Valsecchi dominates at Jerez

GP2
After the final day of GP2 testing, new DAMS signing Davide Valsecchi has proved to be the most consistent and fastest driver – leading on all three days. The question is, can DAMS win a second driver’s championship with the Italian? If he wins, he could well become the next Italian in F1 – though Italians have a bad record when it comes to transferring between the series.
Of the GP3 graduates taking part, James Calado was one of the most impressive. Van der Garde was doing well for Caterham, while Stefano Coletti shone for Coloni. Max Chilton showed much improvement on 2011, and Carlin also have improved as they come to their second year (with a little help from Marussia). I expect we will see a good showing from all 2010 and 2011 GP3 graduates, but also from F2 runner-up Jolyon Palmer who is doing well with iSport.
There’s another GP2 test at Barcelona next week before they all head out to Malaysia for the first round of the season.

IndyCar
Rubens Barrichello’s CV boasts Jordan, Stewart, Ferrari, Honda, Brawn and Williams. Now, F1’s most experienced driver can add KV Racing to that list. The Brazilian today announced that he would be racing a full season for the IndyCar team, taking to ovals for the first time. Barrichello admitted to a little help from his kids in persuading their Mum that he could race. He will be partnering his close friend Tony Kanaan and Venezuelan EJ Viso. The team also drove with three drivers last year – Kanaan, Viso and another ex-F1 driver in Takuma Sato. Mika Salo also drove for the team in four races in 2003, back in the days of Champ Car.
KV were supported by Lotus in 2011, but will use Chevrolet engines this season despite the British marque supplying engines to the series. According to the IndyCar website, Barrichello will take number 8 on his car.

F1
The first day of testing, and Heikki Kovalainen was unable to take part due to food poisoning (apparently from one of the team’s sponsor’s!). The mechanics got the car sorted for Vitaly Petrov and he did a full day of running, taking the second-highest lap tally. It was Rosberg who did the most laps, with nearly 130. Fastest of all was Grosjean, with Button second. Williams only managed a small number of laps with Maldonado for unspecified reasons.
HRT hope to get on track by Sunday, while Kovalainen will be back tomorrow (Friday). Kamui Kobayashi was also ill today, but hopefully he will be well by the time he’s needed.

FR 3.5
Andre Negrao and Nico Muller have been confirmed at Draco for 2012. Muller is a GP3 graduate, winning three races in the series and coming 3rd in 2010 (4th in 2011). He won the Silverstone feature race where unexpected rain caused a mass pit stop at the start of the race – all seven other drivers who scored points were British. Brazilian Negrao enters his second year of the series, and with Draco, having graduated from the Eurocup at the end of 2010.

GP2 testing begins

F1
HRT passed their crash tests, and hope to be present for at least some of the final test session in Barcelona. Marussia, however, were not so lucky. They have failed their final crash test and will not be able to properly test the car until first practice in Melbourne.
A clarification of F1 regulations means that Red Bull and Ferrari will only be able to test their cars from Thursday until Sunday. Teams are not allowed to test in the week before the first race of the season, which the teams believed meant from the Monday before the race. However, the regulations have been clarified to mean the first Monday-Sunday week without an event before the first race of the season. This also means that Lotus will not be able to have five days of testing after they missed out at the last test.

GP2
As testing commences, more drivers have been confirmed. Luiz Razia has changed to Arden, while Caterham brings in their F1 tester Giedo van der Garde, and Venezuelan Rodolfo Gonzalez.
Present at the test but not confirmed for 2012 are Nathanael Berthon (Racing Engineering), Dani Clos and Daniel de Jong (Rapax), Vittorio Ghirelli (Lazarus) and Tom Dillmann (Ocean Racing Tech).

This morning the fastest driver was DAMS’s Davide Valsecchi, second was Fabio Onidi (Trident), third was 2010 F2 runner-up Jolyon Palmer (iSport). Palmer’s teammate Marcus Ericsson was fourth-fastest. Notably both Lotus GP/ART drivers set great times, with Gutierrez fifth and GP3 graduate Calado sixth.

Summer day 22 – Davide Valsecchi

Davide Valsecchi – 6
Having failed to pick up any points in the first two races of the season, Davide Valsecchi had a better race in Barcelona to take AirAsia’s second and third points finishes as his teammate struggled. At Monaco, he qualified second and took the lead of the feature race when Sam Bird stalled on the line. He got a good lead towards the end, and on his final lap pushed hard to take the fastest lap on top of the first win for his team. There were two more points finishes in Valencia including a podium.
Since then, AirAsia’s strategy has sometimes been off, but it was working well in Hungary. That didn’t help Davide however, who qualified 26th after a penalty. The Italian’s decent finishes have kept him high in the championship, but he will need to do better if he’s going to stay sixth or climb up the table.

