New test driver for Marussia

F1
Marussia have announced their new test driver for the 2012 season: Maria de Villota. Maria had initially tried for the Renault team, but the Spanish driver has ended up at the Sheffield-based team instead. Since she does not qualify for a super license yet (she needs more test mileage), the team will probably have to find another reserve driver.
Maria participated in the first round of the truncated 2011 Superleague Formula series, finishing 12th in both races to take home Spain’s only points in the series. She also participated in the 2010 season for Athletico Madrid, picking up several top-ten finishes in her races (though she was also excluded from one round for crashing into Sebastien Bourdais).

Pirelli also had news today, with the team gaining a new test car from Renault. The R30 – two-year-old predecessor to the Lotus E20 – will be in their hands for tyre tests throughout 2012. This is the car that was driven by Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov, gaining three podium positions.

GP2
Today was the second of three testing days for the series, and 2010 GP3 champion Esteban Gutierrez at Lotus GP set the pace in the morning. He was unbeaten by the afternoon times. Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde was only four thousandths slower, and Carlin’s Max Chilton was four thousandths slower than the Dutchman. Davide Valsecchi was 15 thousandths slower than Gutierrez for DAMS, before a slightly bigger gap to Stefano Coletti. Those top four were the only ones who made it into the 1:28 lap times, and look set to be title contenders this year. Fabrizio Crestani put Lazarus into the top ten as well. Race simulations were the order of the afternoon, which saw some rookie faces in the top ten – notably Jon Lancaster and Ricardo Teixeira who have not typically been high on the timesheets.

GP3
Tiago Monteiro’s Ocean Racing Technology have replaced Tech 1 in the bottom tier of F1’s support races. Ocean, who have signed GP3 graduate Nigel Melker and Jon Lancaster in their GP2 squad, have been showing interest in the series. Tech 1 began the 2011 season of GP3 well, with a win in the second sprint from Tamas Pal Kiss, but the loss of Andrea Caldarelli didn’t help and they struggled for the remainder of the races. They have a better record in Formula Renault 3.5, where they will be running Jules Bianchi alongside Kevin Korjus this year.

(Part 1/2)

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.

Caterham chance for van der Garde

Today Caterham announced their reserve driver for 2012. The GP2 race winner had been hinting on his Twitter account that something would be revealed today, so it was no surprise for Giedo van der Garde to be announced in that position. Van der Garde, originally linked with the race seat at HRT, partnered Charles Pic at Addax last season to help the team to victory.

In his rookie GP2 season, the Dutchman was with iSport. He won three races, and finished 7th in the championship. In 2010 he didn’t win any races, but got several second places to again finish 7th in the championship. Last season he still failed to make the top step of the podium but secured extra points with pole and a fastest lap at Barcelona. With a total of five podiums, he finished 5th in the championship. He also finished 3rd in GP2 Asia 2011, with a double podium at Imola.
A very consistent driver, van der Garde will get Friday outings for Caterham. This seems to be the way teams are going with regard to getting drivers F1 experience before potentially taking them on as a race driver the next season. It remains to be seen whether van der Garde will be driving for Caterham in GP2 this year.

