Trulli out, Petrov in at Caterham

F1
After months of speculation, when people finally began to think that maybe Caterham would honour Jarno Trulli’s contract, the rumours have come true. The Italian driver, who won at Monaco with Renault and has spent two years with the back-of-the-grid team, has been fired despite taking part in the first F1 test of 2012. He has been replaced by Vitaly Petrov, and there is no doubt that the money has helped. You need money to improve your prospects.
Vitaly isn’t a bad driver, and definitely has potential with Caterham, but Trulli had potential too. It is a shame he – like Rubens Barrichello – wasn’t given the opportunity to retire gracefully. At least Barrichello’s replacement was done honestly by Williams, and the Brazilian seems likely to continue his career in IndyCar. What is there for Trulli?
What is done is done. I think Petrov will do well, and he looks alright in green. Much better than black anyway.

GP2
The SuperNova team have left the GP2 championship after seven years. The British team, who have featured such drivers as Giorgio Pantano, Adam Carroll, Luca Filippi and Mike Conway, will be replaced by Venezuela-sponsored Italian outfit Venezuela GP Lazarus. Team Lazarus took part in Auto GP, last year running with Fabrizio Crestani and Fabio Onidi. The drivers finished 6th and 5th respectively in the championship.

GP3
Two drivers have been signed today. Trident revealed their first driver, Vicky Piria. She will be the first girl to take part in GP3. Hopefully she’ll do well, though she has not scored any wins or podiums so far in her career.
Meanwhile Cypriot Tio Ellinas, who came fourth in the 2010 British FFord season and finished third in Formula Renault UK on equal points with Oli Rowland and after dropping 40 points from his total (Rowland dropped none), comes to GP3 with Marussia Manor Racing. He will partner Dmitry Suranovich and Fabiano Machado.

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Nasr gets GP2 chance with DAMS

GP2
DAMS have confirmed the second half of their team today, with British F3 champion Felipe Nasr set to partner Davide Valsecchi. After Romain Grosjean’s championship last season, there are high expectations on Nasr and Valsecchi.
Brazilian Nazr, who will be 20 in August, won seven races and took 17 podiums in the British F3 championship despite only taking four pole positions, and finished far ahead of his teammate Kevin Magnussen who was second. It seems likely that he will be the next Brazilian to reach Formula One, and certainly the media has shown interest in this young man. Nasr also came second in last year’s Macau GP, and was on the podium in the Daytona 24 hours.

F1
Videos taken at Silverstone today show the Mercedes W03 on its shakedown before it is launched. Stills suggest the silver car will share the stepped nose that all but McLaren have gone for in 2012.

Mike Gascoyne has been promoted to Caterham CTO, which means he will oversee all of the Caterham programs – not just F1. He will naturally have a reduced role in the F1 team, but has tweeted that he will be present at races as he wants to be there for the first points and the first podium.

Williams have announced that their test driver Valtteri Bottas will be taking a turn in the FW34 at Barcelona. He will be driving on the second day of the test.

Finally, after failing some crash tests, HRT will not be present at the first Barcelona test. Marussia will be there, but with their 2011 car.

Raikkonen goes fastest on first day back

In the world of motor racing, today has been quiet… well, as quiet as it gets on the first day of an F1 test! After Williams launched their FW34, featuring the all-familiar stepped nose, it was time to take to the track. First up, and continuing a tradition from last season, Caterham were first on the track with Heikki Kovalainen.
But the first flyer was Kimi Raikkonen, quickly getting up to speed in the E20. He went fastest overall, though not much more than Paul di Resta in the Force India. We cannot get the whole picture from testing, of course. As I am sure you have already heard, Williams were fastest at Jerez last year, but had their worst season of all time in 2011. Many teams will be sandbagging, and others will face unexpected problems – the Caterham, for example, was prevented from running by a broken starter shaft. Red Bull were also late in starting, after parts were held up by heavy fog.

First Impressions
Kovalainen’s shortened time in the CT01 today (he’ll be back tomorrow, with van der Garde in on Thursday followed by Trulli on Friday) was enough for him to get a reasonable impression of the new car. The Finn said “The steering feels slightly more precise. I have only done three laps so I can’t really tell more but, so far, positive feeling.” This will be good news for Trulli, so long as the rumours of his replacement do not come true.
Franz Tost, the Toro Rosso boss, believes Caterham have what it takes to be a midfield team in 2012, stating them as one of their main competitors in 2012. They also believe they will be up against Sauber and Force India. It is interesting to note that Williams were not mentioned here.
The smooth-nosed McLaren has pleased Button, who said that there weren’t so many downforce issues as expected after the removal of blown diffusers. The team hope to have a much better testing session than last year, where difficulties left them far behind where they had hoped to be by the start of the season.
Schumacher – who drove half a day in the 2011 Mercedes – expressed his pleasure with the new rear tyres from Pirelli, saying that they were more consistent than 2011’s.

