Brits on top in BF3

Carlin reacted fast after BF3 free practice when their opponents Fortec dominated. And it worked. Jack Harvey set three laps faster than anyone else, and took pole for both race 3 (best laps) and race 1 (second-best laps). Coming close was Felix Serralles, who will be the first Puerto Rican to start on the front row in any international series (so far as anyone knows) in race 3. Serralles only set one really good lap, however, and will start 8th in race 1.
Race 1 will have an all-British front row despite only three being in the series, with Harry Tincknell (Carlin) P2. Their teammates Jazeman Jaafar and Carlos Sainz Jr will start on row 2 tomorrow morning. Alex Lynn was the best qualifier for Fortec in race 1, starting 5th next to the final Carlin driver Pietro Fantin. Hannes van Asseldonk, the runner-up in TRSNZ 2012, will start 7th next to Serrales.
Carlin’s times also dominated the best laps. Tincknell will start 3rd with Sainz next to him for race 3. Jaafar and van Asseldonk will be side-by-side on row three.

Ceccon gets Oceans of chance in GP3

There’s just one week until the 2012 season kicks off, and it looks like a number of talented drivers will be on track. Swiss driver Mauro Calamia is the latest to be officially announced, but there are also a number of drivers listed on the website who are yet to be confirmed, including 2010 champion Dean Stoneman. With the new faster, better cars, this year looks set to produce some good racing. We can only hope that there aren’t too many regulars at the back of the field.
Mauro Calamia joins F2 from Formula Renault Alps, where he finished 10th of 25 drivers. He picked up a reasonable 125 points. He tended to be in the bottom half of the timesheets during testing, but hopefully the 20-year-old rookie will catch up as the season progresses.

As well as Tamas Pal Kiss, two other drivers have been announced this week. Status Grand Prix have a second driver in Kotaro Sakurai, a Japanese driver who was British F3 national class champion last season. The youngster has tested GP3 before, but this will be his first season in the series.
Meanwhile, Auto GP champion Kevin Ceccon will be joining Carmen Jorda and Robert Cregan at Ocean Racing Technology. Ceccon participated in GP2 for Scuderia Coloni last season after Davide Rigon was injured, but it was a premature step up for the Italian. Ceccon should do well in GP3, and I expect him to be a frontrunner from the first race.

If you thought the Lotus saga was over, think again! Group Lotus, who were title sponsors of Renault last season, have pulled out of that role by mutual consent with the team. Group Lotus have been struggling, and their owners Proton have been cutting back. Lotus F1 Team will still keep the name, however, until 2017. So there will be a Lotus with no connection to either the original team or the car manufacturer for the next few years in F1. In fact, Caterham probably have more connection to the original Team Lotus than Lotus F1 now!
All you need to know is, Lotus are still called Lotus. They have no connection to Lotus but they still have the name. Ow my head!

Meanwhile, news out of South America suggests that Argentina are likely to be hosting an F1 race from 2013 and replacing South Korea, despite the Asian venue arranging a lower hosting fee. This will be confirmed (or not) within the next few weeks. If it does go ahead, this means there will be two new races for 2013: Argentina and New Jersey. The question is, which races will be set aside?

Things are hotting up once again in Bahrain, with the F1 race looking set to be the focal point of protests. While F1 should be careful not to take sides, I think that the situation merits a cancellation. I fear that the protesters would target the media and team personnel, to make sure that their voices are heard. It would be awful if anyone were injured or killed just because Bernie Ecclestone insisted the race go ahead. The protesters might see it as a victory, but it would be a hollow one. The government might be in the wrong, but I doubt they would target anyone connected to F1. I fear the protesters would have no such qualms.

British F3
The new season starts this weekend at Oulton Park. At the time of writing, only free practice has happened so far. Alex Lynn was fastest by almost 0.5s from Felix Serralles, which is a good start from the Formula Renault UK graduates who are both at Fortec. Jack Harvey was Carlin’s fastest, only 0.04s slower than Serralles, and his teammate Harry Tincknell was fourth-fastest.

Formula Renault 3.5 champion Robert Wickens is setting his single seater career aside to join Mercedes’s DTM team this year. There are a lot of drivers taking part in the series, from a wide variety of nations. Most of them are talented, and if you can watch it then it should be good fun! The season starts on April 29th at Hockenheim.

