F2 to use Yokohama tyres from 2012

With the Autosport show beginning in Birmingham today, the usual decline in racing news over the winter has been given a boost. I’m not in Birmingham for the show, as I live too far away most of the time. However, I have gleaned some news from the Autosport website.

Firstly F2, which is changing its tyre supplier as it moves to a faster car. For the past three seasons the supplier has been UK-based Avon. However, the new car will use Japanese Yokohama tyres, purpose-built for the series and the car. It will also feature new carbon composite brakes. The changes made will allow newcomers to be able to work out their set-up more easily, and also should provide better racing.

British GP3 driver Alex Sims, who drove for Status in 2011, is putting his single-seater career on hold to become a McLaren works driver in the GT3 championship. Sims won the sprint race in Turkey last year, but had a run of bad luck in the second half of the season, scoring no points after the German Grand Prix weekend.

2011 Team Lotus reserve driver Karun Chandhok is also taking his focus off single-seaters as he joins the World Endurance Championship with the JRM Racing team. The series includes Le Mans 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours, and Chandhok will be the first Indian driver to take part in both those races.

Finally, the BBC have announced their complete lineup for TV and radio in 2012. Joining the TV team will be Gary Anderson, who will be pitlane reporter and technical analysit. Anderson was formerly the Jordan technical director. Meanwhile Jennie Gow, who was one of the BBC’s Moto GP reporters, joins the radio team in the pitlane.

Practice report – India

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.

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.

Calado gets closer to F1

ART GP have become the first GP2 team to complete their 2012 lineup, let alone announce it! 2011 GP3 runner-up James Caldado will partner 2010 GP3 champion and GP2 race winner Esteban Gutierrez at the team. Worcestershire-born Calado began his career in 2008, coming seventh in British Formula Renault with 1 win, 3 other podiums and 2 pole positions. After winning the winter series for the British and Portuguese FR 2.0 series, he took on the main FR 2.0 series again. He came second that year, and so in 2010 moved to British F3. His team was Carlin, and he won 5 of the 30 races, finishing second overall. This year, he only won a single race but his consistency (six podiums, one pole, two fastest laps) got him to second. So it is no surprise that he has graduated to the step below F1. Could he be the next British F1 driver?

In less exciting news, Karun Chandhok will not be driving for Team Lotus in India. He will be doing FP1, but that is all. While I am disappointed, I can understand the team’s logic. They cannot afford to run an inexperienced driver on a new track when anything could happen in the race. Finishing tenth in the championship is crucial to the team’s future development. If they were scoring points regularly, I think they would have less qualms about putting Karun on track.

Narain’s in, but is Karun?

HRT confirmed their driver lineup for the Indian Grand Prix today. Narain Karthikeyan will be partnered by Daniel Ricciardo, the driver who replaced him from Silverstone. Tonio Liuzzi, therefore, will be on the sidelines.

There is no word yet from Team Lotus on whether their Indian reserve driver, Karun Chandhok, will be replacing Jarno Trulli for the race. If this happens, this will be the first race since the 2005 US Grand Prix that no Italians have taken part. Before that race (which was in exceptional circumstances), we need to go back to the 1996 Japanese Grand Prix (for which Giovanni Lavaggi – the only Italian entrant – failed to qualify) to find a race where no Italians took part.

The Indian Grand Prix will be Felipe Massa’s 150th Grand Prix. If Jarno Trulli takes part, it will be his 250th. Several drivers have anniversaries coming up at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, including Mark Webber (175th) and Bruno Senna (25th).

i1 Super Series

There’s great excitement buzzing in India. Not only are they having their first Grand Prix this year, but the first major Indian racing series will be taking place over the European winter. As part of the incredible campaign to make motor racing as mainstream as cricket in India (a big ask, let me assure you), the I1 Super Series (I1SS) will be kicking off at the New Delhi track the weekend before Christmas. It seems to be similar to Superleague Formula.

Normally, this would be nothing to shout home about, but some of the names associated with the series already make it worth watching. There will be nine teams of two drivers each. One driver will be Indian, the other international. There are only about nine Indian racing drivers out there, and I can only name four of them – Chandhok, Karthikeyan, Sureshwaren and Ebrahim. As for the international drivers, names like Schumacher (Ralf), Hakkinen and Fisichella are being bandied about. And of course Karun’s teammates Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli, and Narain’s teammate Tonio Liuzzi, have been mentioned.

