Davidson back for Le Mans

In the news today…

Le Mans
Former Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Buemi, and former Super Aguri driver (and current Sky commentator) Anthony Davidson have been signed up for Toyota’s second LMP1 team at Le Mans this year. Davidson was left without a drive this season when Peugeot announced their departure from the WEC, and the skilled British driver thoroughly deserves a place at Le Mans. Buemi remains a Red Bull and Toro Rosso tester, but it’s good to see him in a race seat at least once this year. This will be the Swiss driver’s first endurance race.
Ant Davidson’s former Peugeot teammate Alex Wurz, along with Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima, have already been signed to complete a full WEC season with Toyota in the LMP1 hybrid car.

GP2
Fabio Leimer, who has twice won the Barcelona GP2 sprint race and came second in the Italian sprint last season with Rapax, has signed with Racing Engineering for 2012. The Swiss driver also took second with Rapax at Imola for GP2 Asia. Leimer and Racing Engineering seem to be a good combination, as the GP2 final proved this year. He took pole in qualifying at Abu Dhabi, going on to win the feature race and take the fastest lap. This was enough to give him victory in the non-championship event, and already he is one of the favourites for the championship this year.

F1
Lots more testing going on today, with Jarno Trulli and Nico Hulkenberg both out with their teams for the first time in 2012. Alonso for Ferrari has been fastest so far, while Red Bull have had electrical issues so Vettel has not yet set a time. More to come later…

Young drivers’ test day one

The first day of the F1 young drivers’ test is over. Of the 23 taking part in the three-day test, fourteen were driving today. So far as I’m aware, nothing significant happened and the young drivers generally did well.
In the morning, Jean-Eric Vergne topped the times for Red Bull with Jules Bianchi about two seconds behind in the Ferrari. McLaren ran Oliver Turvey, who was 0.9s behind the French driver. Finn Valtteri Bottas was getting the most out of the Williams and set the fourth-fastest time.
In the afternoon, Charles Pic took over from Adrian Quaife-Hobbs in the Virgin, while Gary Paffett took over in the McLaren. The British team have been using the time to work on 2012 modifications, since Paffett has no race experience despite testing for a long time with them. Vergne was again fastest, with Bianchi around 0.9s slower in the Ferrari. Robert Wickens in the Renault set the third-fastest time. Williams had a few gearbox troubles, but Bottas still managed some good running.

Full times: TSL Timing

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!

Leimer takes debut pole at Abu Dhabi

F1
First, the news. GP2’s Johnny Cecotto, Jr. will be joining Max Chilton in driving the VJM04 at the young drivers’ test next week. For Virgin there will be Robert Wickens (who is also driving for Renault), Charles Pic (who is likely to be driving for them in F1 next year) and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs.

Today was free practice, and three drivers were being replaced for the first session – Romain Grosjean replaced Bruno Senna, Jean-Eric Vergne replaced Sebastien Buemi, and Robert Wickens replaced Jerome d’Ambrosio. Plenty of cars were spinning – both Ferraris, Kovalainen and Glock amongst others. Fastest overall was Jenson Button, with Webber second and Hamilton third. Rubens Barrichello finally wore out his engine, and will bring his eighth into service for the remainder of the weekend. Pastor Maldonado is on his ninth engine, and will incur a 10-place grid penalty for Sunday.
The second session had no real incidents until about 30 minutes from the end. Sebastian Vettel locked up into turn one, and about ten minutes later Fernando Alonso went into the same turn too quickly. Both drivers slid into the barrier. Vettel has always taken pole when he crashes on Friday (Canada, Turkey and Japan), though only once has he converted that into a victory. The Red Bull wasn’t really damaged, and the car was returned quickly so Vettel was able to get back on track. Meanwhile, Ferrari weren’t able to get their car back on time to complete the session. Fastest in the end was Hamilton, second Button, and third Alonso.

GP2
The GP2 cars are also on track this weekend for their non-championship race. The last time GP2 cars came to Yas Marina was for the first round of the GP2 Asia championship. Jules Bianchi, who is not racing this weekend, won the feature race. Stefano Coletti, who is racing this weekend, won the sprint.
But in this morning’s practice session it was Esteban Gutierrez who went fastest, with Fabio Leimer second and Tom Dillmann third, and the only GP3 driver in the top ten. Nathanael Berthon in seventh was the fastest of the Formula Renault drivers. Meanwhile, Giacomo Ricci and Nicholas Marroc both received 10-place grid penalties for the feature race after ignoring yellow flags.
Qualifying saw Dani Clos, Josef Kral and Fabio Leimer fight over pole. It was Leimer who eventually took it after a red flag was caused by Esteban Gutierrez. It is the Swiss driver’s first pole in GP2. Clos took second with Kral third, Razia fourth. The first GP2 newbie was Tom Dillmann, still showing incredible pace and starting ninth tomorrow ahead of his iSport teammate Marcus Ericsson. James Calado qualified 12th but will start 11th after Ricci’s penalty, with Nigel Melker right behind him. The fastest Formula Renault driver is Alex Rossi, who will start 14th.

