Super-DRS leads to Super Pole for Super German!

With such a mixed-up grid, and so many strong teams and drivers, the question of who will win is unknown. Perhaps Kobayashi could get his first podium, and maybe Rosberg will get that long-awaited first win.

F2
It was a fascinating F2 race. I was unable to make it out to Silverstone, but I was watching the live timing and can’t wait for it to be shown on Motors TV. Tuscher fell back quickly from pole, and Zanella took the lead with Marinescu and Bacheta behind. As the race went on, these three pulled a small gap over the drivers behind, including Dino Zamparelli who was fifth for all but the final lap when his car got a problem. In the closing laps, Marinescu began to struggle but Bacheta picked up the pace. First he took the Romanian, and on the penultimate lap he overtook Zanella for the lead. It was close, but he maintained his position for the win. So far, the Brit has a 100% record of scoring points in F2, and he also leads the championship.
Marinescu took fastest lap but fell to fourth, with Alex Fontana third making it two Swiss drivers on the podium. Daniel McKenzie did excellently and finished fifth after Zamparelli fell back. Tuscher ended up sixth with rookie Hector Hurst seventh. Zamparelli finished ninth, with Iranian Kourosh Khani taking the final point.

Auto GP
Sergey Sirotkin took his debut pole position at Marrakech, but stalled briefly on the line to lose position. Pal Varhaug took the lead, and maintained it until his pit stop when he stalled the car. The team got it going again, but he was only able to finish third. Championship leader Adrian Quaife-Hobbs didn’t make the best start and struggled on his tyres. As soon as possible, he pitted for fresh tyres and then he improved. He managed several slick overtakes, before getting behind Sergio Campana – then running second. After Varhaug’s muddled stop, this became the race for the win. Quaife-Hobbs had many opportunities, but he wasn’t taking any risks and I’m sure he was satisfied with second. Campana took his first win.
Adrian Quaife-Hobbs still leads the championship with 95 points, while Varhaug is now 24 points behind in second. Sirotkin came home sixth and has 60 points, while Chris van der Drift has 49 in fourth. Both Manor MP boys are about equal, and de Jong is fifth with 43 points. Race winner Campana is sixth with 39.

Tomorrow, the same series will be on track once again. Can Rosberg win his first race? Will it be a double for Bacheta on home turf? And what adventures await in the reversed-grid Auto GP? There’s also BTCC and WTCC action.

And the fastest team is… someone

Both free practice sessions in Melbourne today were marred by rain, and as if that wasn’t bad enough for HRT, their cars had massive reliability issues – when they could get them on track. Narain Karthikeyan’s car was available straight away in FP1, but broke down on its third lap of the circuit. Pedro de la Rosa had to wait until FP2 for his turn, though this is still a massive improvement on previous years for the Spanish outfit. Pedro’s car also only managed one lap in that session, though Narain Karthikeyan managed 16.
Wets, inters then finally slicks were the order of the day, with the fastest times coming at the close of the sessions. McLaren set a Button-Hamilton 1-2 in FP1, while Schumacher pipped Nico Hulkenberg to the top in FP2. Schumi was also third in FP1, and looks set to be a strong contender, but Hulkenberg was 12th. It seems we won’t know the likely order until FP3 or qualifying.

It will probably be dry on Sunday, so none of this wet running is very helpful for the teams. Who will be on pole? Nobody knows. Who will win? Nobody knows.

I’m off to the Scottish Highlands for the weekend, and while I will catch the F1, I won’t be able to write about it. See you all on Monday!

Nasr gets GP2 chance with DAMS

GP2
DAMS have confirmed the second half of their team today, with British F3 champion Felipe Nasr set to partner Davide Valsecchi. After Romain Grosjean’s championship last season, there are high expectations on Nasr and Valsecchi.
Brazilian Nazr, who will be 20 in August, won seven races and took 17 podiums in the British F3 championship despite only taking four pole positions, and finished far ahead of his teammate Kevin Magnussen who was second. It seems likely that he will be the next Brazilian to reach Formula One, and certainly the media has shown interest in this young man. Nasr also came second in last year’s Macau GP, and was on the podium in the Daytona 24 hours.

F1
Videos taken at Silverstone today show the Mercedes W03 on its shakedown before it is launched. Stills suggest the silver car will share the stepped nose that all but McLaren have gone for in 2012.

Mike Gascoyne has been promoted to Caterham CTO, which means he will oversee all of the Caterham programs – not just F1. He will naturally have a reduced role in the F1 team, but has tweeted that he will be present at races as he wants to be there for the first points and the first podium.

Williams have announced that their test driver Valtteri Bottas will be taking a turn in the FW34 at Barcelona. He will be driving on the second day of the test.

Finally, after failing some crash tests, HRT will not be present at the first Barcelona test. Marussia will be there, but with their 2011 car.

Raikkonen goes fastest on first day back

In the world of motor racing, today has been quiet… well, as quiet as it gets on the first day of an F1 test! After Williams launched their FW34, featuring the all-familiar stepped nose, it was time to take to the track. First up, and continuing a tradition from last season, Caterham were first on the track with Heikki Kovalainen.
But the first flyer was Kimi Raikkonen, quickly getting up to speed in the E20. He went fastest overall, though not much more than Paul di Resta in the Force India. We cannot get the whole picture from testing, of course. As I am sure you have already heard, Williams were fastest at Jerez last year, but had their worst season of all time in 2011. Many teams will be sandbagging, and others will face unexpected problems – the Caterham, for example, was prevented from running by a broken starter shaft. Red Bull were also late in starting, after parts were held up by heavy fog.

