Alguersuari joins the BBC

F1
Dumped Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari has a new job. His voice will soon be broadcast throughout the UK on BBC Radio 5 Live as he becomes the station’s expert F1 analyst – a role previously held by Sky’s Anthony Davidson. Alguersuari has a clear desire to return to F1, and this will give him every opportunity to stay around the paddock; he will be karting throughout the year to help keep up his physical training, and no doubt he will also do some DJing.
Whilst it’s not the best place to be in, it could be much worse for the Spaniard – who became the youngest ever to start an F1 race in 2009. Hopefully he will adapt well to radio, and soon be back on track. He was regarded by fans as a great prospect, and at only 21 he has a good chance of a return. Meanwhile, I will look forward to hearing him for the first race of the season.

Marussia also presented good news today, as their car passed the final crash test. It’s been a hard winter, but now they are ready for Melbourne.

GP2
It was a choppy 2011 for new Ocean Racing signing Jon Lancaster. The Brit participated in the F2 round at Magny-Cours, finishing both times in the points, but dropped out of the series. He then moved to Auto GP, participating in four races. He scored in all four of them, including a win and fastest lap at Donnington Park. But it’s hard to find sponsorship, and Lancaster was struggling. However, the Brit now has an opportunity to shine with what will hopefully be a full season at GP2.

The GP2s were testing in Barcelona today, and Fabrizio Crestani surprised everyone by going fastest for new team Lazarus. Carlin’s Max Chilton was fastest in the afternoon – a great improvement on 2011, as the team get used to the series. Second was Julian Leal, with Marcus Ericsson third. James Calado continued to be the best of the GP3 graduates, and he has a good chance of being a rookie champion.

Auto GP
This series gets under way in just a few days at Monza, supporting the WTCC. A few drivers have been confirmed, including Max Snegirev, Pal Varhaug and Daniel de Jong. The strange make-up of the calendar may be somewhat off-putting to drivers, but more should be revealed in the next few days.

IndyCar
2011 GP2 runner-up Luca Filippi has confirmed that he will be participating in the IndyCar championship this year from the Indy 500. He will be driving at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, which have Honda engines, alongside former F1 star Takuma Sato.

Title deciding weekend – F2 and Auto GP

F2
The morning’s qualifying session saw Mihai Marinescu take pole for the first time this season, with Alex Brundle next door on the front row. Behind, Ramon Pineiro and championship leader Mirko Bortolotti shared the second row. The only remaining championship contender, Christopher Zanella, was on the third row ahead of Tobias Hegewald.
When the lights went out, Brundle took the lead from Marinescu, while Pineiro headed Bortolotti and Hegewald got ahead of Zanella. Marinescu got his position back after the first lap, but it remained tight between the pair while the Pineiro-Bortolotti and Hegewald-Zanella battles continued behind them.
About a third of the way into the race, Bortolotti got the better of Pineiro and prepared for his next goal – Brundle, who was slowly falling behind Marinescu. And Zanella behind knew he had to overtake Hegewald, to prevent the Austro-Italian from taking the title today should Bortolotti get Brundle.
Bortolotti soon closed on Brundle, and it was a tight battle between the pair for the remainder of the race. The Brit held on to second for all but the final lap, as he refused to give in to the pressure. But on the final lap, Bortolotti had his way as he got past Brundle and took a close second. Brundle took the final podium spot, while a trailing Pineiro came fourth. Zanella, who had overtaken Hegewald, had tried to fight with Pineiro but ended up fifth. Hegewald came sixth, with Thiemo Storz seventh, Jack Clarke eighth, Mikkel Mac ninth and Luciano Bacheta picking up the point for tenth after struggling all weekend.
If Zanella is to take the title, he will need Bortolotti to DNF all the remaining races, whilst winning them all himself. Not quite as hard as Jenson Button’s task in F1, but about as unlikely!

Auto GP
The penultimate race of a closely-fought championship took place today. Polesitter Adrien Tambay (son of Patrick Tambay) took the win, just ahead of GP2 runner-up Luca Filippi who had fought hard. Tambay is now fourth in the championship, and needs the win at least (he could also do with fastest lap) – plus disaster for his opponents – if he’s to take the title.
More likely to win are the top three. Leading the championship is Kevin Ceccon. Already the under-21 champion, he’s already taken part in the GP2 test he won. Ceccon came fourth in today’s race and will start fifth tomorrow with the reversed grid. Luca Filippi is in second – nine points behind Ceccon – and will start seventh tomorrow. In third is Sergei Afanasiev of Russia, who finished sixth today and starts third tomorrow. He is 11 points behind Ceccon.
Third-placed in today’s race was Fabio Onidi, who also took part in this week’s GP2 test. Eighth was Adam Carroll, who stalled on the grid but came back to take reversed pole tomorrow and also set the fastest lap.