Saturday qualifying and race report

F1
It’s ‘as you were’ in today’s qualifying session dominated by the Red Bulls. Pole for Vettel gave him his tenth of the season, and fourteenth consecutive for Red Bull who haven’t lost a single one since Brazil 2010. Vettel has taken at least ten pole positions in multiple seasons, making him the first driver to achieve this since Ayrton Senna – Senna achieved this in three seasons, so Vettel still has something to aim for!
The two McLarens took second and third, with Alonso in fourth. Vettel’s teammate took fifth with Massa – who had given Alonso a ‘tow’ around the track – in sixth. The two Renaults surrounded a Mercedes sandwich – Petrov starts seventh with Schumacher ahead of Rosberg for the second time this season. Bruno Senna did not attempt a time after squeaking into Q3 by six thousandths of a second.
It was Paul di Resta whom Senna narrowly beat, and next to the Scot on row six is his teammate Adrian Sutil. Both Williams share row seven, with Barrichello ahead of Maldonado. Behind them, Perez in the Sauber is next to Buemi in the Toro Rosso, and Kobayashi in his Sauber is seventeenth. The fall guy was Jaime Alguersuari, who lines up behind his teammate.
No surprises in to the final three rows – Lotus on row ten with Trulli beating Kovalainen for a change. Trulli has always been dominant at Monza qualifying, with only former Renault teammate Alonso ever beating him. Glock narrowly beat out d’Ambrosio, while Ricciardo’s Italian ancestry helped him outqualifying full Italian Tonio Liuzzi.

GP2
Damage and a drive through saw Giedo van der Garde demoted to fifth in the championship, but only three points behind teammate Charles Pic who is in second after coming second in the race. Luca Filippi won and took the fastest lap by a few hundredths from Jules Bianchi, which means he is one point behind Pic. Bianchi’s point is enough for him to be fourth in the championship on equal points with van der Garde and take reversed pole for race two. Reversed pole could be critical, but so could Filippi’s point for fastest lap. Anyone could come second, which would almost guarantee them a place in Formula One in either 2012 or 2013.

GP3
No pole for Valtteri Bottas, but in a hard fought race he took the win from his teammate by 0.3 seconds and claimed the championship. The Finn is the second GP3 champion, and will no doubt be heading to GP2 next season. He is likely to be joined by his afforementioned teammate James Calado, who is guaranteed second. Conor Daly also had a good race, finishing sixth having started seventeenth. His teammates also had good races, finishing 11th for Callum MacLeod and 13th for Leonardo Cordeiro.

Summer day 26 – Giedo van der Garde

Giedo van der Garde – 2
There’s one Dutch driver splitting the French, and that’s Giedo van der Garde. He’s had a good season, taking pole position in Barcelona and only having one bad qualifying session at Silverstone (but still finishing in the points). Racewise, he’s yet to win but has had a lot of good points finishes – second three times, third twice, and fourth three times. He’s also managed to retire three times, once in a feature race, but came back to finish ninth in the sprint. But overall he’s been consistent and deserves second at least. He ought to get a place in F1, but that’s looking unlikely for 2012.

Points: 49
Best qualifying: 1
Worst qualifying: 19
Best finish: 2 (Barcelona sprint, Istanbul, Valencia feature, Monaco sprint)
Worst finish: 9 (Monaco sprint)
Retirements: 3

Former Hungaroring winners

There are plenty of former winners from the Hungaroring taking place in the races this weekend. Quite a few drivers made their win debuts at this track as well, helped perhaps by the difficulty in overtaking.

First Formula One, where the track has been part of the world championship since 1986. First won by Nelson Piquet, of the current F1 crop the first winner was Michael Schumacher in 1994. He also got pole position and fastest lap for Benneton. Schumi has also won here in 1998 (pole, fastest lap), 2001 (pole) and 2004 (pole, fastest lap, led every lap), but hasn’t dominated in comparison to his usual record at tracks. Rubens Barrichello also won here in 2002 for Ferrari getting pole and barely beating Schumi to the line, and the next year it was Fernando Alonso in the Renault – unsurprisingly, he also had pole.
More recently, the race hasn’t been won by anyone in their championship year. 2006 was the debut win for Jenson Button, who took the first victory for a British driver since Australia 2003. Incredibly Jenson did not start on pole – he qualified 4th and an engine change meant he started 14th. The next year was Lewis Hamilton’s debut season; the race was hit with controversy when Alonso held up his teammate in the pits. Hamilton qualified second, but started 1st because of a five-place grid penalty given to Alonso. Another win from pole.
2008, and Heikki Kovalainen’s first season with McLaren. He took his debut (and so far only) win at the Hungaroring after Hamilton got a puncture and Massa’s engine blew up. He’d started second on the track. Kovalainen became F1’s 10th winner. The next year, Hamilton won again, incredibly qualifying ahead of both Brawns. He was assisted by problems for Alonso on pole and Vettel who’d started second.
Last year, Mark Webber won the race because of a drive-through penalty for teammate and polesitter Sebastian Vettel, who had fallen too far behind the safety car and thus broken sporting regulations.

