Alguersuari joins the BBC

F1
Dumped Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari has a new job. His voice will soon be broadcast throughout the UK on BBC Radio 5 Live as he becomes the station’s expert F1 analyst – a role previously held by Sky’s Anthony Davidson. Alguersuari has a clear desire to return to F1, and this will give him every opportunity to stay around the paddock; he will be karting throughout the year to help keep up his physical training, and no doubt he will also do some DJing.
Whilst it’s not the best place to be in, it could be much worse for the Spaniard – who became the youngest ever to start an F1 race in 2009. Hopefully he will adapt well to radio, and soon be back on track. He was regarded by fans as a great prospect, and at only 21 he has a good chance of a return. Meanwhile, I will look forward to hearing him for the first race of the season.

Marussia also presented good news today, as their car passed the final crash test. It’s been a hard winter, but now they are ready for Melbourne.

GP2
It was a choppy 2011 for new Ocean Racing signing Jon Lancaster. The Brit participated in the F2 round at Magny-Cours, finishing both times in the points, but dropped out of the series. He then moved to Auto GP, participating in four races. He scored in all four of them, including a win and fastest lap at Donnington Park. But it’s hard to find sponsorship, and Lancaster was struggling. However, the Brit now has an opportunity to shine with what will hopefully be a full season at GP2.

The GP2s were testing in Barcelona today, and Fabrizio Crestani surprised everyone by going fastest for new team Lazarus. Carlin’s Max Chilton was fastest in the afternoon – a great improvement on 2011, as the team get used to the series. Second was Julian Leal, with Marcus Ericsson third. James Calado continued to be the best of the GP3 graduates, and he has a good chance of being a rookie champion.

Auto GP
This series gets under way in just a few days at Monza, supporting the WTCC. A few drivers have been confirmed, including Max Snegirev, Pal Varhaug and Daniel de Jong. The strange make-up of the calendar may be somewhat off-putting to drivers, but more should be revealed in the next few days.

IndyCar
2011 GP2 runner-up Luca Filippi has confirmed that he will be participating in the IndyCar championship this year from the Indy 500. He will be driving at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, which have Honda engines, alongside former F1 star Takuma Sato.

Advertisements

Stockinger gets a new Status

GP3
Marlon Stockinger, who drove for Atech CRS in 2011, will continue in the series but with Status GP. Filipino-Swiss driver Stockinger was consistently fast in post-season testing, and hopes to do better than the 0 points he scored last season. This wasn’t completely Marlon’s fault, as the team only scored seven points in the whole season – all of which came at the extraordinary British Grand Prix from Nick Yelloly.

Formula One
Three more cars were launched today – Sauber, Red Bull and Toro Rosso. Sauber’s livery features notably more black than last season, covering the back, and the front wings. All three feature the now-familiar stepped nose, and you have to ask – if Adrian Newey’s team thought the stepped nose was the best answer to the rule changes, have McLaren made a mistake somewhere? Out of the eight cars so-far launched (Williams’ will be revealed tomorrow), only McLaren lacks the ‘step’. All will soon be revealed, with pre-season testing starting tomorrow and the Australian Grand Prix only 40 days away.

Jaime Alguersuari has revealed that he was offered a seat with a leading team before the end of last season – and no wonder, he did a brilliant job! – but turned it down because he had verbal assurance from Red Bull and Toro Rosso that he would be retained for this year. This is not how it played out, of course. While Alguersuari considered HRT, he decided not to go there as he is still a young driver, with hopes of driving for a midfield team. It seems likely that the Spaniard will find a place as a reserve driver at one of the better teams this season.

Finally, it was one year ago today that Robert Kubica was badly injured in a rallying accident. While we all hoped he would be back on the grid for 2012, it was not to be. The Pole hopes to get back in a racing car some time this year, and who knows whether we’ll see him in a Ferrari come 2013?

WRC in trouble

Former Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari has turned down a racing seat with HRT. The Spaniard says he hopes to become a McLaren test driver, which would see him replacing Pedro de la Rosa. This leaves HRT still looking for a second driver, and this could go to GP2’s Dani Clos. Spaniard Dani has been driving in GP2 for three years, all with Racing Engineering. He scored his first points with a podium at Portugal in 2009 (supporting the FIA GT World Championship), when he finished third in the sprint race.
In 2010 he finished fourth in the GP2 championship, taking his first (and so far only) main series win in the process; he won the sprint at Imola in GP2 Asia this year Last season he didn’t do quite as well, finishing 9th overall but coming second in the Spain and Britain sprint races. A good driver, he would be a sensible choice for the Spanish national team.

Meanwhile, Italian physio Raniero Gianotti who has worked with Barrichello, Alguersuari and Vettel, amongst others, has sadly passed away. According to Rubens Barrichello, he suffered a heart attack whilst on his bike. May he rest in peace.