GP2 testing day one

Jerez de la Frontera was filled with the sound of GP2 cars today, as they took to the former Grand Prix track for testing. Local team Racing Engineering did themselves proud, with Fabio Leimer topping the timesheets in both the morning and afternoon sessions.
In the morning, he just beat Luca Filippi’s time by nine thousandths of a second. The Italian was driving for Coloni in the morning before handing over to Auto GP under-21 winner (and possibly champion) Kevin Ceccon in the afternoon.
Third in the morning was Britain’s Sam Bird, driving for Rapax, who just beat times from Johnny Cecotto (who caused a red flag late in the morning session) and Fabio Onidi.
In the afternoon, the second-best driver was Dutchman Yelmer Buurman, for AirAsia. Dani Clos was third for Addax, with GP3 champion Valtteri Bottas enjoying the GP2 car as he set the fourth-fastest afternoon time for ART.

Testing isn’t all about times of course. For the teams, it’s a chance to see how well young drivers can do, but it’s also a chance to experiment with different car set-ups that they couldn’t really try during the season. For the young Carlin Racing GP2 team, that was what Max Chilton and Alvaro Parente were up to.

Tomorrow’s lineup can be found on the GP2 website.

Raikkonen to Williams – opinion

Kimi Raikkonen has had an interesting year. Being removed from the WRC championship for not competing in the two required overseas rounds, and having a rather troubled attempt at NASCAR, perhaps he’s regretting his move away from F1.
Interest in the championship-winning Finn has been shown from Williams, who also had Adrian Sutil looking around. But will Kimi race his whole heart in F1? And is it right to bring a veteran back into the sport when there are so many youngsters looking for a seat?
Williams could take a look at Sauber, whose drivers have both done spectacular jobs in the first half of the season though the car’s poor development – and gearbox problems – have lost them points more recently. Though Kobayashi and Perez have limited time in F1, they can drive well. Could Williams go with two junior drivers?
It is unlikely. After their disasterous 2011, they’ll want an experienced driver to help with the car’s development (though Barrichello should have been able to do that). And having a champion on their side could give another boost. But Adrian Sutil is an experienced driver too. He has spent all his career at the same team – albeit with a name change – and could do with a new team although he says he is happy at Force India. Well I would be too – sixth in the championship! But I am biased and want to see Nico Hulkenberg return to F1, which a Sutil move would do.

I think Barrichello retiring would be good for F1 after 19 seasons of the Brazilian in the series. Once you have been around for such a long time, even if you love driving, it’s time to give youngsters a chance. As it is, it is hard to see anywhere for even GP2 champion Romain Grosjean to fit in. Therefore I do not think it is right for ex-drivers to return, no matter how prematurely they left the sport.
So if you want my thoughts, it would be Sutil to Williams, Hulkenberg up to second driver at Force India. Valtteri Bottas will remain Williams test driver with a hope of coming to F1 in a season or two, and meanwhile make Max Chilton or Luca Filippi the Force India tester.

GP2 race and season summary

In the GP2 race, it was a hectic first couple of laps which saw Charles Pic find himself in a tangle of cars and he took himself out of the race with Romain Grosjean’s rear wing. Grosjean rejoined the race two laps down with a replacement wing. Meanwhile Jules Bianchi found himself in third after cutting the chicane at the start and then being overtaken by Fabio Leimer. He had Sam Bird on his tail, and Luca Filippi overtook to fifth before sticking behind them. In their current positions, unless Bianchi got the fastest lap, Luca would be second in the championship.
They processed around their track, a rather quiet race with not much overtaking. Esteban Gutierrez the former GP3 champion found himself sixth for his final point of the season. Meanwhile, after going straight on at one of the chicanes and finding himself a short way behind third and fourth, Luca set the fastest lap as he was getting himself back with Bianchi and Bird. This sealed his second place finish in the championship, a position previously held by Heikki Kovalainen, Nelson Piquet Jr, Lucas di Grassi, Bruno Senna, Vitaly Petrov and Sergio Perez. Bianchi finished third, where he also finished last season.
Luca Filippi has been in GP2 since 2006. This year he finally beat his previous-best of fourth with Super Nova in 2007. He has competed 107 races in the series with five wins, seven seconds, four thirds. He has had two pole positions and nine fastest laps – five of which he achieved in the last eight races.
What’s next for Luca? Well, it could be F1 although the Italian has expressed interest in IndyCar. Championship winner Romain Grosjean will almost certainly be racing next year, and will definitely be racing in 2013. It’s gonna be good.