New for 2012: Lotus, Caterham and Marussia

The start of 2010 was very confusing for me, as Mercedes came into F1 as a constructor as opposed to just an engine supplier. Before that time, McLaren was the de facto Mercedes team, as evidenced by, for example, the 2007 Alonso v Hamilton advert. So it was a little confusing for me. There was also the confusing ‘BMW Sauber’ situation, fortunately resolved for 2011.
2012, however, looks set to be even more confusing. Renault will become Lotus, Lotus will become Caterham, and Virgin will become Marussia. Marussia are the title sponsors and majority owners of Virgin, and as a Russian car company it makes sense for them to be the constructors, especially with the Russian license. Richard Branson will still be a title sponsor. This also improves the ties to the Marussia Manor teams in the junior series.
We all know the Lotus Renault GP vs Team Lotus has caused many headaches over the past year, and it will be good to have a resolution even if it means the Lotus name changes hands. Hopefully, this will not cause too many problems in the future. The change will not leave Team Lotus/Caterham out of pocket, however, since it will be agreed by at least 2/3 majority of the Formula One Commission (18 of the 26 members). They will still have the money that comes from finishing tenth in 2010 and 2011 unless something crazy happens in the next two races.

In other news, Jean-Eric Vergne will be driving the RB7 in the young drivers’ test at Abu Dhabi after the race weekend wheree he will be in a Toro Rosso. Fabio Leimer and Esteban Gutierrez of GP2 will be driving Sauber’s car the C30 (that’s old news, but I hadn’t mentioned it before). It also appears that Stefano Coletti will be driving for Toro Rosso, Kevin Korjus and Christian Vietoris will be driving for Renault, and Charles Pic will be in Force India’s VJM04, though these are yet to be confirmed.

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.

GP2 race and season summary

In the GP2 race, it was a hectic first couple of laps which saw Charles Pic find himself in a tangle of cars and he took himself out of the race with Romain Grosjean’s rear wing. Grosjean rejoined the race two laps down with a replacement wing. Meanwhile Jules Bianchi found himself in third after cutting the chicane at the start and then being overtaken by Fabio Leimer. He had Sam Bird on his tail, and Luca Filippi overtook to fifth before sticking behind them. In their current positions, unless Bianchi got the fastest lap, Luca would be second in the championship.
They processed around their track, a rather quiet race with not much overtaking. Esteban Gutierrez the former GP3 champion found himself sixth for his final point of the season. Meanwhile, after going straight on at one of the chicanes and finding himself a short way behind third and fourth, Luca set the fastest lap as he was getting himself back with Bianchi and Bird. This sealed his second place finish in the championship, a position previously held by Heikki Kovalainen, Nelson Piquet Jr, Lucas di Grassi, Bruno Senna, Vitaly Petrov and Sergio Perez. Bianchi finished third, where he also finished last season.
Luca Filippi has been in GP2 since 2006. This year he finally beat his previous-best of fourth with Super Nova in 2007. He has competed 107 races in the series with five wins, seven seconds, four thirds. He has had two pole positions and nine fastest laps – five of which he achieved in the last eight races.
What’s next for Luca? Well, it could be F1 although the Italian has expressed interest in IndyCar. Championship winner Romain Grosjean will almost certainly be racing next year, and will definitely be racing in 2013. It’s gonna be good.

Charles Pic ended up fourth in the championship with Giedo van der Garde fifth. Sam Bird came sixth with today’s winner Christian Vietoris seventh. AirAsia’s Davide Valsecchi finishes eighth despite a troubled second half to the season, followed by Dani Clos and Marcus Ericsson. Stefano Coletti’s accident means he finishes eleventh as he had no chance to make up the three points to the Swede.
Teams champion was Addax with 101 points, followed by DAMS with 89 – all supplied by Romain Grosjean. In third, the mighty Racing Engineering with 75 points, and five points behind them are iSport. Lotus ART are only two behind iSport on 68, and in their first season AirAsia finish with 49 points.
Scuderia Coloni finish seventh – Luca Filippi’s amazing end of season not able to help them enough but shooting them well off the bottom of the table where they were for most of the season. They had 46 points. Trident in eighth only managed 22 points thanks to two wins in sprint races. Super Nova managed ninth with 20 points, and Rapax were 10th with 15 but equal to Arden International apart from their sprint race win from Fabio Leimer. Ocean came in 12th with four points – the same as Carlin who finish their first season in last place.