Finally, the WRC is in trouble after series promoter North One Sports had its contract terminated by the FIA after failing to fulfil the terms of its contract. Due to the lack of a purchaser for NOS and its parent company CSI (who went into administration in November) the FIA are now having to work hard in order to ensure the series goes ahead; the first event – the Monte Carlo Rally – is in just 10 days’ time.

2011 review part 8 – Canada

The F1 circuit left Monaco for its sole trip to North America, where the cars would be roaring around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. It was dry at the start of the weekend, but rain was predicted for Sunday.

Friday morning and it seemed Sergio Perez had fully recovered from his Monaco accident as he took part in FP1. Sebastian Vettel decided to take his first hit in the Wall of Champions. It was Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg who went fastest, with Alonso second and Schumacher third. The Mercs had good pace on this track.
About fifteen minutes before the second practise session began, Sauber announced a change in their plans for the weekend. Perez was not feeling well enough to drive, and his place was taken by McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa. The Spaniard is a tall driver, while Perez is much shorter, so he missed most of the second session while the pedals were adjusted. Fastest was Alonso, ahead of a recovered Sebastian Vettel.
On the Saturday, however, things were back to normal with the German leading. Alonso’s Ferrari was again running well and he finished second-fastest. Then it was time for qualifying.

Rain threatened in Montreal’s skies, but did not fall as Jarno Trulli beat his teammate for the first time in 2011. Liuzzi was ahead of Glock, Karthikeyan ahead of D’Ambrosio. Though the Belgian did not meet the 107% rule, he was allowed to race. Dropping out in Q1 was Jaime Alguersuari.
The second session saw Paul di Resta become the fastest of the dropouts, with Maldonado, Kobayashi and Sutil behind. Massa was fastest. De la Rosa managed 17th.
Finally, the shining Ferraris did their best to knock Vettel off pole, but despite being very close they did not manage it. As usual, it would be world champion Sebastian Vettel at the front for the race on Sunday.

Sunday came, and with it the promised rain. It began under the safety car, and as the rain lightened the car came in and the race really began. On the start-finish straight, Hamilton attempted to overtake his teammate through a closing gap and failed. He was out of the race, but Button was able to continue. He pitted to check for damage, but was okay. The safety car came out again as the damage was cleared. Button, who switched to intermediates on the drying track, was penalised for speeding under the safety car, putting him in 18th.
The race continued after the restart, with Vettel showing his skill in getting a good lead on his opponents at the hairpin. Button’s tyres were doing well, so others decided to pit for inters just before the rain worsened again. Vettel led from Kobayashi and Massa as the safety car came out for the third time, and eventually the red flags stopped the race.
For over two hours the cars sat on the grid, waiting for the restart. But it came, to the delight of the Canadian fans. The safety car led them away, and Kovalainen’s car broke down shortly after. The Finn was forced to retire. His teammate would also struggle, and be stuck at the back of the race for the remaining laps. The safety car was kept out a long time, and Virgin pitted Jerome d’Ambrosio for intermediates during this time. However, this was not allowed as they were supposed to be on wet tyres, and they received a drive-through penalty.
Once the racing restarted, Vettel led away from Kobayashi. The Japanese driver was busy holding off Massa. Everyone pitted for inters. Alonso tangled with Button and crashed out, though it was deemed a racing incident. Button had a puncture, and limped back to the pits as the safety car came out. Once again, Vettel pilled away easily on the restart – Button was at the back of the field. As Schumacher shone, Sutil crashed into the wall. Slicks were becoming the order of the day on a drying track. Schumacher was by now up to second, between Vettel and Massa.
Massa spun while trying to lap Karthikeyan, and recovered but lost third to Webber. Button, on a charge, was up to fourth! Heidfeld hit Kobayashi from behind and the safety car came out for the final time. Button fought his way past everyone, and was closing on Vettel by seconds every lap. On the final lap, he was close behind. Could the German hold the rainmaster off?
A mistake from Vettel – the first of the season! Button passed and took the lead for the first time in the race. He crossed the line and won! It was an incredible final lap, and this race will go down in F1 history.
Barrichello took two points for struggling Williams, while Tonio Liuzzi finished 13th for HRT to put them in 11th in the championship.
There were further retirements from Maldonado and di Resta, though the Brit was classified as he had his accident three laps before the end of the race.

F1 now returned to Valencia. Could DRS make a difference in this dull race? Well, I didn’t watch much of it. Nobody retired, Alguersuari went from the back to the points. Vettel won. And then they went to Britain, where F1 silly season would be in full force.

