BARC graduates join F2

F2
With the first round coming up fast, more names have been confirmed on the roster. Others seem to have vanished. Iranian Kourosh Khani is one of those confirmed. Last year Khani drove in the Formula Renault BARC Championship, taking one win and three podiums on his way to fourth. He also finished third in the MRF Formula 1600 Delhi Championship supporting the F1 in |India. He picked up a podium in one of the two races.
One of Khani’s BARC opponents was Dino Zamparelli, a British-Italian driver who won the championship with 4 wins, 6 poles, 8 podiums and 1 fastest lap. Zamparelli was nominated for the McLaren Autosport BDRC Award. In previous years he has also won the Ginetta Jr Championship, where a lot of young British drivers start out before progressing to single seaters. In 2012, Zamparelli will also be in F2, at least for the opening round at Silverstone and hopefully longer.

GP3
Dry for most of the day, Silverstone turned wet in the final hour of testing. This gave plenty of time for the nine teams present at the test to get some work in, and for Mitch Evans to go fastest just ahead of his MW Arden teammate Matias Laine. On the face of it, Arden are most likely to provide the champion for GP3 this season. However, they will need more consistency than in 2011 when two of their three drivers could have taken the championship.
The names at the top of the timing screen today were much as expected: Tio Ellinas, Antonio Felix da Costa and Conor Daly. Will Buller and Alex Brundle were both doing well for Carlin, and Romania’s Robert Visoiu has been shining for Status.
Alice Powell was fastest of the three ladies, though she had caused a red flag in the morning. Most of her day has been spent getting used to the car, and she didn’t put on fresh tyres in the afternoon, so we can surely expect improved times from the British driver tomorrow.
Maxim Zimin will be in the car for Jenzer tomorrow.

F1
Suzie Wolff has become the latest female development driver in F1, taking on the role for Williams. Wolff is married to Toto Wolff, a Director at the team, though he did not take part in the decision to give her the position. Wolff drives in the DTM, and you may know her better as Suzie Stoddart.

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Third F2 season for Kralev

F2
39-year-old Bulgarian motorsport ambassador Plamen Kralev returns to the FIA Formula Two championship for a third season, continuing in his number 8 car. Kralev has scored two points in his F2 career – one in each season – and honestly I cannot think there is much hope of him doing better this season. He is the sixth driver to be announced for F2 so far, and more will come over the next weeks.

GP3
It was Antonio Felix da Costa who, despite not being signed for the coming GP3 season, set the fastest time in today’s test. He set a 1:37.934 around the Circuit de Catalunya, beating Arden’s Matias Laine and Mitch Evans – Laine was the only other driver to dip into the 1:37s.
In the afternoon, Daniel Abt went fastest after a troubled morning session. Maxim Zimin – driving for Jenzer as he did last season – showed considerable improvement by going second-fastest. Tio Ellinas was third-fastest with Tamas Pal Kiss fourth.

I have to say, some of the drivers who had a tough season last year in GP3 – Laine, Zimin, and Pal Kiss despite his win – look set to be much better this year. Let’s hope they get signed!

FR3.5
The premier Formula Renault series got its pre-season testing under way today. Fastest was Fortec’s Robin Frijns, setting a 1:47.006 around Paul Ricard in the afternoon. That’s impressive considering his rookie status – the Dutch driver was Eurocup champion last year. Lotus (formerly Gravity-Charouz) went second with a 1:47.125 from Richie Stanaway, another rookie, while Force India’s Jules Bianchi was third-fastest. Alex Rossi was fourth-fastest for Arden-Caterham, and the second Fortec driver of Carlos Huertas was fifth.

Spavone signs for Trident

GP3
Having picked up 12 points at the opening weekend of the 2012 Auto GP season with Euronova, Antonio Spavone headed to Barcelona today to test – and sign – for Trident Racing. He will be teammate to Vicky Piria. Spavone, who drove in both Formula Arbath series last year, and is seventeen years old.
The young Italian was not the star of today’s tests, however. That was Kiwi Mitch Evans, who shone last season and seems set to do so again. Also on form was Formula Renault UK graduate Tio Ellinas, who looks set to be the rookie of the season – and a championship challenger. German Daniel Abt was also on form for Lotus GP. Matias Laine has been having a good start to the season and set the second-fastest time in the afternoon.

Tomorrow, Aaro Vainio returns to Lotus GP while Yann Zimmer replaces Tom Blomqvist.

It’s sad that Mucke Motorsport have not been present at the tests. We can only hope that they or a replacement team are found soon.

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!

GP3 tests in Valencia

The GP3 teams are testing in Valencia this week. Along with several 2011 drivers, there are a few other names worth pointing out.

2011 drivers:
Conor Daly (USA, Carlin)
Matias Laine (FIN, Manor)
Tamas Pal Kiss (HUN, Atech CRS) drove for Tech 1
Marlon Stockinger (CZE, ART) drove for Atech CRS this season
Maxim Zimin (RUS, Arden) drove for Jenzer

Notable new drivers:
Daniel Abt (GER, ART) 2010 F3 Germany runner-up
Tom Blomqvist (GBR, Status), 2010 British Formula Renault champion
Will Buller (GBR, Carlin) 4th in British F3, 6th in Macau GP
Michela Cerruti (ITA, Addax) Superstars International Series race winner; a rare female racer
Tio Ellinas (GBR, Manor) third in Formula Renault UK
Fabio Gamberini (BRA, Arden) 3rd in Euro F3 Open
Michael Heche (SUI, Jenzer) third in Formula Arbath Europe
Patric Niederhauser (SUI, Jenzer) Formula Arbath Italy champion, Formula Arbath Europe runner-up
Yuhi Sekiguchi (JPN, Mucke) Japanese F3 champion
Will Stevens (GBR, Arden) 2 podiums in four Formula Renault UK races
Robert Visoiu (ROM, Jenzer) notable for his age – 15 years
Pascal Wehrlein (GER, Mucke) ADAC Formel Masters champion

Summer day 3 – Pedro Nunes and Matias Laine

Pedro Nunes – 29
Brazilian Pedro has been struggling for ART this season, but his form seems to have improved at the Hungaroring. He managed his best qualifying ever in 10th there, and he also managed his best race finish, coming 14th in the sprint after a penalty for Tom Dillmann.

Best qualifying: 10
Worst qualifing: 25
Best finish: 14 (Hungaroring sprint)
Worst finish: 26 (Istanbul sprint)
Retirements: 4 (1 classified)

Matias Laine – 28
Finn Matias drives for Marussia Manor Racing, who have managed to score three wins this year. Laine has not been doing quite as well as Haryanto or Quaife-Hobbs, however, nor his fellow Finns Bottas and Vainio. A rookie in GP3, hopefully he will quickly improve and find his way up the table next season.

Best qualifying: 13
Worst qualifing: 25
Best finish: 14 (Nurburgring and Hungaroring features)
Worst finish: 24 (Barcelona sprint)
Retirements: 4