Auto GP drivers join F2 ranks

F2
Having competed in the first three rounds of Auto GP, and picking up reasonable results in the first two of those rounds, Max Snegirev returns to Formula Two for its remaining rounds. With F2’s round at Paul Ricard clashing with Auto GP at Curitiba (Brazil) on July 20-22, he could still compete in the majority of the Auto GP season, though it would create a rather hectic timetable. Max picked up 14 points in last year’s F2 season, but the smaller field should allow him to pick up more points this year.
He will have competition from another driver in this year’s Auto GP championship, Victor Guerin. Guerin has been Adrian Quaife-Hobbs’ teammate at Super Nova, and has struggled in comparison to the Brit, only taking two fifth-place finishes. Guerin has a good record, however, and will hopefully do well.

With Paul Ricard returning as an F1 track from next year, F2 now has six F1 tracks on its calendar, alongside Brands Hatch and the Algarve. F2 is at the Algarve circuit this coming weekend, with live TV coverage on the F2 website as well as on Motors TV.

GP2
The F1 feeder series is back this weekend as well, with its back-to-back rounds at Sakhir. It will be a standalone event, with practice, qualifying and race one on Friday, followed by race two on Saturday. As usual, every session will be on Sky TV. Hopefully, Jon Lancaster will be back but we shall just have to see.

F1
Testing in Mugello starts soon: May 1st-3rd, to be exact. Originally planning to run Gary Paffett and Oliver Turvey, it seems McLaren may need to give Lewis Hamilton some running time as well after Bahrain (though honestly I think it’s their pit stops, not their drivers, who need testing time). Jerome d’Ambrosio will get a day in the Lotus E20 before Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. Other teams have yet to confirm their lineups.

As mentioned above, Bernie Ecclestone has done a deal to secure Paul Ricard as a Grand Prix venue for the future. It will alternate with another track – presumably Spa – and have its first race next season.

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MW Arden completes Laine-up

It’s a few months until the first GP3 race of 2012, but MW Arden aren’t hanging around. The Australian team have chosen to fill all three of their driver slots, placing Finn Matias Laine alongside Mitch Evans and David Fumanelli. Laine has one year of GP3 experience, though he failed to finish higher than 14th last season. He has also participated in Formula Renault UK and the F3 Euroseries.

In other news, Pirelli have launched their 2012 F1 tyres. The colourings on the dry tyres will be similar to 2011, but the wet tyres have changed with the intermediate going from blue to green while the wet goes from orange to blue. The compounds will also be softer, with the new soft tyre closer to 2011’s super-soft. This is designed create more challenging and interesting racing, though as teams are allowed more flexibility on weight distribution this year they should overcome some wear problems.
Former Virgin (now Marussia) driver Jerome d’Ambrosio has signed with Lotus (formerly Renault, as I have to keep reminding myself) as third driver for 2012. The Belgian will be present at every Grand Prix next season, on hand in case one of them is unable to race for some reason.
It is rumoured that Rubens Barrichello will be testing the DW12 – the new Indycar chassis – in the next few days. It would be good to see the Brazilian continue his motorsport career, and if he does race then he will certainly improve IndyCar’s international viewing figures (especially from Brazil). It will be the first time in a while that an experienced and proven F1 driver has gone to the series, which has one round in Sau Paulo. Indy is not as lucrative as F1, and there is a shadow over it since the death of Dan Wheldon last season. Perhaps his wife might prefer it if he retired! You can take the driver out of racing, but you can’t take racing out of the driver. Even Stirling Moss only hung up his gloves last year. I say, keep going Rubinho!

d’Ambrosio gets Pic-axe

(I stole the title from someone else!)

It was an emotional Brazilian Grand Prix. For Jerome d’Ambrosio, it will most likely be his final F1 race unless he can go somewhere next season. He has been replaced at Marussia by excellent French GP2 driver Charles Pic. D’Ambrosio competed well against his German teammate, helped a bit by the car being more reliable. He finished 14th twice, with Glock’s best being 15th.

