Auto GP drivers join F2 ranks

Having competed in the first three rounds of Auto GP, and picking up reasonable results in the first two of those rounds, Max Snegirev returns to Formula Two for its remaining rounds. With F2’s round at Paul Ricard clashing with Auto GP at Curitiba (Brazil) on July 20-22, he could still compete in the majority of the Auto GP season, though it would create a rather hectic timetable. Max picked up 14 points in last year’s F2 season, but the smaller field should allow him to pick up more points this year.
He will have competition from another driver in this year’s Auto GP championship, Victor Guerin. Guerin has been Adrian Quaife-Hobbs’ teammate at Super Nova, and has struggled in comparison to the Brit, only taking two fifth-place finishes. Guerin has a good record, however, and will hopefully do well.

With Paul Ricard returning as an F1 track from next year, F2 now has six F1 tracks on its calendar, alongside Brands Hatch and the Algarve. F2 is at the Algarve circuit this coming weekend, with live TV coverage on the F2 website as well as on Motors TV.

The F1 feeder series is back this weekend as well, with its back-to-back rounds at Sakhir. It will be a standalone event, with practice, qualifying and race one on Friday, followed by race two on Saturday. As usual, every session will be on Sky TV. Hopefully, Jon Lancaster will be back but we shall just have to see.

Testing in Mugello starts soon: May 1st-3rd, to be exact. Originally planning to run Gary Paffett and Oliver Turvey, it seems McLaren may need to give Lewis Hamilton some running time as well after Bahrain (though honestly I think it’s their pit stops, not their drivers, who need testing time). Jerome d’Ambrosio will get a day in the Lotus E20 before Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. Other teams have yet to confirm their lineups.

As mentioned above, Bernie Ecclestone has done a deal to secure Paul Ricard as a Grand Prix venue for the future. It will alternate with another track – presumably Spa – and have its first race next season.

Alguersuari joins the BBC

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.

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.

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.

Summer day 12 – Max Snegirev

Max Snegirev – 16
Russian driver Max Snegirev is one of those drivers who is usually on the cusp of scoring points. He picked up two in the first round at Silverstone before retiring in the next race. After that he had a dry spell, but at Brands Hatch he finished seventh, having managed his best-ever qualifying that morning: 9th. Naturally, he retired from the second Brands Hatch race as well, but did qualify 11th. He seems to be a better racer than qualifier.

Points: 8
Best qualifying: 9
Worst qualifing: 20
Best finish: 7 (Brands Hatch race 1)
Worst finish: 18 (Nurburgring race 2)
Retirements: 2

F2 drivers in BF3

Looks like the Formula Two drivers are also getting into the replacement game. Russian Max Snegirev (15th with 2 points) is jumping into one of Hitech’s British F3 cars this weekend at Brands Hatch. He will replace Riki Christodoulou, a British driver who has been struggling for funding but is currently seventh in the championship with 51 points. It will just be a one-off for Snegirev, who drove in BF3 last year to finish 18th with a single point after 30 races.
BF3 is having a pre-race test this weekend, and Hitech will also be running a car for Miki Monras, a Spanish F2 driver who is third in the championship just 7 points off the leader. However, Monras will not be taking part in the race at the weekend.
Formula Two have also been having a long break, but their next race kicks off at Spa on the weekend of the European Grand Prix (which is terrible timing, I have to say).

F1, F2 Birthdays: 12/6/11

Neil Oatley is the less-prominent half of the McLaren technical leadership, and today he celebrates his 57th birthday. Maxim “Max” Snegirev is a London-based Russian racing driver in Formula Two, celebrating his 24th birthday today.

Graduating from Loughborough in 1976, Neil joined Williams in 1977 where he worked alongside Patrick Head, and soon became race engineer for Clay Regazzoni and Carlos Reutemann. In 1984 he moved to the FORCE F1 project, an American attempt to race in Formula One which lasted less than two seasons (1985-86) under the team name Haas Lola. They earned six points altogether, which is respectable considering their short time in the team and the relative difficulty back then of scoring points.
McLaren snapped Neil up shortly afterwards, and when his boss Gordon Murray moved to the road car side Neil became Chief Designer. He took titles in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1998 and 1999. In 2003 he was made Executive Director of Engineering.

Max Snegirev’s racing career began with Formula Palmer Audi in 2007, finishing 19th. The next year he continued in the series and finished 11th, before a brief forray into Formula Renault UK. He drove a full season with British Formula Three national class, with 108 points and a 4th place finish. In 2010 he moved into the main BF3 series, with points a lot harder to come by. He finished 18th overall.
This year he has moved to Formula Two. He scored two points in his first race, and is fifteenth overall.