Toyota Racing Series

It seems to be the ‘in thing’ these days with up-and-coming racing drivers to participate in as many series as possible to get as much experience as possible. Whether it’s the JK Racing series in India, a couple of rounds of Formula Two or the Formula Renault NEC, you will usually find a few drivers who are taking part alongside their ‘home’ series.
Formula Renault UK drivers in particular seem to have this down to an art form. It is winter in the northern hemisphere, but in the south there’s racing going on. Josh Hill, Felix Serrales and Jordan King have all made their way to New Zealand for the Toyota Racing Series – five rounds of three races each – and they are not alone. Only a few Kiwi drivers are participating against the largest field of international drivers the series has seen.

So far, two rounds of the series have been played out, and the local drivers have been acquiting themselves admirably, though they haven’t had it all their own way. The first winner was son and grandson of champions Josh Hill, before Hannes van Asseldonk (5th in ATS Formel 3 Cup last season) took the next two.
In the second round of three races, Kiwi Nick Cassidy – who came second to van Asseldonk both times the Dutchman won – showed his abilities by winning the first two races and coming third in the final race. He now leads the championship with 383 points. Second is Damon Leitch, who took the most recent win and also has two seconds and a third. He has 372 points.
Third in the championship is Felix Serralles. Though he only has one podium (second at the second race of round two) he has been very consistent and has 295 points. Josh Hill is fourth with 261 points, and van Asseldonk is fifth with 237 (and equal with Kiwi Jono Lester who came third in the first race). Other drivers who have taken podiums are Russian Dmitry Suranovich (second in the third race of round two), Bruno Bonifacio (third in the second race of round one) and Jordan King (third in the second race of round two). This series, is heavily penalising to drivers who fail to finish, as all classified finishers get points. However, a few good finishes should boost most drivers up towards the top of the standings as the points given to lower finishers are not huge.

JK Racing Asia series champion Lucas Auer, Italian girl driver Michela Cerruti, and FR 3.5’s Nathanael Berthon, are also amongst the drivers taking part. To find out more you can visit the series website or their Twitter account @ToyotaRacingNZ.

Ebrahim heads to America

2011 F2 driver Armaan Ebrahim will not be continuing in the series for 2012. The Indian driver, who picked up sixteen points in the European racing series last year, will be continuing his racing career in the US Indy Lights series for the Fan Force United team.
Interest in the 2012 F2 series is high, with drivers including Alex Fontana (Euro F3 Open champion) and Scott Malvern (British Formula Ford champion) expressing interest in the series. Several of 2011’s top drivers are also set to return.

Elsewhere, Williams are in need of a title sponsor as AT&T abandon their relationship with the team. This may in part be due to politics, with a US company preferring not to be associated with a Venezuelan driver.
Puerto Rican driver Felix Serralles, who was a guest driver for much of the 2011 Formula Renault UK season (picking up two podiums at Silverstone) and finished 12th in the Formula Renault Eurocup, will be contuing his relationship with Fortec next season in British F3 alongside Alex Lynn and British driver Pipo Derani.

As ever, the news is fairly limited during the holidays. Rumours abound over who will take the second driver slots at Williams and HRT, though Jaime Alguersuari seems the Spanish team’s best option. Rubens Barrichello’s chances at Williams have improved, and he may well return for his 20th season in F1. It may also be the first season for a long time in which three drivers over forty years old compete after the Brazilian celebrates his birthday in May.

Clos and Marinescu called up for Rapax

Rapax have announced their GP2 finals lineup. Despite not finishing in the top three in F2, Mihai Marinescu will have his chance in a GP2 car alongside experienced Spaniard Dani Clos. Romanian Mihai finished 5th this season, winning the first race at Monza from pole, and also taking the fastest lap. He also finished third on three occasions: in both races at the Red Bull Ring and in the second race at the Circuit de Catalunya.
Though he hasn’t won any GP2 races this season, Dani Clos finished second on two occasions and finished 9th overall. He won a GP2 race in 2010, and has plenty of experience.

The experienced Formula Renault UK drivers shone in qualifying, with Daniil Kvyat also making good pace. Josh Hill was fastest, with Jordan King second, Oliver Rowland third, Dan Wells fourth, Kvyat fifth and Felix Serrales sixth. For the second race, the drivers’ second-fastest times were taken. Again, Hill took pole, with Rowland second, Wells third, King fourth, Serrales fifth and Kvyat sixth.
The races went well for Rowland, who won both. Josh Hill was demoted to second, and followed by Dany Kvyat and Jordan King. But King and Hill both spun, leaving them further down the results. Instead, Felix Serrales joined Rowland and Kvyat on the podium. The second was marred by a clumsy overtake from Rowland on Josh Hill who was forced out of the race. The situation also caused a safety car for several laps. Dan Wells came second followed by Serrales. Kvyat was fourth, with King seventh behind Josh Webster and Stefan Wackerbauer.

Tomorrow there will be more GP2 news and more Formula Renault UK racing.