The race today was full of tension, but despite attempts by Jessica Michibata to perform the McLaren Rain Dance, none fell. Taking the lead from the start was polesitter Sebastian Vettel, with Mark Webber close behind. Alonso got between the two McLarens, but nobody could keep up with the Red Bulls. Early on, Vettel had gearbox problems, and though he held on, he lost some time to Webber. The Aussie took the lead, making it the first time both Red Bulls have led in the same race for the entirety of 2011.
Behind, Alonso overtook Button with a daring move arund the outside that will definitely go down as one of the best overtakes of the season. Towards the end of the race, the situation reversed itself as DRS and KERS brought Button back to third. The gap to Vettel was too far for the Brit to catch up in the remaining laps, and he settled for the bottom step of the podium.
In fifth came Felipe Massa. He had been having an okay race, not getting into trouble. Stopping later than most other drivers, he even led for a lap or two. Towards the final laps, the out-of-position McLarens came to overtaken the Brazilian. Jenson Button succeeded easily, but Lewis was struggling with gearbox problems. He tried hard to get past, and tension was in the air. But it was the McLaren gearbox that gave way first and Lewis parked up by the side of the track. At the end of the race, Felipe did some spectacular doughnuts before entering the pit lane. He was the final driver to finish on the lead lap.
Coming home sixth was a special treat for Force India’s Adrian Sutil. Despite driving well this season, the German seems likely to be replaced at the team by test driver Nico Hulkenberg. Sutil brilliantly overtook Nico Rosberg mid-race, and was definitely the driver of the race. In eighth was Sutil’s teammate Paul di Resta. The Scottish rookie has had a great first season, racking up 27 points to beat Jaime Alguersuari in the points. Sutil finishes with 42 points, placing him 9th in the championship.
In ninth was Kamui Kobayashi, making sure Sauber beat Toro Rosso, and in tenth was Vitaly Petrov. Kovalainen made sure Team Lotus secured 10th in the championship by finishing 16th and best of the new teams, ahead of Bruno Senna. Retirements came from Tonio Liuzzi, Lewis Hamilton, Pastor Maldonado and Timo Glock.

Maldonado has retired from seven races this season – more than any other driver – yet looks set to secure a drive for next season. By contrast, rookie Paul di Resta has led more laps than any other driver; the Scot has completed seven more than Fernando Alonso despite retiring in Turkey and Canada. He had late retirements in both races, however, whereas Alonso’s came earlier in the Canadian race.

From tomorrow, I will be figuring out season statistics and posting the most interesting ones here and on Twitter. I hope you have a great winter break!

Summer day 6 – Jerome d’Ambrosio

Jerome d’Ambrosio – 22
Belgian newcomer Jerome got the hang of the MVR-02 fairly swiftly, and beat his teammate in qualifying in the third race of the season – China. Since then, however, he’s strugled and has often qualified behind Hispanias as well as his teammate. In Canada, he was the only driver to fall outside the 107% rule, though this was due to problems with the car in practice. In Hungary, however, he also qualified 24th.
Race-wise, Jerome has had two 14th-place finishes. In Australia the technical difficulties and disqualifications got him his first good result, and in Canada the rain helped him to finish behind Narain Karthikeyan – who was then demoted due to cutting the chicane. Monaco was his other best result, and he finished 15th behind Kovalainen. However, these have all been at races with particularly high attrition. If Kovalainen had another 14th-place finish, he would overtake the Belgian. Jerome has not typically been brilliant. His recent finishes have usually been only ahead of struggling drivers – Chandhok and Ricciardo in Germany, and Liuzzi with a broken front wing in Hungary. And he has definitely not been able to meet the pace of his teammate. The rookie will need to improve his performance if he’s to stay in F1 next year.
The good news for Jerome, however, is that his car is reliable. Virgin have have one DNS, two retirements and one non-classified finish. He’s only had one of those retirements. This reliability could see him get some more good results in the remainder of the season. He is also the fifth-best driver in terms of race laps completed, or fourth-best if De La Rosa is excluded.

Worst qualifying: 24
Best qualifying: 11
Worst finish: 22 (Valencia)
Best finish: 14 (Australia, Canada)
Average difference: 4.36
Laps completed: 642/681 (96%)
Average race position: 19.99 (Best: 18.0 Australia; Worst: 22.2 Valencia)

Wall of Wannabes?

