Effortless victory for Razia

A slow getaway for Davide Valsecchi saw Luiz Razia storm into the lead for Arden in the opening race of the 2005 GP2 season. Fabio Leimer got into second with Coletti and then Valsecchi behind. The Swiss driver was not as quick as the drivers behind, but he was able to hold them back for a while. Valsecchi finally got ahead as Leimer’s tyres dropped off, and stormed after Razia. But he never really made up the deficit.
Behind, Max Chilton was also fighting and found himself in third after the pit stops. He defended well from Leimer and took his and Carlin’s best GP2 finish ever. Coletti, who had started strongly, finished 5th. Behind Coletti, there was another good battle going on.
The two Lotus drivers had been battling hard all race, with Calado generally ahead, but despite messing up coming into the pits, Gutierrez was soon on top of his teammate and managed to take 7th. Felipe Nasr, in the second DAMS car, had a great debut and defended well from the more experienced ex-GP3 champion to come home sixth. Calado finished his race eighth, defending position from Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde. The British driver starts from reversed pole, just as he did in the GP2 final last year.
The final points went to Fabrizio Crestani, but it was Crestani’s teammate who was the talking point. Giancarlo Serenelli is an appalling driver, and caused havoc amongst the leaders by ignoring blue flags. It’s disgusting that the Venezuelan government is paying money to put that guy in a racing seat. To be honest, I can’t understand why if they want people to have a good impression of their country that they would do this. Neither Gonzalez or Cecotto finished either: Gonzalez went into the gravel, tried to power out (WHY?) and hit the wall lightly. Cecotto’s pit crew failed to fit his right rear tyre properly and it came off, much as happened to Jenson Button in the British GP last year. Finally Jon Lancaster damaged his front wing and was forced to retire very early on.

With Valsecchi securing pole and fastest lap, Razia leads the championship by a single point. The top ten should race well, and there are some good rookies in the rest of the field. Unfortunately, however, this is one of the least talented GP2 fields ever. It could be an interesting race.

There will no doubt be several penalties applied after the race.

Ex-teammates share front row at Sepang

GP2
Former Caterham teammates Davide Valsecchi and Luiz Razia showed their talent today by putting their cars on the front row for the feature race at Sepang. Valsecchi, who was not penalised for setting a fast final sector in practice under yellow flags (he was probably past the incident when it happened), took pole for DAMS just ahead of Razia’s Arden. Valsecchi was dismissive of his achievement, remembering that what really matters is the race. “Having the pole position today but a bad result tomorrow then you throw away your weekend.” Surprisingly, it is only the third pole he has achieved in GP2 – once in his title-winning Asia campaign, and once in 2010.
Luiz Razia, however, was much happier. Afer a tricky 2011, Arden will be delighted to find themselves on the front row. Razia believes that his team’s tyre strategy could pay off, as he things they will be taking a different route with the primes/options to others.
On the second row, Carlin’s Max Chilton showed just how well he and the team are working together in their second year of GP2. The consistent Brit belives he could have gone even faster if he hadn’t hit traffic on the final corner, so we will have to see what happens in the race.

Fastest in practice was Jolyon Palmer, the first to try out the medium tyres, will start 7th. Apart from Razia, the remained of the top eight are drivers whom I believe could win the championship: P4 – Coletti; P5 – Leimer; P6 – Calado; P7 – Palmer; P8 – van der Garde. Felipe Nazr qualified 10th but will start 9th after Fabio Onidi was given a three-place grid penalty for impeding Rodolfo Gonzalez. Esteban Gutierrez starts a disappointing 15th, while Marcus Ericsson starts 20th. The gap from first to 24th was 1.5s.

F1
Dry sessions allowed good running for the teams, and Lewis Hamilton topped both sessions for McLaren. Mercedes and Alonso were also going well, with Red Bull and Toro Rosso close behind.
There were no major incidents and despite threats of rain it never came.

New test driver for Marussia

F1
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.

GP2
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.

GP3
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.

(Part 1/2)

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.

Coloni reveals 2012 lineup

Scuderia Coloni have announced their lineup for the 2012 GP2 season. Contrary to earlier resports, Kevin Ceccon has not signed with the team. Instead, it will be partnering Stefano Coletti with Febio Onidi. Coletti is entering his second full year of GP2, having won two races last season – the sprints in Turkey and Hungary – as well as the sprint in Abu Dhabi in GP2 Asia. Having come from a rookie year in GP3 where he only finished 9th, this was particularly impressive. The Monegasque driver looks like he will be the fourth driver from that country to reach F1 after Louis Chiron (1950-58), Andre Testut (1958-9) and Olivier Beretta (1994). Though injured in the GP2 feature race in Belgium, he returned for Coloni at the GP2 final where he finished 10th in the feature race.
Italian Fabio Onidi comes to GP2 from Auto GP, where he finished 5th overall. He won the second race at Monza, picking up two more podiums later in the season and gaining just 31 points less than Kevin Ceccon. In 2009 he came third in Euroseries 3000 and Italian F3000 for Coloni, though he came second in the same series the year before. Clearly a driver of potential, it will be interesting to see what the Italian team can do with their signings. Though they only came 7th last season, their fortunes were boosted by Luca Filippi, and he brought them up from the bottom of the table to take three wins and five fastest laps. Admittedly they were hampered by the loss of Davide Rigon, who was injured in the sprint race at the first round of the season.
Hopefully they will be spared injuries this year, and go on to do well in the championship.

Meanwhile, Max Chilton – who drove for Carlin in GP2 for 2011 – has tweeted “Already looking forward to the #GP2 season opener in Sepang, Malaysia in 72 days!” There are connections between Carlin and the team his brother Tom drives for in touring cars, and it is likely Max will stay with the British team for this season.

