New test driver for Marussia

Marussia have announced their new test driver for the 2012 season: Maria de Villota. Maria had initially tried for the Renault team, but the Spanish driver has ended up at the Sheffield-based team instead. Since she does not qualify for a super license yet (she needs more test mileage), the team will probably have to find another reserve driver.
Maria participated in the first round of the truncated 2011 Superleague Formula series, finishing 12th in both races to take home Spain’s only points in the series. She also participated in the 2010 season for Athletico Madrid, picking up several top-ten finishes in her races (though she was also excluded from one round for crashing into Sebastien Bourdais).

Pirelli also had news today, with the team gaining a new test car from Renault. The R30 – two-year-old predecessor to the Lotus E20 – will be in their hands for tyre tests throughout 2012. This is the car that was driven by Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov, gaining three podium positions.

Today was the second of three testing days for the series, and 2010 GP3 champion Esteban Gutierrez at Lotus GP set the pace in the morning. He was unbeaten by the afternoon times. Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde was only four thousandths slower, and Carlin’s Max Chilton was four thousandths slower than the Dutchman. Davide Valsecchi was 15 thousandths slower than Gutierrez for DAMS, before a slightly bigger gap to Stefano Coletti. Those top four were the only ones who made it into the 1:28 lap times, and look set to be title contenders this year. Fabrizio Crestani put Lazarus into the top ten as well. Race simulations were the order of the afternoon, which saw some rookie faces in the top ten – notably Jon Lancaster and Ricardo Teixeira who have not typically been high on the timesheets.

Tiago Monteiro’s Ocean Racing Technology have replaced Tech 1 in the bottom tier of F1’s support races. Ocean, who have signed GP3 graduate Nigel Melker and Jon Lancaster in their GP2 squad, have been showing interest in the series. Tech 1 began the 2011 season of GP3 well, with a win in the second sprint from Tamas Pal Kiss, but the loss of Andrea Caldarelli didn’t help and they struggled for the remainder of the races. They have a better record in Formula Renault 3.5, where they will be running Jules Bianchi alongside Kevin Korjus this year.

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de Villota to become 2012 Lotus reserve

Spanish racing driver Maria de Villota looks set to become one of Lotus GP’s (currently Renault) reserve drivers in 2012. According to El Confidencial, all that is now needed are a few signatures and the deal will be done. Maria, 31, aims to become the first female F1 driver in 20 years, since Giovanna Amati attempted to qualify for three races with Brabham in 1992. The last woman to actually start an F1 race was Lella Lombardi in 1976. Driving for Brabham, March and Williams in her career, she scored half a point in the 1975 Spanish GP for March in a race that was cut short due to the tragic accident of Rolf Stommelen that killed five spectators and left the driver badly injured. Lella started her final race in Austria in 1976 with Brabham on August 15th. That race is also notable for being Penske’s only European win thanks to John Watson, and the last race in which no Ferrari took part.
Maria has most recently competed in Superleague Formula for Spain, but the series was unfortunately cut short this season. She only competed in the round at Assen, and had a tough weekend of it. Whether she has the ability to compete against F1 drivers is a serious question that must be asked. We cannot have a woman in F1 just because she’s a woman. She has to be competitive.
Maria clearly knows she has to work hard, however, and according to the article will be spending her Christmas holidays working hard in the gym to achieve the required level of fitness. She has test driven the Renault this year at Paul Ricard, and also driven the team’s showcar at the World Series by Renault event at the Circuit de Catalunya.

In other news, Daniel Abt continues to be superbly quick in the GP3 tests, having headed all three sessions so far with Lotus ART. Matias Laine’s new-found speed is also placing him high in the standings along with Conor Daly and Marlon Stockinger. Today, 2012 GP2 driver James Calado is also in the car doing some work for ART.