Silverstone is on for FR 3.5!

FR 3.5
For a long time, there have been questions about the presence of Silverstone in the World Series by Renault calendar this year. A round had been declared for 25th-26th August, but with no location given. Was the track to be left off the calendar? It seemed even more likely with the WEC’s 6 Hours of Silverstone set for that weekend.
However, today it was revealed that Formula Renault 3.5 will be supporting the WEC event that weekend, which is great news for British fans who can go and see Sam Bird, Nick Yelloly and other great drivers. It remains to be seen whether the series will be able to offer free tickets as they have done in the past, but I hope so!

Eurocup
Formula Renault Eurocup, which will not be present at Silverstone, is testing for two days at Paul Ricard. There’s a huge number of drivers who are going to be there, and you can follow the progress on the WSR Twitter account @WSR_Live.

F2
According to F2 commentator Jack Nicholls, drivers are set to be announced over the next few weeks. He said, “Some interesting drivers are set to be announced for #F2 in the coming weeks. It’s going to be a very competitive season.” (@Jack_Nicholls) The first test is coming up at Silverstone on March 26th.

GP2
The teams get back to work tomorrow with three days at the Circuit de Catalunya. Many of the drivers were already out at the track, either with F1 teams or just to watch testing before they have their own turn. Giancarlo Serenelli (winner of the (South American) Latam Challenge Series and third in the SEAT Leon Super Cup Mexico) will be with Lazarus, Jon Lancaster – who had a brief spell in F2 last year – will be with Ocean, Sergio Canamasas and former Caterham test driver Ricardo Teixeira will be with Rapax.

F1
Marussia launched their smooth-nosed MR01 today at Silverstone. The car is not yet ready to race, still with crash tests to pass despite the first race being 13 days away! HRT also launched at Barcelona, with Narain Karthikeyan driving the few laps allowed. Pedro de la Rosa was also there, of course, as was former HRT driver Tonio Liuzzi. The HRT’s livery is fantastic – white, gold and maroon. In the end, livery doesn’t get you points, but the fact that their car is ready before FP1 is a real step up for the Spanish outfit despite a troubled winter.

Rain falls in Barcelona

F1
Testing has continued at Barcelona, with one more day left to run. Today (Saturday) saw the first rain. After silly rumours about Ferrari sacking Massa flooded Twitter yesterday, the team cancelled all media interviews with the drivers. This may also be connected to the poor performance of the F2012 so far – how bad a season will it be for the Scuderia? Grosjean went fastest for the second day of the test, while Perez was fastest in the dry today.
HRT will not be present tomorrow, but hope to launch their car at a filming day on Monday. While poor, this is still progress for the Spanish team compared to previous years.

GP3
Jenzer have announced Formula Arbath Italia champion Patric Niederhauser as the second of their drivers for 2012. He also came second in the European season.

FR 3.5
Lotus continue their ‘invasion’ into every single seater category with Gravity-Charouz. The Lotus team will have a Czech nationality, and run with Danish driver Marco Sorensen (2nd last year in German F3) and Richie Stanaway (winner of German F3, as well as the Belgian GP3 sprint race).

Nasr gets GP2 chance with DAMS

GP2
DAMS have confirmed the second half of their team today, with British F3 champion Felipe Nasr set to partner Davide Valsecchi. After Romain Grosjean’s championship last season, there are high expectations on Nasr and Valsecchi.
Brazilian Nazr, who will be 20 in August, won seven races and took 17 podiums in the British F3 championship despite only taking four pole positions, and finished far ahead of his teammate Kevin Magnussen who was second. It seems likely that he will be the next Brazilian to reach Formula One, and certainly the media has shown interest in this young man. Nasr also came second in last year’s Macau GP, and was on the podium in the Daytona 24 hours.

F1
Videos taken at Silverstone today show the Mercedes W03 on its shakedown before it is launched. Stills suggest the silver car will share the stepped nose that all but McLaren have gone for in 2012.

Mike Gascoyne has been promoted to Caterham CTO, which means he will oversee all of the Caterham programs – not just F1. He will naturally have a reduced role in the F1 team, but has tweeted that he will be present at races as he wants to be there for the first points and the first podium.

