Penalties for Karthikeyan, Ericsson and Teixeira

F1
Narain Karthikeyan was given a 20-second penalty after the race in Malaysia for causing the collision with Sebastian Vettel. Considering how wet the edges of the track were at the time, and how the Indian needed to move away from the edges to make sure he didn’t spin, I’m not sure he was to blame. Vettel should have given the HRT more room – it was a wide stretch of track – and been less enthusiastic to move onto the racing line.

GP3
As expected, Antonio Felix da Costa has been confirmed at Carlin for 2012. The Portuguese driver who won the final GP3 race last year with Status, will be Alex Brundle’s teammate. da Costa was 2009 FR NEC champion and came third in the Eurocup. Clearly talented, he should have a great year at the British team.

F2
2010 champion Dean Stoneman returns to F2 for the pre-season test at Silverstone this week. The Brit, who was due to drive in FR 3.5 last season but was diagnosed with cancer, has made a good recovery. It is possible that he will be back in the series this year.

GP2
Marcus Ericsson was handed a 10-place grid penalty for the accident with Davide Valsecchi’s during the weekend’s sprint race. The Italian had gone off the road trying to overtake Luiz Razia, and when he came back onto the track, the Swede hit him and caused the car to flip over. GP2 cars are built to F1 safety standards, which was good news for the Indian. iSport believe the penalty to be unfair.
Meanwhile Ricardo Teixeira was fined for coming back onto the track in an unsafe manner. The Angolan driver had gone the wrong way down the access road after going off the track, then turned himself around once back on it.

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Third F2 season for Kralev

F2
39-year-old Bulgarian motorsport ambassador Plamen Kralev returns to the FIA Formula Two championship for a third season, continuing in his number 8 car. Kralev has scored two points in his F2 career – one in each season – and honestly I cannot think there is much hope of him doing better this season. He is the sixth driver to be announced for F2 so far, and more will come over the next weeks.

GP3
It was Antonio Felix da Costa who, despite not being signed for the coming GP3 season, set the fastest time in today’s test. He set a 1:37.934 around the Circuit de Catalunya, beating Arden’s Matias Laine and Mitch Evans – Laine was the only other driver to dip into the 1:37s.
In the afternoon, Daniel Abt went fastest after a troubled morning session. Maxim Zimin – driving for Jenzer as he did last season – showed considerable improvement by going second-fastest. Tio Ellinas was third-fastest with Tamas Pal Kiss fourth.

I have to say, some of the drivers who had a tough season last year in GP3 – Laine, Zimin, and Pal Kiss despite his win – look set to be much better this year. Let’s hope they get signed!

FR3.5
The premier Formula Renault series got its pre-season testing under way today. Fastest was Fortec’s Robin Frijns, setting a 1:47.006 around Paul Ricard in the afternoon. That’s impressive considering his rookie status – the Dutch driver was Eurocup champion last year. Lotus (formerly Gravity-Charouz) went second with a 1:47.125 from Richie Stanaway, another rookie, while Force India’s Jules Bianchi was third-fastest. Alex Rossi was fourth-fastest for Arden-Caterham, and the second Fortec driver of Carlos Huertas was fifth.

Russian team, Russian drivers, rushing around…

FR 3.5
The first big piece of news today was that KMP Racing have been renamed Team RFR – Russia France Racing. The team will field a pair of Russian drivers in the 2012 championship – 2010 champion Mikhail Aleshin, and Anton Neybilitskiy. Neybilitskiy has managed one podium in the series so far, and with only average results in his two completed seasons, he will be hoping for better this year.
Nick Yelloly, who had a great part-season alongside his GP3 races last year, has signed for British team Comtec, who came last in the championship with only two points. With Yelloly, they will hope for much better.

GP3
Testing continued in Estoril for the second and final day, and once again the drivers were showing a strong hand. Finnish driver Aaro Vainio was fastest, beating Nico Muller’s time from yesterday by one second. Tio Ellinas was second-fastest, the Cypriot showing just how good British racing series are at training young drivers (he graduates from Formula Renault UK). Ellinas was also fastest in the afternoon, though he could not match his morning time. Other drivers who shone were Mitch Evans, Conor Daly and Antonio Felix da Costa. Not all these drivers have been signed for 2012, and it its hoped that they soon will be, because they could make this an incredibly close and hard-fought championship to rival last season.

F1
Times mean nothing in F1 testing. Lotus were of course not present after the problems of day one. Toro Rosso were also struggling, causing two red flags though one was deliberately caused by running out of fuel. Petrov had his first day in the Caterham and was doing okay. Fastest overall was Nico Hulkenberg, the Force India continuing to put in good times.

Tomorrow, F1 testing continues.

