 26 points, but he is only one point ahead of Alex Sims and four ahead of the struggling Nigel Melker, who had another DNF today. James Calado is fifth with 19 points, and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs is 6th with 19 points. Watch out Mitch, the British are coming!
In GP2, Romain Grosjean now has 40 points. Giedo van der Garde is second on 34 points, while Sam Bird is now third with 31. 10 points behind his Davide Valsecchi, who had a bad race. Jules Bianchi has closed the gap to his compatriot – he has 20 points and is 7th behind Charles Pic with 24.
In both GP2 and GP3, drivers were given 10-place grid penalties at the sprint race for causing collisions. This worst affected GP2 driver Pal Varhaug, demoted from 13th to 23rd. Jules Bianchi, Luca Filippi and Fabio Leimer were also given penalties in GP2, but this doesn’t really affect their starting position as the were already retired at the back of the grid. For GP3, Pedro Nunes and Maxim Zimin also start from the back of the grid. In a race of high attrition, they had both retired. This affects Nunes more as he goes from 23rd to 30th. Zimin only loses a single position to start 29th.
So the GP3 race began with Lotus ART’s James Calado on reversed pole with teammate Valtteri Bottas alongside him. Fellow Brits Alexander Sims and Dean Smith took up the second row, with Gabby Chaves alongside Mitch Evans on the third row. There was another all-British fourth row with Lewis Williamson and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs. This gave a brilliant chance of a British driver finishing on the podium or even winning the race.
And so it was. Calado dominated, while Sims managed to get into second. Williams reserve Bottas finished third to get his first GP3 podium. Some skillful overtaking saw Mitch Evans cement his championship lead by finishing fourth, and Gabby Chaves took fifth. A wild scrap at the end saw Daly barely lose out on sixth against Williamson. Dean Smith was running well but recieved a drive-through penalty to finish 11th. There were plenty of crashes, but British-Indian-Italian driver Luciano Bacheta avoided them and did some good overtaking for his best GP3 finish so far in 10th.
The GP2 reversed grid saw Josef Kral on pole with ART man Esteban Gutierrez second. Luiz Razia and title contender Sam Bird shared row two, then Dani Clos and Davide Valsecchi on row three. Romain Grosjean and Giedo van der Garde took the final row. Grosjean didn’t make it past the first lap, however, getting involved with Gonzalez and unlucky Charles Pic. Jules Bianchi had a great push from the back and finished seventh overtaking Mirocha right at the end of the final lap.
Gutierrez managed to get into the lead right away with Razia second. The Mexican pulled several seconds in the lead to take his first GP2 win and Lotus ART’s second of the day after their GP3 victory! AirAsia got their second podium. Third was Giedo van der Garde, taking his second podium of the weekend but failing to make an impression on Razia. Davide Valsecchi managed some great moves to finish fourth ahead of Dani Clos and Michael Herck.
This moves Caterham Team AirAsia up to 2nd in the championship, though Addax still lead by a decent margin. Romain Grosjean only leads by a single point from Giedo van der Garde, with Davide Valsecchi three points behind the Dutchman.
Lots of practice sessions today. It’s been hard to keep track! Jordan King was one of the slowest in F2 morning practice, at which Ramon Pinero set the fastest time, but third fastest in the afternoon. He’s getting the hang of the F2 cars and Spa very quickly. It must be crazy going out there for the first time. Miki Monras was fastest in that session.
The F2 driver missing out on this weekend is Natalia Kowalska. For some reason that I am unable to discover, Jon Lancaster hasn’t set a single lap in the morning or the afternoon despite his tweets to say that he would be driving at Spa. I hope he is okay.
In Formula One, Nico Hulkenberg crashed Paul di Resta‘s car in morning practice, and it was not ready for the Scotsman until very close to the end of the second session. Karun Chandhok suffered gearbox problems, and didn’t set a time. Red Bull are gearbox suppliers to Team Lotus, but the team were unable to get the spare parts until after the session. Jarno Trulli‘s car was ready for the afternoon.
The Red Bulls failed to dominate. Mark Webber went fastest in the morning, but it was Fernando Alonso who dipped below the 1:37s mark in the afternoon with Hamilton second and Vettel third. Jaime Alguersuari’s car had problems and the Spaniard failed to set a time.
In GP2, several drivers set good times but in the end it was Jules Bianchi who went fastest for Lotus ART. Esteban Gutierrez, who won the race here in GP3 last year, did well and finished P8 ahead of Davide Valsecchi the Monaco feature race winner. They are currently in the middle of the first qualifying session.
Finally in GP3 Alex Sims went fastest followed by birthday boy Mitch Evans. They have a second practice sesson later.
A marvellous first GP2 victory for former GP3 driver Stefano Coletti. He’s proven that it’s not just money that’s got him into GP2, but he has talent too. It’s his second Sprint victory, having taken the first at Abu Dhabi in GP2 Asia, and before that he hasn’t had a win since F3 Euroseries’ first race of 2009. Funnily enough, Romain Grosjean won the first race there as well, but it is confusing the GP2 website. He could be a serious challenger for the title.
Davide Rigon was injured in a crash during the race, sustaining multiple fractures to his left foot and ankle. The Italian, who replaced IndyCar-bound James Jakes, might well be out of racing for a while. Esteban Gutierrez went right up from 25th to 11th – a brilliant race for the GP3 champion. Fairuz Fauzy, finishing 5th, took his first ever GP2 main series points.
Alex Sims took a first GP3 victory today, leading the race from pole and also taking the fastest lap. Rio Haryanto had a great race, rising 16 places to finish 10th. Michael Christensen finished 2nd. Dean Smith had a great push to finish P6 for a single point. Nigel Melker, however, retains his lead having finished 3rd.
Brilliant race. Vettel of course stormed it, but in the rest of the field there was so much overtaking it was hard to know where to look next! Rosberg started well then fell back then began another charge up the field. Alonso finally got Ferrari’s first podium, which will delight the team – he was able to meet the pace of Webber without too much trouble. Red Bull are far in advance of the rest of the field. I expect we will see a Schumacher from them this year.
Kobayashi stormed up the field to finish 10th from 24th, and Buemi finished 9th from 16th. Both Renault drivers got points for the first time, putting them equal on points with Heidfeld in the lead. Though Barrichello has overtaken Trulli in the championship, Lotus remain ahead of Williams overall.
I am now updating the tables with the current standings.
Three cars went out on the first lap of the first GP2 race of 2011, but for once none of them were Luiz Razia. Max Chilton, Fabio Liemer and Esteban Gutierrez all crashed out early on, and the safety car led the field for a while. But Romain Grosjean retained his first place.
There was overtaking all over the place. Michael Herck recieved a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Davide Valsecchi managed to overtake his teammate, having started way behind him, then was overtaken but was driving in P8. However, his car had a broken front wing, forcing him to pit. He finished P16, but definitely had a Webber-esque performance.
The winner was Romain Grosjean, being harried by Sam Bird right at the end, with Jules Bianchi third. Van der Garde came P4, Coletti P5, Razia P6, Pic P7 and Clos P8 after a great start. These positions will be reversed for the race tomorrow. All but Stefano Coletti have driven in the GP2 series before. Coletti is a GP3 graduate, and shining already!
Alex Sims has had his fastest lap deleted after going outside the bounds of the track. He will now start from P12.