Charles Pic ended up fourth in the championship with Giedo van der Garde fifth. Sam Bird came sixth with today’s winner Christian Vietoris seventh. AirAsia’s Davide Valsecchi finishes eighth despite a troubled second half to the season, followed by Dani Clos and Marcus Ericsson. Stefano Coletti’s accident means he finishes eleventh as he had no chance to make up the three points to the Swede.
Teams champion was Addax with 101 points, followed by DAMS with 89 – all supplied by Romain Grosjean. In third, the mighty Racing Engineering with 75 points, and five points behind them are iSport. Lotus ART are only two behind iSport on 68, and in their first season AirAsia finish with 49 points.
Scuderia Coloni finish seventh – Luca Filippi’s amazing end of season not able to help them enough but shooting them well off the bottom of the table where they were for most of the season. They had 46 points. Trident in eighth only managed 22 points thanks to two wins in sprint races. Super Nova managed ninth with 20 points, and Rapax were 10th with 15 but equal to Arden International apart from their sprint race win from Fabio Leimer. Ocean came in 12th with four points – the same as Carlin who finish their first season in last place.

Saturday qualifying and race report

F1
It’s ‘as you were’ in today’s qualifying session dominated by the Red Bulls. Pole for Vettel gave him his tenth of the season, and fourteenth consecutive for Red Bull who haven’t lost a single one since Brazil 2010. Vettel has taken at least ten pole positions in multiple seasons, making him the first driver to achieve this since Ayrton Senna – Senna achieved this in three seasons, so Vettel still has something to aim for!
The two McLarens took second and third, with Alonso in fourth. Vettel’s teammate took fifth with Massa – who had given Alonso a ‘tow’ around the track – in sixth. The two Renaults surrounded a Mercedes sandwich – Petrov starts seventh with Schumacher ahead of Rosberg for the second time this season. Bruno Senna did not attempt a time after squeaking into Q3 by six thousandths of a second.
It was Paul di Resta whom Senna narrowly beat, and next to the Scot on row six is his teammate Adrian Sutil. Both Williams share row seven, with Barrichello ahead of Maldonado. Behind them, Perez in the Sauber is next to Buemi in the Toro Rosso, and Kobayashi in his Sauber is seventeenth. The fall guy was Jaime Alguersuari, who lines up behind his teammate.
No surprises in to the final three rows – Lotus on row ten with Trulli beating Kovalainen for a change. Trulli has always been dominant at Monza qualifying, with only former Renault teammate Alonso ever beating him. Glock narrowly beat out d’Ambrosio, while Ricciardo’s Italian ancestry helped him outqualifying full Italian Tonio Liuzzi.

GP2
Damage and a drive through saw Giedo van der Garde demoted to fifth in the championship, but only three points behind teammate Charles Pic who is in second after coming second in the race. Luca Filippi won and took the fastest lap by a few hundredths from Jules Bianchi, which means he is one point behind Pic. Bianchi’s point is enough for him to be fourth in the championship on equal points with van der Garde and take reversed pole for race two. Reversed pole could be critical, but so could Filippi’s point for fastest lap. Anyone could come second, which would almost guarantee them a place in Formula One in either 2012 or 2013.

GP3
No pole for Valtteri Bottas, but in a hard fought race he took the win from his teammate by 0.3 seconds and claimed the championship. The Finn is the second GP3 champion, and will no doubt be heading to GP2 next season. He is likely to be joined by his afforementioned teammate James Calado, who is guaranteed second. Conor Daly also had a good race, finishing sixth having started seventeenth. His teammates also had good races, finishing 11th for Callum MacLeod and 13th for Leonardo Cordeiro.

GP2 and 3 qualifying

It’s not been a good weekend for Addax driver Giedo van der Garde. Qualifying 20th after he failed to get in a single clean lap, he and his trainer were robbed last night. Not a good way for the man currently second in GP2 to start the weekend.
The close battle for second is hotting up, and the front row is taken up by Charles Pic (VDG’s teammate and fourth in the championship) and Luca Filippi (fifth). Luca has been second for the last four races, and this has resulted in two wins and three fastest laps. Third-placed Jules Bianchi only managed to qualify nineteenth.
It was a better session for Carlin, as both their drivers made it into the top ten. Fabio Leimer starts third which is an improvement after a tough season for the Swiss. After Parente in fourth, champion Grosjean is fifth followed by the Racing Engineering drivers of Clos and Vietoris. Adam Carroll and Sam Bird start eighth and ninth respectively.
Yellow flags prevented anyone from setting a hot lap at the end of the session, but the nature of Monza should make overtaking fairly easy. With less than a second between pole and 20th, the field is as close as GP3. It should be – as ever – a cracking race this afternoon.

