Third F2 season for Kralev

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.

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!

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.

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 6 – Simon Trummer and Maxim Zimin

Simon Trummer – 23
Driving for Arden International, Swiss driver Simon showed lots of promise in pre- and mid-season testing. Points could have been on the cards for him. But in comparison to Lewis Williamson and Mitch Evans his teammates, he is struggling. He’s only had one bad qualifying, and usually finishes fairly close to the points.

Best qualifying: 10
Worst qualifing: 27
Best finish: 9 (Nurburgring feature)
Worst finish: 27 (Barcelona feature)
Retirements: 3 (1 classified)

Maxim Zimin – 22
Maxim is a Russian with potential, but until the Hungaroring sprint race his results had been pretty rubbish as he languished at the bottom of the standings. In treacherous conditions, he managed to hold on to the car and finish 8th – much better than his previous-best finish of 15th.
But Maxim has also had some very bad races, particularly in Silverstone where his dangerous driving saw him disqualified from the feature race and excluded from the sprint.

Best qualifying: 13
Worst qualifing: 27
Best finish: 8 (Hunagroring sprint)
Worst finish: 23 (Istanbul feature)
Retirements: 2

GP3 birthdays: 28/04/2011

Russian driver Maxim Zimin gets his 17th birthday today. The success of Vitaly Petrov seems to have inspired his fellow countrymen, and he’ll have to watch out as these young ones move towards F1.

Having started karting aged 7, aged 11 he won the Russian and Moscow cups. By 2008, aged 14, he was in Finland and racing for Maranello Karts, winning the Viking Trophy. Because he was able to get his trophy at the FIA Champions Gala in Monaco, he earned himself recognition, and aged 16 he was racing in Italian Formula ACI-CSAI Abarth and the FR 2.0 Middle European Cup for Jenzer Motorsport. Classified fifth in FR 2.0 MEC and the Abarth championship (though he had been in with a chance of winning right until the end), he earned his way to GP3 for the same team.
In the GP3 tests he’s not been near the top of the timesheets, but the time difference is tiny in these cars. It takes a while to get used to a new car, so perhaps we will see more from Maxim in the future.