Points: 30
Best qualifying: 2
Worst qualifying: 26
Best finish: 1 (Monaco feature)
Worst finish: 17 (Silverstone sprint)
Retirements: 1

Goodbye to GP2 Asia

As hinted at by Autosport a while ago, the GP2 and GP2 Asia series are merging. GP2 Asia, which began with a long calendar of races but only managed four this winter (of which only one was in Asia because of the Bahrain uprising), hasn’t really worked out the way the organisers wanted it to. Instead, there will be a single series from 2012 with flyaway races. For the first time in 2011, all thirteen teams who competed in GP2 Asia were the same thirteen who are competing in the main series. The merger is far more practical.
To celebrate this merger, in November at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix there will be a special race weekend for GP2 called the ‘2011 GP2 Final’. The 13 teams will compete for a prize fund while young drivers will get a chance to test the GP2/11 car that has been used this year for the first time.

GP2 Asia has a short history. Only four seasons have ever been run. In 2008, there were five rounds in Dubai, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bahrain and Dubai (again). Lots of familiar names were taking part: Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok for iSport; Romain Grosjean for ART; Vitaly Petrov for Campos; Fairuz Fauzy for Super Nova; Jerome d’Ambrosio and Kamui Kobayashi for DAMS; Sebastien Buemi for Arden; Davide Valsecchi for Durango, and current F2 river Armaan Ebrahim for DPR. Yep, there were two Indian drivers! This is because GP2 Asia at the time wanted each team to have an Asian driver in it.
The first round was totally dominated by Romain Grosjean, who took pole position and both wins. Bruno Senna took second and the fastest lap in the first race, with Andy Soucek third. Fairuz Fauzy scored his first points in a GP2 car in the first race, and came second in ths second race with Karun Chandhok third. In the end, the winner was Grosjean, with Buemi second after a coming second in the final four races, Petrov third, Fauzy fourth, Senna fifth and Kobayashi sixth.

The second season took place over the winter of 2008-2009. It featured Yamamoto, Maldonado and Hulkenberg in ART; Razia in Arden; Petrov and Perez at Barwa Campos; the d’Ambrosio and Kobayashi pairing at DAMS again; van der Garde at iSport; Valsecchi at Durango; Chandhok at Ocean Racing; and Ricardo Teixeira at Trident. Yep, the whole Team Lotus reserve contingent took part.
There were six rounds: China, Dubai, Bahrain, Qatar, Malaysia and Bahrain (again). Eventual winner Kamui Kobayashi started with a second-place finish, and though he only managed two wins altogether he got enough points finishes to beat his teammate Jerome d’Ambrosio into second. Roldan Rodriguez came third, with Valsecchi fourth, Petrov fifth, Hulkenberg sixth despite only competing in four races, Perez seventh and Yamamoto ninth.

The third season was 2009-10. Taking part were many current GP2 drivers including Christian Vietoris (DAMS); Luiz Razia (Rapax/Addax); Chilton, van der Garde and Perez (Addax); Ericsson (ART and Super Nova); Bianchi and Bird (ART); Pic and Gonzalez (Arden); Kral (Super Nova); Valsecchi (iSport); Cecotto and Clos (Trident); Filippi (a Malaysian team not AirAsia); Leimer (Ocean Racing); Parente (Coloni); and Herck (DPR).
There were only four rounds: two at Abu Dhabi followed by two at Bahrain. And the championship winner dominated; iSport’s Davide Valsecchi took three wins and three second places on top of a fourth place to get 56 points. Luca Filippi came second. But it was a short season.

For 2011, the fourth and final season was shortened firstly due to the new GP2 cars, and secondly due to the Bahrain uprising which caused the second round to be held at Imola. Most of the current GP2 drivers took part. Romain Grosjean marked his return to GP2 with an adequate performance, taking both pole positions, a win, a second place and two fastest laps. Fellow Frenchman Jules Bianchi won the first race at Abu Dhabi, and came third in the first race at Imola. He also took two fastest laps. Stefano Coletti took the win at the Abu Dhabi sprint having started from reverse pole, while Dani Clos took the Imola sprint. Meanwhile, Davide Valsecchi gave AirAsia their first podium in the first race at Abu Dhabi. Romain Grosjean took the championship.

So in total that’s four GP2 Asia championships. Romain Grosjean took the first and the last, with Kamui Kobayashi taking the second and Davide Valsecchi the third. Now, however, we’ll be seeing a longer GP2 season. This could make the championship very interesting next year.

