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.

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.

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.

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.

Trummer and Kral drive for Arden

Team Lotus welcomed on board new sporting director Steve Nielsen today. He will be starting work in September. Steve formerly worked at Arrows, old Team Lotus, Tyrrell, Benetton and (most recently) Renault, and will be replacing Dieter Gass.
In the young drivers’ test, McLaren have revealed that they will be using regular test driver Gary Paffett (who has never driven in a Grand Prix) alongside Oliver Turvey; Mercedes will field Sam Bird; and Ferrari will field their test driver Jules Bianchi.

Arden’s GP2 final lineup was announced early this morning, mixing its GP2 and GP3 teams. Simon Trummer, who found his pace late in the season in GP3, will partner Josef Kral. This means that there will be two Czech drivers in the GP2 final.
There is still no news on who will be driving for Super Nova.

Race weekend summary – GP2 and GP3

It was ART’s weekend as James Calado took pole in the first race. Beaten by championship leader Valtteri Bottas off the start, however, he could only come home second. After his early-season drought, Nigel Melker came third, with Adrian Quaife-Hobbs fourth after they had battled during the race. Fifth went to Carlin’s Conor Daly – his second points finish this year – sixth to Tom Dillmann, seventh to Nico Muller and eight to debutant Richie Stanaway. Alex Sims had been attacking Conor early in the race, but a spin caused his tyres too much wear and he fell backwards rapidly.
Stanaway led the second race from reversed pole for an impressive victory. James Calado took second again – along with the fastest lap – to put the gap between himself and Valtteri at 5 points. Valtteri had an incident during the race which must have shot his tyres as he was 19th by the end. Nico Muller came third for his second podium of 2011, and birthday boy Michael Christensen came fourth. In fifth was Arden’s Simon Trummer – his first points finish of the year and finally beating his teammates (though Lewis Williamson DNSed after mechanical problems, and Mitch Evans also retired). The final point went to Alex Fontana, another debutant.

The feature race began sanely, with only a couple of incidents – Charles Pic spinning into Luiz Razia and taking them both out – and then the rain came down. Giedo van der Garde went off at the top of Eau Rouge and the safety car came out. Then Max Chilton lost drive, Stefano Coletti went into the back of Mikhail Aleshin, and as the safety car had to slow right down behind Chilton’s stricken Carlin it caused problems for a lot of other drivers whose cars also began breaking. When things finally calmed, ten cars had retired and Brendon Hartley was on course for Ocean Racing’s first points. So was Johnny Cecotto Jr! The safety car went in and they raced for a lap. Johnny Jr sadly lost it on the final corner, allowing Fairuz Fauzy to take the final point behind Josef Kral. Later, the two positions were reversed as it emerged Fauzy had overtaken a very slow Kral under the safety car then given the position back, but it was determined that this shouldn’t have happened.
Christian Vietoris won from pole and also took the fastest lap, second was Jules Bianchi, and third Romain Grosjean, who was happy to be on the podium at the moment his championship win was secured. Luca Filippi came fourth, Hartley fifth, Dani Clos sixth and then Fauzy and Kral.
I wasn’t able to watch the sprint, but Johnny Jr had a great start to get up to second, but was overtaken during the race to finish eighth. So unlucky for the Venezuelan. It was Luca Filippi who won, the Italian driving brilliantly for Coloni, and he also took the fastest lap to go seventh in the championship. Jules Bianchi again came second, with Josef Kral on the podium for the second time this season and glad of some more points. Grosjean was fourth, Sam Bird fifth and Dani Clos sixth.

Summer day 14 – Josef Kral

Josef Kral – 14
Driving for Arden in GP2 is not very easy this year. Partnering rookie Jolyon Palmer, Josef has picked up ten points over the season, and in Monaco picked up a podium finish in the sprint race. Sometimes, he has been close to the points, and at others he has been way off. Consistency needs to improve for the Czech youngster.
Qualifying-wise, he started well and picked up three good starts before struggling mid-season. Hungary saw a return to form though, as he began 12th on the grid. Hopefully it was just a small blip, especially as it coincides with some poorer race results.

Points: 10
Best qualifying: 5
Worst qualifying: 22
Best finish: 2 (Monaco sprint)
Worst finish: 23 (Silverstone feature)
Retirements: 2 (1 classified)

GP2 Birthdays: 15/6/2011

Czech driver Josef Kral celebrates his 21st birthday today.

Beginning karting aged 8, he won several national titles before moving to Czech Formula 1400 in 2005. He quickly moved into Formula BMW Germany, finishing second in the world final in Valencia but unfortunately disqualified.
The next year he moved to Formula BMW UK, getting thirteen podiums in 18 races – he won six of those – and finished runner-up to Marcus Ericsson. Once again he finished second but was disqualified from the world final for a technical infringement.
In 2008, he helped his country’s team in the A1 Grand Prix. Unfortunately, he finished 18th and then retired from the two races. But his main duty that season was International Formula Master, where he finished sixth and won one race. In 2009 he took two wins in the series and finished third.
2009 was also Josef’s GP2 debut. He took part in GP2 Asia and finished 11th. In 2010 he took part in the main series for Super Nova Racing and finished with three points in 24th.
He joined Arden International for 2011, and his results have improved. He finished once on the podium in GP2 Asia and got eight points overall. So far in the 2011 main series he’s had two sixth-place finishes and a second-place podium in the Monaco sprint to get nine points. He is seventh in the championship, behind Stefano Coletti but ahead of Dani Clos, Luca Filippi, Marcus Ericsson and others.

A ‘quiet’ GP2 race

A relatively calm GP2 race saw a fire and a few retirements for mechanical reasons. It even saw a couple of overtakes! Coletti stalled off the line, but Charles Pic retained the lead with Josef Kral for Arden getting into second. Grosjean got up into third with Chilton fourth, Valsecchi fifth and Parente sixth. Five drivers were given penalties for jumping the start, including the two Racing Engineering drivers, which left Luca Filippi sixth.
Chilton was struggling, and Filippi jumped Valsecchi when the AirAsia driver went off at the chicane. He then overtook Chilton, who was also overtaken by Valsecchi to retain his fifth position. The fastest lap went to Romain Grosjean, who once again leads the championship on 23 points. He has equal points with Sam Bird. In third is Charles Pic with 22 points, and Valsecchi and van der Garde both have 21 points. It’s so close! But remember, Valsecchi only had 8 points before this weekend, so anything could happen. I’m waiting to see what happens with penalties, and then I’ll put the championship tables up.
It’s nice to see so many contenders. Some drivers, however, have been faced with a lot of bad luck: Jules Bianchi, for example, and also Luiz Razia. But this is going to hopefully be one of the closest GP2 championships ever. It looks even closer than last year’s F1 season!

With F1 running off to Canada, the next GP2 race is Valencia in four weeks time. I will be at home then, and hopefully watching in HD! Tomorrow, Formula Renault 3.5 and Formula One are racing. Perez will not be racing, as he’s being held in hospital overnight. The accident could have been a lot worse had Rosberg’s earlier accident not persuaded Charlie Whiting to remove the sleeping policemen at the chicane.