GP3 now, and Vittorio Ghirelli returns, albeit at Addax in place of Dean Smith who’s been struggling in the second half of the season. At Jenzer, his old seat has been taken by Christophe Hurni, a 48-year-old who is probably the oldest driver to take to the track at Monza this weekend! It’s possible that one of the Porsche drivers may be older of course.
Fifth-placed Adrian Quaife-Hobbs took pole for Manor Motorsport, while Silverstone winner Nico Muller is second. Adrian’s teammate Rio Haryanto is third, with Mitch Evans fourth. Championship leader Valtteri Bottas starts fifth with teammate James Calado in sixth. Arden’s Simon Trummer is seventh, next to Christensen. Tamas Pal Kiss and Tom Dillman make up row five. Alex Sims starts 11th and Nigel Melker 13th.
Free practice gave Lewis Williamson a ten-place grid penalty for putting himself and Quaife-Hobbs off the road, while Daniel Mancinelli was demoted three places for impeding AQH earlier in the same lap. They will start from almost the back of the grid.

Race weekend summary – GP2 and GP3

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.

GP2
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.

Afternoon practice and GP2 qualifying

F1
In the second practice this afternoon, the track was damp to start with and everyone went out on inters. Eventually it dried enough for slicks and the times tumbled before the rain came down again. Amidst those conditions, it was Mark Webber who went fastest, with Alonso in second and rain master Button third. Webber’s teammate Vettel only went tenth fastest. The Force Indias always get on well at Spa, and came in eight and ninth with Nico Hulkenberg replacing Adrian Sutil for the session. Sergio Perez did even better with the seventh-fastest time, and Rosberg was sixth-fastest. Massa found himself a familiar fifth, and Hamilton fourth.
The Renaults were also struggling, and a steering problem for Petrov left him unable to set a competitive time. His new teammate came in 17th, a few tenths off Barrichello but still well ahead of the backmarkers. But Senna had been doing well earlier in the session as the track dried. Maybe he has some of his uncle’s talent in the rain.
The times aren’t really representative, and we may not find out where everyone lies this weekend until race day, with heavy rain expected tomorrow.

GP2
A wet qualifying session saw Sam Bird become the first casualty. Later, Charles Pic ended up going off the track at turn 17, which caused final sector problems. Fastest was Christian Vietoris, with Luca Filippi second and Pic third. Bianchi took fourth before one of two top-ten surprises – Michael Herck, who has picked up just one point so far this season. Romain Grosjean only managed eighth, while Johnny Ceccotto Jr became the second surprise. He currently starts 9th. I expect that we will see some penalties being issued, including to Vietoris who set his fastest final sector under yellow flags.

F2
In the afternoon practice session at a hot Red Bull Ring, the fastest driver was once again Mirko Bortolotti. Benjamin Lariche did well to finish third, while Sunghak Mun got in a hot lap less than a second off the leader to finish sixth. If he can do that in qualifying he’ll probably turn into a moving traffic island, unfortunately. He was nine hundredths ahead of Alex Brundle in seventh. Eighth was Christopher Zanella. Again Julian Theobald has managed to beat his brother, and seems to be getting on better with the track. Thiemo Storz was a disappointing 18th while Mikkel Mac and Armaan Ebrahim will have been surprised to be slowest.

Summer day 21 – Luca Filippi

Luca Filippi – 7
By far the most experienced driver in GP2, the only season Luca has not driven in was 2005. But he had a slow start to the season, not picking up any points until he came third at Monaco in the feature race, then fourth in the sprint. After that, performance dropped again for the driver at Super Nova.
With Coloni’s Kevin Ceccon deciding to focus on Auto GP – a championship he is now winning ahead of Luca – the Italian moved to the Scuderia for the German and Hungarian rounds. That first race in Germany marked not only a turning point in his season, but also his 100th race and another win. Not only that, but he also took the fastest lap. He followed it up with another podium finish in the sprint. At Hungary, he came sixth with the fastest lap in the feature race, but ended up retiring from the sprint. All the same, the Scuderia Coloni races have been far more profitable than the Super Nova ones, and he has earned 19 points in those four. He also qualified well for them, starting second in both feature races.

Points: 28
Best qualifying: 2
Worst qualifying: 17
Best finish: 1 (Nurburgring feature)
Worst finish: 15 (Valencia sprint)
Retirements: 5