Force India skip free practice – should we be in Bahrain?

F1
Practice One saw limited running due to the sandy conditions. As per usual, Lewis Hamilton came out fastest with Vettel close behind. Force India were busiest, and even put their cars on softs in the first session. Paul di Resta was third fastest, Hulkenberg sixth. As the session closed, it emerged that the Silverstone-based team planned to only run a part-session in FP2, or maybe even miss it, due to safety fears. What is most confusing is that qualifying is at the same time as FP2, and the race tomorrow will be later. So why miss FP2 but not the other sessions?

Force India did indeed miss Q2, while the Caterhams moved closer to the midfield – their drivers split Senna and Maldonado. Nico Rosberg was fastest, though he has concerns about the heat with the tyres. Button was not happy with the McLaren, but the Red Bulls were doing well. Webber was second, outpacing his teammate who was third. Then it was Hamilton, Schumacher, Button. Kobayashi got the Sauber into seventh ahead of Alonso, Grosjean and Perez.

Some Sauber team members were also involved in an incident last night, but escaped without harm.

Protests have been escalating in Bahrain for the last while, and there have been serious clashes with the police. We can only hope that nobody is seriously injured – Bahraini or F1. With more protests planned for the next two days, surely things will only get worse?

GP2
In practice Davide Valsecchi easily went fastest, 0.67 ahead of Max Chilton in second. Johnny Cecotto was third-fastest, 0.87 off Valsecchi.
Qualifying saw the Italian repeat his effort, going fastest on options on his third lap. Esteban Gutierrez will start second, with Felipe Nasr third to continue his spectacular rookie season. Racing Engineering’s Fabio Leimer took fourth, ahead of Johnny Cecotto – the Venezuelan having a good weekend so far. Ericsson took the sixth-fastest time but his 10-place grid penalty from Malaysia sent him down to sixteenth, promoting Stephane Richelmi. James Calado was seventh, Luiz Razia eighth. Chilton and Haryanto shared the fifth row for Carlin.
Brendon Hartley was given a five-place grid penalty for an incident with Giedo van der Garde, knocking him down to last behind Ricardo Teixeira. Slow Serenelli beat Teixeira by nearly two tenths of a second, but both were way off the pace.

NEC
Kevin Kleveros was Manor MP’s unannounced driver in car 31 for the opening round of the Formula Renault NEC. In Q1, Stoffel Vandoorne took pole with Pierre Gasly second and Jordan King third. The session had been held up for a few minutes because of hail!
Q2 was also red flagged due to rain and a huge number of crashes. In the end, Vandoorne took pole again. Reigning Intersteps champion Jake Dennis took second, while an impressive run from Shahaan Engineer saw him go third.

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.