AirAsia storms it

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.

Teammates crashing together

In Formula One’s FP2, Paul di Resta had electrical problems on his car. Several drivers went off at the new tarmac at Ste. Devote, including twice from Kovalainen, but nobody crashed as Schumacher had done earlier. Vitaly Petrov did manage to take off his front wing at the Louis Chiron chicane – the new name for the swimming pool chicane, named after the oldest driver to start a race. He started racing in the pre-F1 era, and was probably the only really good Monegasque driver – well, until Stefano Coletti gets into F1!

Speaking of Stefano Coletti, the GP2 rookie did well in the morning practice session. In qualifying, however, Coletti let himself down by trying a silly move on Fabio Leimer, taking the pair of them out and red flagging the session. It was a crazy session altogether, with drivers colliding and taking themselves out. Regularly ending up in traffic, Romain Grosjean got caught out by his teammate slowing down behind one of the AirAsia drivers and they both went out. Grosjean failed to set a time with in the 107% (a rule that GP2 has run for longer than F1) as he was 9.7s off the pace.
Yellow flags were flying with five minutes left in the session. Coletti and Leimer had managed to get driving again, but Luca Filippi had crashed out and was also unable to improve a time from earlier in the session. In the end, pole position was taken by Giedo van der Garde for the second race in a row. Second was the only driver to have scored points in every race, Sam Bird, and third after Bianchi’s demotion was Davide Valsecchi; Jules Bianchi was imposed with a five-place penalty for causing the van der Garde collision in Barcelona.. To finish the session off in a way that demonstrated the craziness of the course, Michael Herck crashed at the swimming pool. He qualifies P24.
There were a lot of drivers under investigation for causing collisions, speeding under yellows or blocking, so the final results are still to be confirmed. Bird and Ericsson, the iSport teammates, are under investigation after their collision after Bird set his lap, as are Grosjean and Pal Varhaug the DAMS teammates. So although I don’t think van der Garde is under suspicion, I wouldn’t give him the pole 100% just yet…

GP2 tests Barcelona 2011 day 2

Day two of the GP2 tests in Barcelona. Valsecchi again had a great day, with P4 in the morning and P1 in the afternoon (though it was a slower time). With P22 in the morning and P26 in the afternoon, Johnny Cecotto, Jr. had the worst day, though he got plenty of laps in. The reason some drivers set much faster times in one session than another is because they are running race simulations, which have lower speed due to more fuel in the engine.
This table is best viewed on the blog and not on your RSS feed.

Team

Driver

Morning

Afternoon

Laps

Rapax

Liemer

1:30.649 (20)

1:31.243 (7)

56

Leal

1:32.743 (26)

1:31.254 (8)

44

Addax

Pic

1:30.051 (13)

1:34.296 (25)

54

van der Garde

1:29.983 (11)

1:34.195 (24)

63

ART

Bianchi

1:30.052 (14)

1:30.675 (3)

76

Gutierrez

1:30.849 (24)

1:31.184 (6)

65

Racing
Engineering

Clos

1:30.375 (17)

1:33.863 (18)

55

Vietoris

1:29.805 (7)

1:32.750 (13)

63

iSport

Bird

1:29.633 (2)

1:34.152 (23)

63

Ericsson

1:30.264 (16)

1:30.810 (4)

35

DAMS

Grosjean

1:29.639 (3)

1:33.478 (14)

73

Varhaug

1:30.405 (18)

1:33.536 (16)

64

Arden

Kral

1:30.123 (15)

1:34.097 (22)

66

Palmer

1:30.640 (19)

1:33.905 (20)

64

Super
Nova

Fauzy

1:30.994 (24)

1:31.786 (11)

58

Filippi

1:29.697 (5)

1:31.738 (10)

57

Coloni

Herck

1:29.608 (1)

1:33.505 (15)

62

Rigon

1:29.754 (6)

1:30.591 (2)

58

Trident

Gonzalez

1:30.679 (21)

1:34.038 (21)

74

Coletti

1:29.993 (12)

1:33.673 (17)

63

Ocean

Mirocha

1:31.096 (25)

1:31.483 (9)

54

Cecotto

1:30.772 (22)

1:34.314 (47)

69

Carlin

Chilton

1:29.973 (10)

1:32.120 (12)

73

Turvey

1:29.860 (8)

1:33.868 (19)

62

AirAsia

Razia

1:29.970 (9)

1:31.179 (5)

79

Valsecchi

1:29.669 (4)

1:30.316 (1)

73