There are a couple of changes to the GP2 lineup this weekend. Alvaro Parente returns for Carlin now that his McLaren commitments are over, so no Mikhail Aleshin. After his injury at Spa, Stefano Coletti’s place is taken by fellow Monagesque driver Stephane Richelmi. Richelmi currently drives in Formula Renault 3.5, and has taken six points so far in his debut season. Those six all came at Monza, which is encouraging.
Renault has signed a number of sponsorship deals recently, including with a Brazilian oil company and Gillette. Cue jokes about how they couldn’t sign with Gillette before because of Nick Heidfeld’s beard. After the amicable parting of Heidfeld and Renault, Bruno Senna will be driving for the remainder of the season.
At Toro Rosso, there’s also a sponsor coming on board in the form of Spanish company Cepsa. This might be good news for Jaime Alguersuari who of course is looking for a race seat next season. If Jaime doesn’t get the seat, he does have an alternative income as he moonlights as DJ Squire. The Spaniard is launching his debut album next week.
Virgin have got a sponsorship deal with Belgian company Soleco, who are renewable power company mainly dealing in solar panels and other forms of environmentally friendly power generation.
Finally, it is Vitaly Petrov’s birthday today. The Russian is 27 years old.
Alvaro Parente – 16
When Christian Vietoris picked up a mild head injury, he relinquished his GP2 position to Alvaro Parente while focusing on DTM. Alvaro picked up 8 points for Racing Engineering, coming second behind Davide Valsecchi in the feature race at Monaco. When Christian returned, Alvaro moved to Carlin where he replaced Oliver Turvey. Unfortunately, he’s so far failed to pick up any points for Carlin, finishing ninth in both races at Silverstone despite qualifying second. He’s also had three retirements (one classified) for the team.
His bad luck continued as the Portuguese driver headed to Spa for the 24-hour race, giving his seat back to Mikhail Aleshin. But the McLaren MP4-12C he should have driven didn’t get more than a few laps into the race, while Aleshin managed a double finish. So all of Alvaro’s eight points go to Racing Engineering, and Carlin are still waiting for him to get them some.
Alvaro Parente won’t be driving in GP2 this weekend, as he’s in Spa driving a McLaren MP4-12C in the 24 hour race. Good luck Alvaro! The Portuguese driver will be replaced at Carlin by their original driver – Mikhail Aleshin. Aleshin has struggled to find a regular seat this year as he has had budget difficulties. He began with a complete GP2 Asia series for Carlin, then took part in the Turkey and Spain rounds of GP2. An injury meant he failed to start in Turkey, and he had miserable results in Spain – 16th and 18th. After a gap of just other a month, the Formula Renault 3.5 champion went to the Hungaroring with the series, picking up four points.
His next stop was Zolder, where he drove for Russia in Superleague Formula. In the first race he finished 11th, but took advantage of the reversed grid to finish 3rd as he got used to the V8 engines. Because England failed to finish the second race, he got into the Super Final, but stayed at the back and finished 8th.
Germany race winner Luca Filippi leads the Auto GP championship with 98 points over Kevin Ceccon’s 80 – a second place in race one or a win in race two – but has decided not to contest this weekend’s round. Instead, he will continue with Coloni in GP2. This is also an advantage to his Auto GP teammate Jon Lancaster, who is currently sixth in the championship and 47 points behind Luca.
With Mikhail Aleshin still unable to secure a budget for the 2011 GP2 season, Portuguese driver Alvaro Parente – who substituted for Christian Vietoris at Racing Engineering at the last two rounds – is moving to Carlin. Parente took second in the first race at Monaco, being runner-up to Davide Valsecchi, and those eight points place him eleventh in the championship. Carlin, meanwhile, have a total of three points from their number one driver Max Chilton. They won’t get any of Parente’s points – those go to Racing Engineering – but the proven driver should get them some more in their first season of GP2 racing.
Alvaro Parente drove for Carlin in 2004 and 2005 in British Formula Three – the team dominate that series, and he won the driver’s title in his second year. In 2006, he drove for them in Formula Renault 3.5, taking six podiums and three wins. So he’s got ability, and he’s done well with Carlin before so it should be a good match.
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.