So with such talent, and with Sachin Tendulkar the great Indian cricketer becoming an ambassador for the series (he’s a big F1 fan too), India should really get to see how incredible motor racing is. Apart from the four Indian drivers I mentioned, nobody has been confirmed for the series. But it would be a good way to keep up with the racing during the off-season, and with three F1 tracks in the calendar – India, Abu Dhabi and Malaysia – it’s good practice too.

I’ll be bringing you more information as I find out about it, but for now the website is i1superseries.com

Summer day 1 – Karun Chandhok

It’s the first day of the summer. There are 27 days of summer before the next race (although technically the last few days are on an F1 weekend) and handily there are 27 drivers who have participated in F1 races this season. Each day I’m going to sum up their season so far. I will also be summarising GP2, GP3 and F2 drivers, since the F2 season restarts on the same weekend as F1 (bad timing there from the FIA).

Karun Chandhok – 27
The Indian driver replaced Jarno Trulli at the German Grand Prix for Team Lotus, and it was a tough outing. He had never driven the T128 under race conditions before, and spun several times. However, he completed the race and managed his fastest lap on his final lap. He also qualified within a second of Heikki Kovalainen. The popular driver has also done several straight line tests and Friday practice sessions for the team, though they have not always gone to plan. In Australia he didn’t complete the first lap; in Turkey it rained; in Valencia his car had gearbox trouble. However, at Silverstone he managed a good session and completed over 100km. Finally, Karun and fellow Team Lotus test driver Luiz Razia took last year’s T127 around the streets of Moscow between the British and German Grands Prix.

Qualified: 20
Finished: 20
Difference: 0
Laps completed: 56/60 (93%)
Average race position: 21.65

Karun Chandhok is back!

This morning I woke up to Team Lotus hinting at some exciting news for the weekend. But I had to go to university, so I headed to the bus. Meanwhile, the team made a big announcement. For once I wasn’t checking my Twitter while I was on the bus, so I missed it! But now, of course, you all know – Jarno Trulli won’t be driving this weekend for Team Lotus. Instead, Karun Chandhok will be. It was at this stage last season that Karun stopped driving for HRT, having participated in the first 10 races (Bahrain to Silverstone), so this will be his first German Grand Prix as a Formula One driver.
Not that he hasn’t driven at the track before. Like all the other drivers, his last outing there was in 2009, when he was partnering Alvaro Parente in the GP2 support races. So he knows the track as well as every other driver, if not better. Karun, after all, is a bit of a stats geek so he knows all about the Nurburgring. Good luck to Karun!

Jerez tests 2011

Jerez testing starts today. The circuit is a former Grand Prix location, having hosted several from 1986-1997 as either the Spanish or the European Grand Prix. It features 13 turns, including the Chicane Ayrton Senna – installed and named after the driver in 1994, just after his death.

Last years’ test was rainy, but featured the Virgin VR-01: the first of the new teams’ cars to be released. Although the lap record – set in 1997 – is 1:23.135, Nico Rosberg set a faster lap in 2010 on day one just before the rain fell of 1:20.927. Weirdly, Sebastien Buemi set a lap just a tenth down at 1:21.031.
Day two had Kobayashi’s Sauber fastest with 1:19.950, and again Buemi’s Toro Rosso just a tenth off at 1:20.026. This completely proves what everyone has been saying: it’s too early to tell! (In case you’re reading this in the distant future and Sauber/Toro Rosso are good, they were some of the slower teams in 2010)
Day three had the Toro Rosso fastest, this time with Alguersuari at the wheel, and despite the rain he still set a 1:19.919. Pedro De La Rosa was eight tenths off for Sauber.
Day four was dry again, and finally McLaren set a decent time of 1:19.583. This time, Toro Rosso and Sauber were at the other end of the timing screens, and the slow Virgin of di Grassi faster than Alguersuari’s Toro Rosso.

This year features all the teams except Hispania, who are skipping the test and heading to Monza to film for Pirelli instead. Senna and Nick Heidfeld will be taking over for the Saturday and Sunday. Karun Chandhok will also be on track at some point over the next four days for Lotus, although the team has said that Trulli will take the first two days and Kovalainen the second two. Daniel Ricciardo will be driving for Toro Rosso today before Jaime Alguersuari takes over later.
All the cars are sporting messages to Robert Kubica in Polish. The driver has more surgery today and tomorrow. I’ll put some pics up later. Even as I write this, we’ve already had out first red flag courtesy of Sergio Perez, who had just got down to a 1:23.585. With better weather than last year, we should see some reasonable times. Although it’s too early to tell which car is best just yet…