BARC graduates join F2

F2
With the first round coming up fast, more names have been confirmed on the roster. Others seem to have vanished. Iranian Kourosh Khani is one of those confirmed. Last year Khani drove in the Formula Renault BARC Championship, taking one win and three podiums on his way to fourth. He also finished third in the MRF Formula 1600 Delhi Championship supporting the F1 in |India. He picked up a podium in one of the two races.
One of Khani’s BARC opponents was Dino Zamparelli, a British-Italian driver who won the championship with 4 wins, 6 poles, 8 podiums and 1 fastest lap. Zamparelli was nominated for the McLaren Autosport BDRC Award. In previous years he has also won the Ginetta Jr Championship, where a lot of young British drivers start out before progressing to single seaters. In 2012, Zamparelli will also be in F2, at least for the opening round at Silverstone and hopefully longer.

GP3
Dry for most of the day, Silverstone turned wet in the final hour of testing. This gave plenty of time for the nine teams present at the test to get some work in, and for Mitch Evans to go fastest just ahead of his MW Arden teammate Matias Laine. On the face of it, Arden are most likely to provide the champion for GP3 this season. However, they will need more consistency than in 2011 when two of their three drivers could have taken the championship.
The names at the top of the timing screen today were much as expected: Tio Ellinas, Antonio Felix da Costa and Conor Daly. Will Buller and Alex Brundle were both doing well for Carlin, and Romania’s Robert Visoiu has been shining for Status.
Alice Powell was fastest of the three ladies, though she had caused a red flag in the morning. Most of her day has been spent getting used to the car, and she didn’t put on fresh tyres in the afternoon, so we can surely expect improved times from the British driver tomorrow.
Maxim Zimin will be in the car for Jenzer tomorrow.

F1
Suzie Wolff has become the latest female development driver in F1, taking on the role for Williams. Wolff is married to Toto Wolff, a Director at the team, though he did not take part in the decision to give her the position. Wolff drives in the DTM, and you may know her better as Suzie Stoddart.

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.

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).

Jenzer signs Robert Visoiu

Two driver announcements and one engine announcement today:

F2
Indian racing driver Parthiva Sureshwaren returns to F2 this year following a pointless 2011 campaign. However, he showed improvement towards the end of the season and should do well for 2012. In 2010 – his first F2 season – he picked up a single point after finishing tenth at Monza.

GP3
Romania’s Robert Visoiu, who last season came 4th in the Formula Arbath European Series with 2 wins, and 6th in Italian Formula Arbath with 1 win, has been signed for Jenzer Motorsport after a highly successful post-season GP3 test for the team. He is the first driver signed by the team, and the second Romanian to take part in GP3 after 2010’s Doru Sechelariu.

IndyCar
In the US, Ed Carpenter’s new team has signed for Chevrolet engines in 2012, just as Andretti, KV, Panther and Penske have. I am looking forward to seeing what the engine competition will do to racing in the series, hopefully making it more exciting for casual and serious fans alike.

Big changes at Spa and the Red Bull Ring

Renault have announced today that what Eddie Jordan said about Bruno Senna replacing Nick Heidfeld for the remainder of the season is at least partly-true. The Brazilian driver will be taking Quick Nick’s place at Spa – a track he has experience of in the car from a World Series by Renault demo earlier in the year. Check out his video here.

In the other series who return this weekend, there are changes in GP3 and Formula Two. In GP3, ART have dropped Brazilian Pedro Nunes for German F3 leader Richie Stanaway, Jenzer have replaced Vittorio Ghirelli with Alex Fontana, and Mucke Motorsport have dropped Luciano Bacheta for Daniel Mancinelli.
Italian driver Mancinelli is currently competing in Italian F3, though since winning the first race he has struggled. Last season he came fourth in the series. Kiwi Stanaway has won all but three German F3 races this season and taken a lot of pole positions too. Swiss Alex Fontana currently leads the European F3 Open.

In F2, Jose Luis Abadin is unable to take part at the Red Bull Ring but will return to Monza. Luciano Bacheta will make his F2 debut at the ring as will Austrian driver Rene Binder. Binder will be in the 25 car and Bacheta in the 26 car.
Rene Binder is also taking part in German F3. He is currently 8th in the series having taken a podium in the second race. Luciano Bacheta picked up his only GP3 points this season at Silverstone after some good tyre strategy.

In GP2, the lineup from Hungary will be retained, with Filippi driving for Coloni and Aleshin for Carlin.

Summer day 20 – Nico Muller

Nico Muller – 8
In 2010, Swiss driver Nico finished 3rd in the championship. But with the standards so high this year, he’s struggled to pick up points. His first came with a fifth-place finish in the Barcelona feature race, which was then followed by two non-finishes. Finally, his point scoring returned in the Silverstone feature race. That race has helped a lot of the competitors this year, and when Nico qualified sixth and made the decision to start on wet tyres, his fate was sealed. Storming ahead of the rest of the field, he came home first.
The sprint race didn’t go so well, and he had another run of three races without points. But at the Hungaroring he finally got back into his point-scoring ways with an excellent fourth then fifth. Well done Nico.