The only team not present at the test was Marussia, who will probably be at Barcelona. HRT hope to pass the final crash tests soon, which means their car should also be ready for the next test. The most laps today were completed by Kamui Kobayashi and Paul di Resta, while Kovalainen and Maldonado completed the least. I am not sure why Williams did such little running. Unsurprisingly, Pedro de la Rosa was slowest in the 2011 HRT.

Caterham chance for van der Garde

Today Caterham announced their reserve driver for 2012. The GP2 race winner had been hinting on his Twitter account that something would be revealed today, so it was no surprise for Giedo van der Garde to be announced in that position. Van der Garde, originally linked with the race seat at HRT, partnered Charles Pic at Addax last season to help the team to victory.

In his rookie GP2 season, the Dutchman was with iSport. He won three races, and finished 7th in the championship. In 2010 he didn’t win any races, but got several second places to again finish 7th in the championship. Last season he still failed to make the top step of the podium but secured extra points with pole and a fastest lap at Barcelona. With a total of five podiums, he finished 5th in the championship. He also finished 3rd in GP2 Asia 2011, with a double podium at Imola.
A very consistent driver, van der Garde will get Friday outings for Caterham. This seems to be the way teams are going with regard to getting drivers F1 experience before potentially taking them on as a race driver the next season. It remains to be seen whether van der Garde will be driving for Caterham in GP2 this year.

Caterham comes to Formula One

Today Team Lotus takes on its new name Caterham F1. While the Lotus name isn’t gone from F1, many people will be sad to see it leave Tony Fernandes’ team. The rights to the ‘Team Lotus’ name have gone to Group Lotus, which is why they will be called ‘Lotus F1 Team’ for 2012.
All Lotus-connected teams in GP2 and GP3, Indycar and elsewhere will be painted black and gold to match the Formula One team, while all Caterham-connected teams will wear the traditional Lotus colours of green and yellow.
The new Caterham car will be called the CT01.

In BBC news, Ben Edwards will be leading the television commentary. He has formerly done commentary for F1 on the F1 digital+ channel, for CART, for the A1 GP and this year for ITV4’s BTCC coverage. He will be a popular replacement. However, his departure leaves ITV in a quandry as they search for replacements – they have also lost Steve Rider. There is also a question mark over who will partner Edwards in the commentary box.

F2 testing today saw several series regulars joined by several up-and-coming drivers including British Formula Ford champion Scott Malvern, and GP3 driver Vittorio Ghirelli. Ghirelli was unlucky not to score any points in the series this season. Hopefully some of the testing drivers will be in F2 next year. Fastest of all was Miki Monras, who is likely to be a challenger for the title next season.

Caterham does some rebranding

GP2
From next season, Caterham Team AirAsia will be renamed Caterham Racing, to match the name change of the F1 team. The two racing teams, the car company and other car-related ventures will come under the Caterham Group banner.

F1
With Kimi Raikkonen definitely not going to Williams next season, Barrichello’s seat looks set to be taken by GP3 champion Valtteri Bottas, or maybe someone else. Meanwhile, Renault are not just looking at their current lineup but also at drivers from other teams to possibly take over in place of Robert Kubica.

The details of the BBC/Sky television deal have begun to emerge over the last few days, with Martin Brundle signed up with Sky to commentate. He will not, however, be the lead commentator. The BBC will be doing ten races, with Sky doing all twenty. Sky, however, have the exclusive broadcasting rights for Bahrain and the US Grand Prix. Both of these races are under threat.
BBC Radio 5 Live will continue to provide live coverage of every practice session, qualifying and the race, so even if you cannot afford Sky then you can still enjoy F1. When I didn’t have a television, this was how I enjoyed F1. I would watch half of the races at my aunties’ house, and listen to the other half at home.
The ten BBC live races are: China, Spain, Monaco, Valencia, Britain, Belgium, Singapore, Korea, Abu Dhabi, Brazil.

Oh yeah, and it was qualifying yesterday and Sebastian Vettel took pole. It looks wet for the race today, so we could be in for a treat.