Afternoon practice and GP2 qualifying

F1
In the second practice this afternoon, the track was damp to start with and everyone went out on inters. Eventually it dried enough for slicks and the times tumbled before the rain came down again. Amidst those conditions, it was Mark Webber who went fastest, with Alonso in second and rain master Button third. Webber’s teammate Vettel only went tenth fastest. The Force Indias always get on well at Spa, and came in eight and ninth with Nico Hulkenberg replacing Adrian Sutil for the session. Sergio Perez did even better with the seventh-fastest time, and Rosberg was sixth-fastest. Massa found himself a familiar fifth, and Hamilton fourth.
The Renaults were also struggling, and a steering problem for Petrov left him unable to set a competitive time. His new teammate came in 17th, a few tenths off Barrichello but still well ahead of the backmarkers. But Senna had been doing well earlier in the session as the track dried. Maybe he has some of his uncle’s talent in the rain.
The times aren’t really representative, and we may not find out where everyone lies this weekend until race day, with heavy rain expected tomorrow.

GP2
A wet qualifying session saw Sam Bird become the first casualty. Later, Charles Pic ended up going off the track at turn 17, which caused final sector problems. Fastest was Christian Vietoris, with Luca Filippi second and Pic third. Bianchi took fourth before one of two top-ten surprises – Michael Herck, who has picked up just one point so far this season. Romain Grosjean only managed eighth, while Johnny Ceccotto Jr became the second surprise. He currently starts 9th. I expect that we will see some penalties being issued, including to Vietoris who set his fastest final sector under yellow flags.

F2
In the afternoon practice session at a hot Red Bull Ring, the fastest driver was once again Mirko Bortolotti. Benjamin Lariche did well to finish third, while Sunghak Mun got in a hot lap less than a second off the leader to finish sixth. If he can do that in qualifying he’ll probably turn into a moving traffic island, unfortunately. He was nine hundredths ahead of Alex Brundle in seventh. Eighth was Christopher Zanella. Again Julian Theobald has managed to beat his brother, and seems to be getting on better with the track. Thiemo Storz was a disappointing 18th while Mikkel Mac and Armaan Ebrahim will have been surprised to be slowest.

Summer day 25 – Charles Pic

Charles Pic – 3
This GP2 season has really been France’s year, and one of the shining French drivers is Charles Pic. He’s had two pole positions this year – one at Valencia when he ended up retiring from both races – and one in Germany where he came second in the feature race but retired from the sprint. His best weekend probably came at Monaco, when he finished 8th in the feature race which gave him pole for the sprint. It’s so hard to overtake at the track that he won. He also won the Barcelona feature race, but finished 19th in the sprint. So ups and downs for Charles Pic, who has been a good qualifier. He and his teammate Giedo van der Garde have been keeping Addax ahead of DAMS since the beginning of the season – two good drivers is better than one brilliant driver.

Points: 42
Best qualifying: 1
Worst qualifying: 12
Best finish: 1 (Barcelona feature, Monaco sprint)
Worst finish: 19 (Barcelona sprint)
Retirements: 3

GP2 qualifying

The GP2 qualifying session was red-flagged twice, the second time too late for anyone to be able to set another flying lap. Charles Pic took pole for Addax, with his teammate Giedo van der Garde in second. Romain Grosjean, the championship leader, will start third. All three are in the championship top five that are separated by very few points. Sam Bird and Davide Valsecchi are the other two drivers in the top five, and qualified sixth and eighth respectively.

This of course is all subject to penalties. If the last three races are anything to go by, there will be at least one. We’ll see…

The ups and downs of Arden

GP3 tests got underway today in Hungary. In the morning session, the fastest driver was GP3’s youngest ever race winner Mitch Evans. He’s really shining for Arden, who after several years struggling in GP2 are making a comeback. Arden were the kings of Formula 3000 before it became GP2, with Tonio Liuzzi taking the title for them, and in 2005 when boss Christian Horner began moving his focus towards his new job with Red Bull, Heikki Kovalainen came second for them in the first GP2 season.
Heikki Kovalainen won five races for Arden in 2005, taking four pole positions. He also took one of the team’s two fastest laps. His teammate took the other, along with a pole position. Since then they have struggled in GP2. Last year they finished eighth. Here’s a quick summary.

Year

Wins

Poles

Podiums

F. laps

Pts

C’ship

2005

5

5

13

2

126

2nd

2006

1

0

6

1

57

4th

2007

1

0

2

0

44

7th

2008

2

0

6

0

56

6th

2009

1

0

3

3

41

8th

2010

1

1

2

0

32

7th

So far this year, Arden have no wins, no poles, no fastest laps and one podium, with second-placed Josef Kral finishing P2 in the Monaco sprint race. With nine points, the team stands eighth in the championship.
GP3 is looking better, with Mitch Evans the stand out driver. The rookie is currently third in the championship, just five points behind leader Nigel Melker. He, Andrea Caldarelli (who is being replaced) and Nigel Melker are far ahead of the other drivers. Neither of Arden’s other drivers have scored points just yet, but the team stands third in the championship.

