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.

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Ceccon gets Oceans of chance in GP3

F2
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.

GP3
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.

F1
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.

Other
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.

Quaife-Hobbs begins weekend on a high

Auto GP
Today the teams were testing in Valencia, minus Chris van der Drift who will be back in action for Manor MP tomorrow. Championship leader and winner at the first race in Monza, Adrian Quaife-Hobbs, went fastest for Super Nova. Sergey Sirotkin, whose weekend in Italy was marred by a stall, was second-fastest. Adrian’s teammate Victor Guerin – who had an appalling weekend last time out, was third-fastest.
Sten Pentus and Yann Cunha both did well on their first Auto GP outings, with Pentus beating his teammate Pal Varhaug by 0.02s. Yann Cunha was 0.4s faster than his teammate Giancarlo Serenelli.
Matteo Beretta has moved from Virtuosi to Zele, becoming teammate to Giacomo Ricci. Beretta is currently last in the championship (yep, even Giancarlo Serenelli is ahead). Speaking of Serenelli, he might be better to focus his attention on Auto GP as he returns to motorsport, considering his disasterous first weekend of GP2. I suspect, however, that the money flowing from Venezuela will secure his seat for the near future.

Chris van der Drift was not present for today’s tests, but will be back tomorrow for practice and qualifying.

NEC
Fortec Motorsport confirmed today that in light of the FR UK championship’s cancellation for 2012, they will be entering their four drivers into the Formula Renault NEC. Those are Josh Hill, Shahaan Engineer, Jake Dennis and Dan de Zille.
Josh drove for Manor in FR UK last season, and shone in the Finals as well but with Fortec. He also picked up some excellent results in the Toyota Racing Series.
Dan de Zille came sixth in British Formula Ford last season, picking up five podiums, and drove for Fortec in the FR UK Finals.
Jake Dennis won the InterSteps Championship, with eight wins out of 20 races. He also drove for Fortec in the Finals.
Finally Shahaan Engineer is the only Indian driver in the group (the others are British). He, like the others, participated in the Finals with Fortec, and also drove in TRS NZ. His younger brother Cyrus is also a racing driver.

Third F2 season for Kralev

F2
39-year-old Bulgarian motorsport ambassador Plamen Kralev returns to the FIA Formula Two championship for a third season, continuing in his number 8 car. Kralev has scored two points in his F2 career – one in each season – and honestly I cannot think there is much hope of him doing better this season. He is the sixth driver to be announced for F2 so far, and more will come over the next weeks.

GP3
It was Antonio Felix da Costa who, despite not being signed for the coming GP3 season, set the fastest time in today’s test. He set a 1:37.934 around the Circuit de Catalunya, beating Arden’s Matias Laine and Mitch Evans – Laine was the only other driver to dip into the 1:37s.
In the afternoon, Daniel Abt went fastest after a troubled morning session. Maxim Zimin – driving for Jenzer as he did last season – showed considerable improvement by going second-fastest. Tio Ellinas was third-fastest with Tamas Pal Kiss fourth.

I have to say, some of the drivers who had a tough season last year in GP3 – Laine, Zimin, and Pal Kiss despite his win – look set to be much better this year. Let’s hope they get signed!

FR3.5
The premier Formula Renault series got its pre-season testing under way today. Fastest was Fortec’s Robin Frijns, setting a 1:47.006 around Paul Ricard in the afternoon. That’s impressive considering his rookie status – the Dutch driver was Eurocup champion last year. Lotus (formerly Gravity-Charouz) went second with a 1:47.125 from Richie Stanaway, another rookie, while Force India’s Jules Bianchi was third-fastest. Alex Rossi was fourth-fastest for Arden-Caterham, and the second Fortec driver of Carlos Huertas was fifth.

Cassidy joins Fortec in Eurocup

As the second F1 and first GP3 tests get going today, it’s time to talk about the news that’s been released over the last few days.

FR Eurocup
British team Fortect have announced that Nick Cassidy – deserved winner of the Toyota Racing Series – will be driving for them in Eurocup Formula Renault this year. There are a strong team of drivers in this year’s Eurocup, including several FRUK graduates, so it will be a great challenge for Cassidy.

GP3
Testing today saw strong performances from Mitch Evans (MW Arden) and Nico Muller (testing for Trident) in Estoril. Other drivers who did well included Antonio Felix da Costa (testing for Carlin), Aaro Vainio (Lotus GP) and Tio Ellinas (Manor). In total 25 drivers took part in the test, with Mucke Motorsport absent, while Tech 1 and Atech only fielded two drivers each.

F1
After a few laps of the Circuit de Catalunya, Romain Grosjean was uncomfortable with the feel of the E20 chassis that had been upgraded from the one used in Jerez. Lotus believe this to be an issue with the chassis, and have pulled out of this week’s test.
Fastest today was Sebastian Vettel, but Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was close behind. Times, of course, mean nothing, but Nico has been making positive noises about the car. Caterham had a problem with a broken track rod that left the CT-01 stranded on the final corner, but got just under an hour of running at the end of the test with Heikki Kovalainen. Daniel Ricciardo also caused a red flag in the STR7.
The new Mercedes was put through its paces by Michael Schumacher, whilst Charles Pic put in 121 laps as he got used to driving an F1 car. Marussia are still using the MVR02. Lewis Hamilton also put in over 100 laps, coming third-fastest in the McLaren.

Williams have hired former F1 and current WEC driver Alex Wurz as a driver coach for their team. They have a young duo in terms of races, as well as the inexperienced Valtteri Bottas as reserve driver. It is not common for teams to hire driver coaches, but hopefully this will have a positive effect on Maldonado and Senna.

FR 3.5 Birthday: 25/7/2011

July generally is rather quiet for birthdays. But here we are with another one. Cesar Ramos drives for Fortec in Formula Renault 3.5 and he’s 22 today.

The Brazilian racing driver began driving for Minardi in Formula Renault Italy in 2007. He finished 14th, taking one podium in his first year. Then… he came to the winter series. In four races he took four wins, four poles and four fastest laps. 144 points. A perfect score.
Next year, he came sixth in the main series with 1 pole and 2 fastest laps, finishing four times on the podium. Overall he was sixth in the 14 races. He also took part in Eurocup Formula Renault, and with one podium finish came 7th.
In 2009, Cesar moved to Formula Three Euroseries with Manor Motorsport. He didn’t score a single point in the sixteen races, which must have been hard for him. He had a best finish of tenth.
For 2010, he moved back to Italy for Italian F3, driving for BVM-Target Racing. He took part in all 16 races, and took three wins, two poles and seven fastest laps. He had five other podiums. With 161 points he finished 1st, though he wasn’t far ahead of fellow Formula Renault competitor Stephane Richelmi and former GP3 driver Andrea Caldarelli. Though Richelmi had more wins, overall he didn’t have as good a season. At the end of the year, Cesar took part in one of the Formula Two tests in Barcelona. He did very well and set the third-fastest time overall.
This year, he takes part in Formula Renault 3.5 alongside Team Lotus young driver Alexander Rossi – the only American with a super license. Ramos and Rossi are both doing well, and though he has no podiums so far, Ramos has taken pole twice and has a best finish of fourth (which he has done three times). He’s had some bad luck, with four retirements two of which were classified. He and Rossi have placed Fortec second in the constructor’s championship behind the dominating Carlin team.

Happy birthday Cesar. His next Formula Renault race will be when the series comes to Britain, and they race around the Silverstone circuit. So look out for him! Because he’s pretty good.