Williams have announced that their test driver Valtteri Bottas will be taking a turn in the FW34 at Barcelona. He will be driving on the second day of the test.

Finally, after failing some crash tests, HRT will not be present at the first Barcelona test. Marussia will be there, but with their 2011 car.

Cassidy wins Toyota Racing Series

The final round of the Toyota Racing Series saw Mitch Evans’s dominance get rather irritating for some of the international drivers. The GP3 driver took first and second in the first two races, barely losing to Felix Serrales who took his first win of 2012. In the final race, only Evans’ retirement allowed series champion Nick Cassidy to victory.
Hannes van Asseldonk, who came second in the championship, was doing well, with two second-place finishes; the Dutch driver was due for a podium before he retired in race 2. The third place podiums went to Cassidy, Josh Hill and Lucas Auer – who won the rookie cup.
Third in the championship was Damon Leitch, whose good start to the series tailed off towards the end. Josh Hill came fourth, only four points behind the Kiwi. Jordan King, who was struggling this weekend, came fifth. Lucas Auer was overall sixth as well as rookie champion, while Nathanael Berthon came seventh.

HRT announced today that they have signed Spanish racing driver Dani Clos as third driver for 2012. Clos, who drove for Racing Engineering from 2009-2011 (no confirmed team for 2012 yet) has won one GP2 race – the Turkish sprint in 2010 – but taken many podiums as well as pole at Monaco in 2010. He finished 4th in the series that year, and last year came 9th. Going on past form, Dani Clos could be promoted to an HRT race seat mid-season, but for now the young Spaniard will be watching from the sidelines – except on a number of Fridays when he will be in the driving seat.

Also this weekend, BBC pitlane reporter for 2012 Jennie Gow got married. Congratulations to her!
It’s BAFTA weekend, and Senna was nominated in several categories. The movie won awards for Best Documentary and Best Editing, both of which it thouroughly deserves.

GP3 has live timing!

It’s been ‘one of those days’ for Jules Bianchi. Having announced his 2012 drive with Tech 1 in Formula Renault 3.5 (alongside Estonian Kevin Korjus), he set off in the Force India for morning testing in Jerez. This lasted all of three laps, where he caused the first crash of testing. Though the car was not severely damaged, the team lacked the necessary parts for repair. This meant that neither Jules not Nico Hulkenberg (taking over in the afternoon) were able to do any more testing. Nico should get a full day tomorrow.
Generally teams have expressed pleasure with their new cars, though Ferrari have been making unhappy noises. It is probable that these teams are hiding the true facts – do Ferrari want others to underestimate them? Do other teams want to be overestimated? We shall see…
HRT have had a setback in their 2012 car as it failed an FIA crash test. They will need to make changes to the car quickly, as there are only around two weeks before the next test in Barcelona.

Alex Lynn will now be contesting the Euro F3 Open winter series with Team West-Tec, a British outfit. The FRUK champion will be in Portugal at the Algarve circuit the weekend after this one, and at Paul Ricard on the weekend of March 3rd. The Brit will go on to compete with Fortec in the British F3 series this year.

The new GP3 website has launched, featuring for the first time what we all wanted to see – live timing! Now it is possible to follow along with the races without TV coverage.

Don’t forget that Rally Sweden has started this weekend, with Mini’s Dani Sordo quickest on the opening superspecial stage. The Spaniard, who chose to run 11th on the road after the drivers picked their starting positions for the first time, is likely to lose ground over the next few days. However it is a good start for the team.

Raikkonen goes fastest on first day back

In the world of motor racing, today has been quiet… well, as quiet as it gets on the first day of an F1 test! After Williams launched their FW34, featuring the all-familiar stepped nose, it was time to take to the track. First up, and continuing a tradition from last season, Caterham were first on the track with Heikki Kovalainen.
But the first flyer was Kimi Raikkonen, quickly getting up to speed in the E20. He went fastest overall, though not much more than Paul di Resta in the Force India. We cannot get the whole picture from testing, of course. As I am sure you have already heard, Williams were fastest at Jerez last year, but had their worst season of all time in 2011. Many teams will be sandbagging, and others will face unexpected problems – the Caterham, for example, was prevented from running by a broken starter shaft. Red Bull were also late in starting, after parts were held up by heavy fog.