[To be continued]

All change at Toro Rosso

In a surprising move, Toro Rosso have dumped both their 2011 drivers and replaced them with their two up-and-coming juniors Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne. This will put an end to the ‘Ricciardo to Caterham’ rumours, which is good news for Jarno Trulli, but leaves Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi in the cold.
Ricciardo did as good a job as possible under the circumstances, and in the young driver test at Abu Dhabi Jean-Eric Vergne shone; the Frenchman was close runner-up to Robert Wickens in Formula Renault 3.5 this season too, and Ricciardo would have had a chance if he had not been busy with his F1 commitments.
For the dropped drivers, Alguersuari in particular had a good season, and deserves to continue in F1. Red Bull, however, have a reputation for abandoning drivers; Sebastian Vettel is the only survivor. Former Toro Rosso drivers have typically not survived in F1 – out of Speed, Bourdais and Liuzzi, only Liuzzi managed to continue and he does not look like surviving into 2012.

Meanwhile, HRT’s Team Principal Colin Kolles is leaving the team. They struggled in their first two seasons, usually losing out to Virgin in the races but getting just enough good finishes to beat the Russian team. HRT, who will be a Spanish national team next season, could well hire Jaime Alguersuari to partner Pedro de la Rosa.

F2 testing today saw many of the eighteen drivers set very similar times. The twelfth-fastest (Scott Malvern) was less than a second away from Christopher Zanella’s fastest time. Second-fastest driver and F2 rookie Markus Pommer was only 0.014s away from Zanella’s time in his fastest lap of the day, though it was set in a different session. Even fourteenth-fastest Max Snegirev was only 1.066s away from Zanella’s time.
Meanwhile Mirko Bortolotti was testing the 2012 F2 car. The new car should be able to lap around 2 seconds faster than the current car, which should make for much more exciting racing in the future.

Practice report – India

F1
It was certainly an eventful first day for the Indian Grand Prix. There was a red flag in each session, plenty of off-track excursions by the drivers as they learned their way around, and a couple of grid penalties as well.
Session one was the most dramatic. Dusty and hazy, the first drivers on track were the Indians – Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok (replacing Heikki Kovalainen for the session) – and the two Force India drivers. The first flying lap was a 1:52.148 by Chandhok, but before he could really get going the session was red-flagged due to a dog on the circuit. That will have brought back memories for Bruno Senna, who was taken out of a GP2 race in Turkey in 2008 after he hit a dog.
Once the session resumed, things were rather quiet until the Hispanias began their work. Narain Karthikeyan moved into P1. But he was soon overtaken, and half-way through the session it was Jenson Button’s McLaren fastest with the Toro Rossos close behind. The times were tumbling for most, but not for Fernando Alonso whose car broke down as he was attempting his second timed lap. He pulled off on the escape road, so the session was not interrupted. He ended up sitting looking rather glum under the big screen.
The session continued with times falling. But it was still dusty in the pit lane, and as Karun Chandhok attempted to lay down some rubber the car spun rather dramatically and almost went too far into the path of Pastor Maldonado. The Venezuelan managed to avoid the accident, which allowed him to continue.
The Toro Rosso of Jaime Alguersuari crashed in the final minutes of the session, causing waved yellow flags. Then Pastor Maldonado had a firey mechanical failure. As marshalls cleared the cars and track, Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton set their fastest laps – Perez first then Hamilton right at the end to beat Sebastian Vettel. Both have been given 3-place grid penalties for qualifying tomorrow. Hamilton’s lap was the fastest of the session.

Practice two saw Pastor Maldonado crash, though Williams were able to get him out again. The story of the day was Ferrari’s flexible front wing. Especially for Felipe Massa, it was noticably scraping the ground. But it was clearly working for the team, as Massa set the fastest lap of the session. It is the first time he has topped a session since second practice in Silverstone. Fernando Alonso hit traffic as he was attempting to beat that time.
The red flag came mid-way through the session, when Jerome d’Ambrosio spun dramatically and hit the wall. Most drivers were getting used to the track, however, and apart from a spin for Petrov and a few off-track moments for Heikki Kovalainen and Sebastien Buemi, things went smoothly.

F2
A small field for a wet Barcelona. Spaniard Miki Monras was fastest in the first session, and German Tobias Hegewald was fastest in the second. Parthiva Sureshwaren set a top-ten time in FP2, perhaps inspired by the Grand Prix in his home country. Champion Mirko Bortolotti remained consistent, setting the second-fastest time in both sessions, but there is going to be an almighty scrap for second and third in the championship over the next two days.

Friday practice in Korea

In free practice today, it rained. A lot.

Oh, and Nico Rosberg hit Jaime Alguersuari – just a little tap thank goodness. He wasn’t penalised for that, but he was given a fine for being late to the steward’s office. It totalled 10,000 Euros, with half of that suspended. Schumacher was fastest in the completely unrepresentative, full-wet tyres only, FP1. Both McLarens set good times on inters in FP2 with Hamilton very slightly faster. But what they will do in the dry is anyone’s guess. FP3 is going to be worth getting up for.