Not only did Sebastian Vettel make friends with the Wall of Champions this weekend, but Sergio Perez is not as well as he thought. He has been replaced by 2010 Sauber driver and current McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa for the remainder of the weekend, as Sauber test driver Esteban Gutierrez is in Mexico this weekend. Perhaps a bit stupid of Sauber not to bring their test driver with their first choice driver still recovering from a bad accident. All the same, Canada might not be the best place to make your debut though Timo Glock did make his debut at the track for Jordan in 2004.
More bad luck for Sauber came in the second practice session, when Kamui Kobayashi shoved his Sauber into a different – so-far unnamed – wall. The session was red flagged. It resumed but was red flagged again minutes later when Jerome d’Ambrosio put his Virgin in the same wall. Perhaps it needs a name too. The Wall of Wannabes ‘cos Kobayashi and d’Ambrosio aren’t champions just yet. Sauber had spent the first half of the session getting the car ready for De La Rosa, and he went out in McLaren overalls in the Sauber (his helmet, however, had Sauber sponsor stickers on) when the session resumed after Kobayashi’s accident.
The Sauber has been looking good this season. I wonder how well the Spanish driver can do in it? Better than Mercedes’ drivers, it seems. Schumacher and Rosberg were both slower than the Team Lotus cars in FP2. This is strange because they were some of the fastest cars in FP1. Only d’Ambrosio in the Wall of Wannabes was outside the 107% time, and the Hispanias were fighting with the Virgins for pace.
Fastest in FP1 was Rosberg, then Alonso and Schumacher. Fastest in FP2 was Alonso, then Vettel and Massa. Is this Ferrari’s weekend at last? Despite that, it would be funny to see three drivers in McLaren overalls on the podium (though I’m not sure the Sauber has that much pace). De La Rosa being McLaren’s tester, he doesn’t have Sauber overalls.

Tip: don’t speed under waved yellows

GP3 qualifying has begun badly for Dom Storey and Michael Christensen, and they aren’t even on the track yet! Dom Storey shares a similar fate to Jules Bianchi, having been given a 10-place grid penalty for speeding under waved yellows. Michael Christiensen receives two penalties for speeding in the pit lane, and starts from the back of the grid.

Jerome d’Ambrosio has joined Twitter. His username is @thereal_JDA, but despite this he has the same profile picture as @fakeDAmbrosio from fake f1. You should probably check out the fake f1 guys as well. @FakeFernando, @FakeVivian, @FakediRestaF1 and @FakkiKovalainen are probably a good place to start, or if you want to see everyone you can follow @fakeVivian/fakef1.
The FIA have announced that there will be two DRS zones in Canada and Valencia, following the use of single zones at every track so far. It appears that the technology to do so has only become available just before the last Grand Prix. There will only be a single detection zone, but two opportunities to overtake. It will be interesting to see how this works. If you overtake on the first zone, will you still be able to use your DRS on the second?

GP2 Qualifying Quotes Turkey 11

Romain Grosjean takes his third pole in succession, having taken both in GP2 Asia. Here’s some quotes from some GP2 drivers’ and teams’ Twitter accounts on qualifying:

Happy to start again on pole tomorrow. Great job!
@RGrosjean (Romain Grosjean, DAMS, P1)

Good job today by Carlin, was p.6 in wet practice and p.10 in qualy but was blocked on a few laps! Bring on tomorrow!
@F1MAX (Max Chilton, Carlin, P10)

Really bad qualy, p12 the car is not there. And I was not really lucky with Red flags.. Tomorrow new day and let’s aim for top 5
@GvanderGarde (Giedo van der Garde, DAMS, P11)

difficult quall with red flags and so on. my free prac i am not happy with my driving. was driving like my grandmother! not really but close
@varhaug (Pal Varhaug, DAMS, P21)

A difficult qualifying, I could only pull one fast lap as I found many yellow and red flags, and traffic on the track. The good news is that the car felt very competitive, just had very bad luck … Tomorrow will be working hard towards the car going well
@RSpeedyGonzalez (Rodolfo Gonzalez, Trident, P26)

Great result for Bird who will be on front row tomorrow with Ericsson P18. Well done team!!! 🙂
@iSportOfficial (iSport, P2 & P17)

Van der Garde complains of understeer on new car. A classification with 3 red flags keeps the mood for tomorrow’s race. Pic spoiled his best lap in the final sector. Although he was able to improve on the final lap. Expected to improve tomorrow
@addaxteam (Addax, P7 & P11)

‎Mikhail Aleshin so unlucky today! Wishing him a speedy recovery. Great job by Max Chilton who will carry the Carlin baton alone from P10 on the grid tomorrow
@CarlinRacing (Carlin, P10 & injured)

In other news, d’Ambrosio has been given the first F1 grid-place penalty of the year. When Maldonado crashed out at the end of FP2, he was judged to have not responded to the yellow flags, and thus will be demoted five places for the race on Sunday.