Dominant win for Leimer

The GP2 final race proved today that it is definitely possible to overtake without DRS at Yas Marina. Polesitter Fabio Leimer had a good start while Dani Clos fell between Josef Kral and Luiz Razia. They went three-wide into the first corner – Luiz Razia came out on top while Clos caused Kral to spin and soon retired himself. Behind, Jolyon Palmer found himself in third place, with a few other drivers behind including GP3’s Tom Dillmann.
Max Chilton was another early retiree, as his brakes stopped working and he hit the barrier at turn one. Esteban Gutierrez had technical problems and finished a lap behind along with Stephane Richelmi.
During the race there were scraps up and down the field. Marcus Ericsson overtook his teammate and eventually finished fourth, but he was battling closely with Palmer through the final laps. Fifth was Kevin Ceccon, much improved since his first stint in GP2 earlier in the season. Then came three GP3 drivers – Tom Dillmann, Antonio Felix da Costa, and James Calado. But in my opinion Tom Dillmann has been the best of the rookies so far, displaying great pace throughout the weekend.
Fabio Leimer took the fastest lap on the way to victory, and Luiz Razia did not let him escape too far ahead. Jolyon Palmer also showed himself well with Addax as he took his first ever points finish and podium.

Tomorrow, the first three grid positions will be taken by Calado, da Costa and Dillmann. Good luck GP3 grads!

GP2 testing day one

Jerez de la Frontera was filled with the sound of GP2 cars today, as they took to the former Grand Prix track for testing. Local team Racing Engineering did themselves proud, with Fabio Leimer topping the timesheets in both the morning and afternoon sessions.
In the morning, he just beat Luca Filippi’s time by nine thousandths of a second. The Italian was driving for Coloni in the morning before handing over to Auto GP under-21 winner (and possibly champion) Kevin Ceccon in the afternoon.
Third in the morning was Britain’s Sam Bird, driving for Rapax, who just beat times from Johnny Cecotto (who caused a red flag late in the morning session) and Fabio Onidi.
In the afternoon, the second-best driver was Dutchman Yelmer Buurman, for AirAsia. Dani Clos was third for Addax, with GP3 champion Valtteri Bottas enjoying the GP2 car as he set the fourth-fastest afternoon time for ART.

Testing isn’t all about times of course. For the teams, it’s a chance to see how well young drivers can do, but it’s also a chance to experiment with different car set-ups that they couldn’t really try during the season. For the young Carlin Racing GP2 team, that was what Max Chilton and Alvaro Parente were up to.

Tomorrow’s lineup can be found on the GP2 website.

GP3 race report and season summary

We haven’t had the Formula One yet, but I am almost certain that the prize for the most exciting race of the day goes to GP3. The championship leader and runner-up were causing most of the havoc, with Valtteri Bottas taking out two drivers almost straight away. First to go was Conor Daly, running in third, who was spun off the track by the Finn. As Bottas returned to the track he caused Alex Sims to move out the way, and the Status driver hit the car in front of him. The ART driver couldn’t have his championship taken away, but he did receive a drive-through penalty.
Meanwhile, James Calado was running with the leaders including Antonio Felix da Costa, Nico Muller, Mitch Evans, Simon Trummer, Rio Haryanto, Adrian Quaife-Hobbs and – incredibly – Callum MacLeod of Carlin. At the first chicane, Calado was being squeezed off the track by the other runners and as he tried to stay on he went into Mitch Evans. The Arden driver had to retire, but it was a drive-throgh penalty for Calado who was running in second. Calado ended up with a time penalty due to the lateness of the punishment. Portuguese da Costa won, with Muller second and Haryanto third. Trummer came home fourth, while MacLeod was fifth and Quaife-Hobbs sixth. MacLeod was the only remaining Carlin runner after Leo Cordeiro spun and stalled, and he also took the point for fastest lap.
Despite not finishing the race after a self-caused accident, Nigel Melker finished third in the championship with 38 points. Fourth was Nico Muller, who had a great comeback at the end of the second. He and fifth-placed Adrian Quaife-Hobbs both finish with 36 points. Behind them, Alex Sims came sixth with 34 points after a horrendous end to his season and no points since Germany. Behind him, Rio Haryanto came seventh with 31 points – his two wins edge him ahead of Arden’s Lewis Williamson. Incredibly, a lot of these well-placed drivers have gone through some rough races. Nobody has been particularly consistent.
Ninth in the championship is Mitch Evans, who has done terribly since he led the championship early on through no fault of his own – usually in fact due to James Calado! In tenth is Andrea Caldarelli, with his 20 points picked up in the first four races enough for that position.
Teams Champion Lotus ART finished with 124 points – well ahead of second place MW Arden with 69 points. Just behind Arden is Marussia Manor Racing on 67 points, and last year’s losers RSC Mucke got 61. Status were fourth with 50 points, followed by Tech 1 with 43, Jenzer with 37, Addax with 33, Carlin with 21 and CRS with a lowly seven.

Summer day 12 – Antonio Felix da Costa

Antonio Felix da Costa – 16
AFDC is coincidentally the second Portuguese driver today, since he and Alvaro Parente are both 16th in their championships. Antonio is just one of the many strong drivers in GP3 this season, and of course that makes it hard to pick up points. He picked up his first this season in both races as Istanbul, coming fifth and then maintaining the fourth place from the reversed grid. Since then, his results have dipped, but Hungary was a return to form as he came sixth in the Hungarian sprint, taking another point for his tally. His best qualifying was at the Nurburgring when he was second on the grid, but when the rain came down he couldn’t keep it together on the slicks and he finished 28th in the end – I am not sure whether he stuck with slicks or changed to wets. In the second race he retired.

Points: 8
Best qualifying: 2
Worst qualifing: 27
Best finish: 4 (Istanbul sprint)
Worst finish: 28 (Nurburgring feature)
Retirements: 2