Young drivers’ test day one

The first day of the F1 young drivers’ test is over. Of the 23 taking part in the three-day test, fourteen were driving today. So far as I’m aware, nothing significant happened and the young drivers generally did well.
In the morning, Jean-Eric Vergne topped the times for Red Bull with Jules Bianchi about two seconds behind in the Ferrari. McLaren ran Oliver Turvey, who was 0.9s behind the French driver. Finn Valtteri Bottas was getting the most out of the Williams and set the fourth-fastest time.
In the afternoon, Charles Pic took over from Adrian Quaife-Hobbs in the Virgin, while Gary Paffett took over in the McLaren. The British team have been using the time to work on 2012 modifications, since Paffett has no race experience despite testing for a long time with them. Vergne was again fastest, with Bianchi around 0.9s slower in the Ferrari. Robert Wickens in the Renault set the third-fastest time. Williams had a few gearbox troubles, but Bottas still managed some good running.

Full times: TSL Timing

Four seats TBA in GP2 final

GP2
Addax have confirmed that Jolyon Palmer, who drove for Arden this season, will be one of their two drivers for the GP2 final in Abu Dhabi. The second will be American Jake Rosenzweig from Formula Renault. At Ocean Racing, French driver Nicolas Marroc will be joining Antonio Felix da Costa. Marroc currently drives in the International GT Open, but last year took part in the F3 Euroseries. He is the third Frenchman currently signed up for the final.
The remaining seats to be announced are at Arden and Super Nova.

F1
In the young drivers’ test, Dani Clos (GP2) will be driving for HRT; Renault/Lotus will have Formula Renault 3.5 champion Robert Wickens, Estonian Kevin Korjus, and their reserve driver Jan Charouz; and Max Chilton will be driving for Force India.
Korjus will be only the second Estonian to drive an F1 car, and along with Kevin Ceccon will be one of the first drivers called ‘Kevin’ in an F1 car since 1981.

Race of Champions
Marussia Virgin’s Timo Glock will be competing in the ROC alongside Timo Scheider, the German touring car star. They will make up a second German team, with the first being Schumacher and Vettel.

In other news, former F1 driver for Williams and Team Lotus and American CART champion Alex Zanardi, who was injured in a CART accident in 2001, has won the New York Marathon handcycling class. Good work!

Razia, Chilton and Charouz in Abu Dhabi final

F1
Formula Renault 3.5’s 2011 champion Robert Wickens takes to the track for Marussia Virgin in the first practice session at Abu Dhabi next Friday. He will replace Jerome d’Ambrosio. The Canadian has shown great form over the past three years of racing, finishing second in GP3 and F2 before this year’s victory. It is unlikely that he will be an F1 driver next year, with GP2 being the most likely option, but he has the backing of Marussia. As the FR3.5 champion, he will also be taking part in the young drivers’ test at Abu Dhabi for Renault.

GP2
Kevin Ceccon will be taking part in the test as well, and like teammate Stefano Coletti will be in the Toro Rosso STR06. It’s a big step up for Ceccon, who only turned 18 this year and was moved into a GP2 seat after Davide Rigon’s accident. Though he wasn’t able to shine in GP2, he fought well in Auto GP to emerge victor in the final race of the season.
Carlin have announced that their full-time driver Max Chilton will be driving alongside Jan Charouz the Renault reserve and FR3.5 driver in the GP2 final. AirAsia have their driver Luiz Razia alongside Alexander Rossi for the final, and Razia will also be taking part in the F1 young drivers’ test for Team Lotus. Razia also took part last year for Virgin when he was their test driver.

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.

Summer day 11 – Herck, Carroll, Fauzy, Chilton

Michael Herck – 20
Romanian Michael has been driving in GP2 for a long time with limited success. This year he has generally finished on the cusp of the points, finally picking one up in the Valencia sprint race. Driving for Scuderia Coloni, it looked like that would be their only point until Luca Filippi switched teams and took the win on his 100th race. All the same, Michael has been doing a solid job.

Points: 1
Best qualifying: 14
Worst qualifying: 24
Best finish: 6 (Valencia sprint)
Worst finish: 24 (Silverstone feature)
Retirements: 3

Adam Carroll – 19
After plying his trade in America last season, Adam was out of a drive for 2010 until he made a brilliant comeback in Formula Renault 3.5. Suddenly everyone was talking about him again. Another good round in Auto GP made his old team Super Nova invite him back to GP2, which worked out well for everyone. He scored two points on his return as he gets used to the new GP2 car.

Points: 2
Best qualifying: 14
Worst qualifying: 18
Best finish: 5 (Nurburgring sprint)
Worst finish: 19 (Hungaroring feature)
Retirements: 0

Fairuz Fauzy – 18
Until this season, Fairuz had failed to score any points in the main GP2 series, though the Malaysian had plenty of success in GP2 Asia. Returning to the series to drive for Super Nova, he scored points in the first two sprint races. Since then, however, he has not done as well, and needs to improve for the final two rounds of the season. Fairuz is a terrible qualifier, but picks up places in the races.

Points: 3
Best qualifying: 19
Worst qualifying: 25
Best finish: 5 (Istanbul sprint)
Worst finish: 21 (Silverstone feature)
Retirements: 3 (1 classified)

Max Chilton – 17
Carlin’s full-time driver Max is the younger brother of BTCC driver Tom Chilton. Struggling for the first couple of races, his breakthrough came in Monaco when he picked up points in both races. He aso managed a point in the sprint at the Nurburgring. The Brit has had a lot of retirements this year, but generally qualifies well and should improve as his confidence grows.

Points: 4
Best qualifying: 5
Worst qualifying: 26
Best finish: 6 (Monaco, Nurburgring sprints)
Worst finish: 19 (Silverstone sprint)
Retirements: 5