In GP2, Sebastien Buemi won the sprint race in 2008. Pastor Maldonado won the feature race last year. Neither are likely to win this weekend, but may score some points for their teams.
Current GP2 drivers Giedo van der Garde and Adam Carroll have also both won here in the series. Carroll won the feature race in 2007, and van der Garde won the sprint in 2009.

Last year’s GP3 feature race winner Nico Muller, who has won a race this year, took the feature GP3 race last year. If things continue the way they have been going, however, we’ll get another two new winners at Hungary.

A few drivers have had victories here in Formula Renault 3.5: Daniel Ricciardo won the first race in 2010, though if he won this year it would be a miracle. GP2 driver Fairuz Fauzy won the first race in 2009, and Giedo van der Garde won the first race the year before his GP2 victory at the track.

Double win for Lotus ART!

In both GP2 and GP3, drivers were given 10-place grid penalties at the sprint race for causing collisions. This worst affected GP2 driver Pal Varhaug, demoted from 13th to 23rd. Jules Bianchi, Luca Filippi and Fabio Leimer were also given penalties in GP2, but this doesn’t really affect their starting position as the were already retired at the back of the grid. For GP3, Pedro Nunes and Maxim Zimin also start from the back of the grid. In a race of high attrition, they had both retired. This affects Nunes more as he goes from 23rd to 30th. Zimin only loses a single position to start 29th.

GP3
So the GP3 race began with Lotus ART’s James Calado on reversed pole with teammate Valtteri Bottas alongside him. Fellow Brits Alexander Sims and Dean Smith took up the second row, with Gabby Chaves alongside Mitch Evans on the third row. There was another all-British fourth row with Lewis Williamson and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs. This gave a brilliant chance of a British driver finishing on the podium or even winning the race.
And so it was. Calado dominated, while Sims managed to get into second. Williams reserve Bottas finished third to get his first GP3 podium. Some skillful overtaking saw Mitch Evans cement his championship lead by finishing fourth, and Gabby Chaves took fifth. A wild scrap at the end saw Daly barely lose out on sixth against Williamson. Dean Smith was running well but recieved a drive-through penalty to finish 11th. There were plenty of crashes, but British-Indian-Italian driver Luciano Bacheta avoided them and did some good overtaking for his best GP3 finish so far in 10th.

GP2
The GP2 reversed grid saw Josef Kral on pole with ART man Esteban Gutierrez second. Luiz Razia and title contender Sam Bird shared row two, then Dani Clos and Davide Valsecchi on row three. Romain Grosjean and Giedo van der Garde took the final row. Grosjean didn’t make it past the first lap, however, getting involved with Gonzalez and unlucky Charles Pic. Jules Bianchi had a great push from the back and finished seventh overtaking Mirocha right at the end of the final lap.
Gutierrez managed to get into the lead right away with Razia second. The Mexican pulled several seconds in the lead to take his first GP2 win and Lotus ART’s second of the day after their GP3 victory! AirAsia got their second podium. Third was Giedo van der Garde, taking his second podium of the weekend but failing to make an impression on Razia. Davide Valsecchi managed some great moves to finish fourth ahead of Dani Clos and Michael Herck.
This moves Caterham Team AirAsia up to 2nd in the championship, though Addax still lead by a decent margin. Romain Grosjean only leads by a single point from Giedo van der Garde, with Davide Valsecchi three points behind the Dutchman.