Points: 21
Best qualifying: 6
Worst qualifing: 19
Best finish: 1 (Silverstone feature)
Worst finish: 15 (Istanbul sprint, Nurburgring feature)
Retirements: 2

Summer day 7 – Vittorio Ghirelli

Vittorio Ghirelli – 21
Italian Vittorio has had good finishes throughout the series, but never quite made it into the points. He has one eighth and two ninth-place finishes. He has messed up in three of the races, but generally done well. Just a small improvement is needed for him to get points. Qualifying-wise, with the tight field he’s been all over the place.

Best qualifying: 12
Worst qualifing: 28
Best finish: 8 (Barcelona sprint)
Worst finish: 25 (Istanbul feature)
Retirements: 2

Summer day 6 – Simon Trummer and Maxim Zimin

Simon Trummer – 23
Driving for Arden International, Swiss driver Simon showed lots of promise in pre- and mid-season testing. Points could have been on the cards for him. But in comparison to Lewis Williamson and Mitch Evans his teammates, he is struggling. He’s only had one bad qualifying, and usually finishes fairly close to the points.

Best qualifying: 10
Worst qualifing: 27
Best finish: 9 (Nurburgring feature)
Worst finish: 27 (Barcelona feature)
Retirements: 3 (1 classified)

Maxim Zimin – 22
Maxim is a Russian with potential, but until the Hungaroring sprint race his results had been pretty rubbish as he languished at the bottom of the standings. In treacherous conditions, he managed to hold on to the car and finish 8th – much better than his previous-best finish of 15th.
But Maxim has also had some very bad races, particularly in Silverstone where his dangerous driving saw him disqualified from the feature race and excluded from the sprint.

Best qualifying: 13
Worst qualifing: 27
Best finish: 8 (Hunagroring sprint)
Worst finish: 23 (Istanbul feature)
Retirements: 2

GP2 and GP3 races report

Watching the GP2 and GP3 races was hard this afternoon. Not because of the races, which were very exciting, but because of the Portuguese commentators who did their best to make them sound as boring as possible.

GP2
Lots of drivers did well today. Starting in the rain behind the safety car, the drivers changed to slicks as soon as the pit lane opened. But Bianchi delayed and cut his advantage to Christian Vietoris. The ART and Racing Engineering drivers battled in the second-half of the race, but Bianchi took the win with Vietoris taking his first GP2 points in second. Swede Marcus Ericsson finished 3rd with iSport. Meanwhile, Romain Grosjean finished 4th from 13th, Stefano Coletti finished 7th from 21st, and Van der Garde finished 8th from 19th. Dani Clos took 6th to give Racing Engineering a double points finish, and Bird did the same for iSport by finishing 5th.

GP3
The grid was dry, but as they pulled away for the formation lap it began to rain. Many drivers were on slicks and pulled in to change tyres. But a few smart drivers from the back of the grid had the right tyres on. Swiss driver Nico Muller found himself in the lead with pointless Nick Yelloly and Luciano Bacheta behind him. Behind them, the front half of the grid were trying desperately to make up for their mistake.
It was Alex Sims and Adrian Quaiffe-Hobbs who made up the most. Sims overtook Yelloly right at the end, and Quaiffe-Hobbs finished 4th. Bacheta scored his first points, meaning every single Mucke Motorsport driver has scored points in the season and promoting the team to 2nd in the championship. Behind Bacheta came James Calado for ART, Lewis Williamson for Arden, and Dean Smith for Addax. Not only does this mean that all seven British drivers finished in the points – and will take pole to P7 in tomorrow’s sprint race – but every team except for Carlin and Tech 1 scored points. A fantastic and unusual result. Thomas Hylkema managed his first race finish.

Mitch Evans still leads the GP3 championship on 26 points, but he is only one point ahead of Alex Sims and four ahead of the struggling Nigel Melker, who had another DNF today. James Calado is fifth with 19 points, and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs is 6th with 19 points. Watch out Mitch, the British are coming!
In GP2, Romain Grosjean now has 40 points. Giedo van der Garde is second on 34 points, while Sam Bird is now third with 31. 10 points behind his Davide Valsecchi, who had a bad race. Jules Bianchi has closed the gap to his compatriot – he has 20 points and is 7th behind Charles Pic with 24.

GP3 birthdays: 28/04/2011

Russian driver Maxim Zimin gets his 17th birthday today. The success of Vitaly Petrov seems to have inspired his fellow countrymen, and he’ll have to watch out as these young ones move towards F1.

Having started karting aged 7, aged 11 he won the Russian and Moscow cups. By 2008, aged 14, he was in Finland and racing for Maranello Karts, winning the Viking Trophy. Because he was able to get his trophy at the FIA Champions Gala in Monaco, he earned himself recognition, and aged 16 he was racing in Italian Formula ACI-CSAI Abarth and the FR 2.0 Middle European Cup for Jenzer Motorsport. Classified fifth in FR 2.0 MEC and the Abarth championship (though he had been in with a chance of winning right until the end), he earned his way to GP3 for the same team.
In the GP3 tests he’s not been near the top of the timesheets, but the time difference is tiny in these cars. It takes a while to get used to a new car, so perhaps we will see more from Maxim in the future.