First Impressions
Kovalainen’s shortened time in the CT01 today (he’ll be back tomorrow, with van der Garde in on Thursday followed by Trulli on Friday) was enough for him to get a reasonable impression of the new car. The Finn said “The steering feels slightly more precise. I have only done three laps so I can’t really tell more but, so far, positive feeling.” This will be good news for Trulli, so long as the rumours of his replacement do not come true.
Franz Tost, the Toro Rosso boss, believes Caterham have what it takes to be a midfield team in 2012, stating them as one of their main competitors in 2012. They also believe they will be up against Sauber and Force India. It is interesting to note that Williams were not mentioned here.
The smooth-nosed McLaren has pleased Button, who said that there weren’t so many downforce issues as expected after the removal of blown diffusers. The team hope to have a much better testing session than last year, where difficulties left them far behind where they had hoped to be by the start of the season.
Schumacher – who drove half a day in the 2011 Mercedes – expressed his pleasure with the new rear tyres from Pirelli, saying that they were more consistent than 2011’s.

The only team not present at the test was Marussia, who will probably be at Barcelona. HRT hope to pass the final crash tests soon, which means their car should also be ready for the next test. The most laps today were completed by Kamui Kobayashi and Paul di Resta, while Kovalainen and Maldonado completed the least. I am not sure why Williams did such little running. Unsurprisingly, Pedro de la Rosa was slowest in the 2011 HRT.

New driver announcements

It has been a busy day in the world of motor racing, with driver announcements across all levels of the sport, in single-seaters and tin-tops. Here’s a summary of the single-seater news:

Formula One
First up, HRT revealed their second driver to be none other than Narain Karthikeyan, who drove a part-season for them last year. He and Pedro de la Rosa will make up the oldest team on the grid, and will have a combined age of 76 years at the Melbourne GP. Despite this, they have less F1 experience than several other teams, having only 113 F1 starts between them.
Ferrari and Force India both launched their cars today – the F2012 and the VJM05. Ferrari’s rather ugly, square design and Force India’s smoother design both have the platypus nose that was first seen on the Caterham CT-01.

GP2
Josef Kral is the latest driver to be confirmed for the series. The Czech, who drove for Arden last season and picked up podiums in Monaco and Belgium, will be driving alongside Johnny Cecotto at Addax.

GP3
Marussia Manor Racing have confirmed their first driver as Dmitry Suranovich, who is currently competing in the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand. Born in Belarus, Suranovich is a Russian citizen and drives under a Russian license. The 16-year-old last year competed in Formula Arbath Europe and Italy. He did not have brilliant results. However, his rookie season in TRSNZ is going well and he is 9th in the championship, having picked up a podium at Timaru.
Carlin have also been confirming drivers in various series, including one in GP3. This is Alex Brundle, son of Martin, who will also be competing in European rounds of the WEC. Brundle had mixed luck in F2 last year, taking one pole and three podiums and finishing 7th in the championship.

British F3
A number of drivers have now been confirmed for the 2012 BF3 season, very few of whom are British. Carlin have five drivers signed so far – Pietro Fantin (BRA), Jazeman Jaafar (MAL), Jack Harvey (GBR), Carlos Sainz, Jr (ESP) and Harry Tincknell (GBR). At Fortec, Pipo Derani (BRA) joins FR UK champion Alex Lynn and another graduate of the series Felix Serralles. Only one driver – Spike Goddard (AUS) has been confirmed for T-Sport so far.

IndyCar
Takuma Sato, who drove for KV Racing for the last two seasons, was today announced as Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (wow, long name or what?) lead driver. The Japanese driver has taken two poles and a best finish of fourth in his career so far. This will be Rahak’s first full IndyCar season since 2008, and they also hope to run a second car at some point.