Arden is named after the Forest of Arden, an area close to my home in England.You might also recognise the name if you know about Shakespeare. His mother was Mary Arden, and you can visit Mary Arden’s House near Stratford (Warwickshire, not London). Mary Arden’s family owned the forest. So I’m a bit of a fan, and will be supporting them. Their GP3 ability is shining through. On the GP2 record, a lot of Arden’s drivers have gone on to finish well in the series for other teams. Bruno Senna came second with iSport, Sergio Perez finished second with Addax, and Charles Pic is currently third with Addax. Sebastien Buemi moved straight from Arden to driving for Toro Rosso.

A ‘quiet’ GP2 race

A relatively calm GP2 race saw a fire and a few retirements for mechanical reasons. It even saw a couple of overtakes! Coletti stalled off the line, but Charles Pic retained the lead with Josef Kral for Arden getting into second. Grosjean got up into third with Chilton fourth, Valsecchi fifth and Parente sixth. Five drivers were given penalties for jumping the start, including the two Racing Engineering drivers, which left Luca Filippi sixth.
Chilton was struggling, and Filippi jumped Valsecchi when the AirAsia driver went off at the chicane. He then overtook Chilton, who was also overtaken by Valsecchi to retain his fifth position. The fastest lap went to Romain Grosjean, who once again leads the championship on 23 points. He has equal points with Sam Bird. In third is Charles Pic with 22 points, and Valsecchi and van der Garde both have 21 points. It’s so close! But remember, Valsecchi only had 8 points before this weekend, so anything could happen. I’m waiting to see what happens with penalties, and then I’ll put the championship tables up.
It’s nice to see so many contenders. Some drivers, however, have been faced with a lot of bad luck: Jules Bianchi, for example, and also Luiz Razia. But this is going to hopefully be one of the closest GP2 championships ever. It looks even closer than last year’s F1 season!

With F1 running off to Canada, the next GP2 race is Valencia in four weeks time. I will be at home then, and hopefully watching in HD! Tomorrow, Formula Renault 3.5 and Formula One are racing. Perez will not be racing, as he’s being held in hospital overnight. The accident could have been a lot worse had Rosberg’s earlier accident not persuaded Charlie Whiting to remove the sleeping policemen at the chicane.

Nothing has changed

And the result of Group Lotus vs Team Lotus is that the status quo has been maintained. Ha ha. Both sides have claimed victory.

Group Lotus are allowed to use the ‘Lotus’ name by itself in Formula One. Team Lotus are allowed to use ‘Team Lotus’, but apparently not ‘Lotus’ by itself, although they will keep the chassis name according to Tony Fernandes. I have changed all the ‘lotus’ tags on this site to ‘Team Lotus’ just to clarify things.
Group Lotus are still allowed to have the black and gold cars on the track through their sponsorship of Renault. Team Lotus are still allowed to have the green and yellow cars, and use the iconic Team Lotus symbol. The only real ruling that was made was that Group’s decision to end the license agreement with 1 Malaysia F1 Team was legitimate.
Each company has released a statement about the judgement: Group Lotus, Team Lotus.
Tony Fernandes seems happiest about the result, with Group Lotus intending to appeal as they don’t think the Team Lotus name should be allowed to be used at all by Tony’s team. They say this is to ‘avoid confusion’. I’m not confused. The most confused I get in F1 is when I get a Toro Rosso or a Red Bull mixed up. I think they’re forgetting that Renault aren’t actually their team, but they’re just a sponsor! Probably the happiest people are the lawyers, who have made lots of money to keep things the way they are.

GP2
Oliver Turvey has been handed a 30-second penalty from the feature race for failing to take a drive through penalty for jumping the start. This has demoted him to 15th, losing him his two points and promoting Charles Pic to the reverse grid pole. Sam Bird has been penalised five grid places for the race tomorrow after causing the collision between himself and his teammate in the race. Max Chilton is now 16th in the championship, while Turvey is second-last as all drivers except Mikhail Aleshin have at least one race finish better than fifteenth. It does not affect the team standings.

It’s interesting to note that I am doing all this from my home and have never been to an F1 or GP2 race. I love the Internet. I was watching the race today through an online stream that was fantastic quality, using a cable to connect the video to my TV screen while having the live timing on my laptop.
For all the events going on tomorrow, check the front page of my blog.

GP2 and 3 races

GP2 and GP3 had their races this afternoon. Qualifying for the Indy 500 is also going on. Ho Pin Tung, the Renault reserve driver, has been in an accident just a short while ago, and taken to hospital. It’s on YouTube: a terrifying spin and smash, but he walks away.

In GP2, the race was begun on pole by Giedo van der Garde. The Dutchman also took fastest lap, but the win went to Charles Pic – his French teammate – jumping him in the pits. Sam Bird made it three podiums out of three as he finished third. Both Johnny Ceccotto and Fabio Leimer started from the back of the grid, but improved dramatically. Leimer was P9, only just outside the points! He has a chance to get there tomorrow. However, there was a retirement for AirAsia’s Luiz Razia, Luca Filippi (Super Nova) had an accident right at the start, and Michael Herck spun and collected Esteban Gutierrez mid-way through the race.
In GP3, the win went to polesitter Mitch Evans, taking a great victory for MW Arden. Tech 1’s Andrea Caldarelli started from second but could only manage fourth, being beaten by James Calado of ART and his teammate Aaro Vainio. Tech 1’s third driver Tamas Pal Kiss celebrated his recent birthday by also finishing in the points – a great day for the French team. Nigel Melker managed more points, giving him at least joint lead depending on who got the fastest lap.

Quotes will come in a separate blog entry.