First Impressions
Kovalainen’s shortened time in the CT01 today (he’ll be back tomorrow, with van der Garde in on Thursday followed by Trulli on Friday) was enough for him to get a reasonable impression of the new car. The Finn said “The steering feels slightly more precise. I have only done three laps so I can’t really tell more but, so far, positive feeling.” This will be good news for Trulli, so long as the rumours of his replacement do not come true.
Franz Tost, the Toro Rosso boss, believes Caterham have what it takes to be a midfield team in 2012, stating them as one of their main competitors in 2012. They also believe they will be up against Sauber and Force India. It is interesting to note that Williams were not mentioned here.
The smooth-nosed McLaren has pleased Button, who said that there weren’t so many downforce issues as expected after the removal of blown diffusers. The team hope to have a much better testing session than last year, where difficulties left them far behind where they had hoped to be by the start of the season.
Schumacher – who drove half a day in the 2011 Mercedes – expressed his pleasure with the new rear tyres from Pirelli, saying that they were more consistent than 2011’s.

The only team not present at the test was Marussia, who will probably be at Barcelona. HRT hope to pass the final crash tests soon, which means their car should also be ready for the next test. The most laps today were completed by Kamui Kobayashi and Paul di Resta, while Kovalainen and Maldonado completed the least. I am not sure why Williams did such little running. Unsurprisingly, Pedro de la Rosa was slowest in the 2011 HRT.

2011 Reliability – Part 2/2

In general, the 2011 cars in F1 have been more reliable than those in 2010. This year each team could complete up to 2266 laps compared to 2258 last year, and while in 2010 the worst team (Sauber) only completed 67% of laps, this year the worst team have completed 80%.

Yesterday we looked at the top six teams, and today we cover the bottom six.

7 – Mercedes (1963/2266 laps; 86%) A shaky start to 2011 saw both Mercedes fail to complete the first race in Melbourne. Rosberg lost a lot of laps in Italy as he was taken out by Tonio Liuzzi at the start of the race. Schumacher, however, has had more problems. The German retired from five races – three times due to mechanical issues, once when he tripped up over Perez in Singapore, and once when he was crashed into by Petrov in Korea. Last season, they were the third-most reliable team, but they have not been so lucky this year. They have also lost laps due to Schumacher getting into trouble with Renaults and other cars, and being sent to the back of the field.

8 – Toro Rosso (1957/2266 laps; 86%) In Belgium, the two Toro Rossos combined completed six laps. This was the Italian team’s worst race of the season, coming as they were finding their feet as regular points scorers. Aside from that, they were the only retirement in China as Jaime Alguersuari lost a wheel, and Sebastien Buemi had four retirements due to mechanical issues.

9 – Williams (1923/2266 laps; 84%) In Williams’ worst-ever season, the team completed four more laps than Team Lotus. They had two double-DNFs in the first two races of the season, and have been plagued by mechanical issues and Pastor Maldonado’s destructive streak (he was responsible for his retirements in Canada and Brazil). It’s a sad state of affairs for the British team, but hopefully they will be able to improve with the new exhaust regulations and Renault engines for 2012. They will need a good driver to partner Maldonado if they are to be successful. They only dropped two percentage points of reliability from 2010, but with the improvements shown in other teams it’s cost them a lot.

10 – Team Lotus (1919/2266 laps; 84%) Plagued by reliability issues in the first half of the season, the Malaysian team suffered from double-DNFs at Britain and Hungary. But in the second half of the season, they only had one DNF – for Jarno Trulli in Singapore – and thanks to good safety car timing managed to get both cars to finish on the lead lap in Japan. Now that they seem to have got their issues under control, their reliability should be improved for 2012 as Team Caterham.

11 – HRT (1844/2266 laps; 81%) Neither HRT nor Virgin managed to get a handle on their unreliability this season, but despite Liuzzi’s crash in Italy they still managed to complete more laps than their championship rivals. This is because they had fewer retirements than Team Lotus, and unlike Virgin had no non-classified finishes. They have improved their reliability on 2010 dramatically.

12 – Virgin (1824/2266 laps; 80%) They might be at the bottom of the list, but Virgin have improved since last season. Unfortunately they have struggled to get a hold of their mechanical issues, which particularly plagued Timo Glock. The German failed to even start the race in Turkey, and was not classified in Australia.

Trummer and Kral drive for Arden

F1
Team Lotus welcomed on board new sporting director Steve Nielsen today. He will be starting work in September. Steve formerly worked at Arrows, old Team Lotus, Tyrrell, Benetton and (most recently) Renault, and will be replacing Dieter Gass.
In the young drivers’ test, McLaren have revealed that they will be using regular test driver Gary Paffett (who has never driven in a Grand Prix) alongside Oliver Turvey; Mercedes will field Sam Bird; and Ferrari will field their test driver Jules Bianchi.

GP2
Arden’s GP2 final lineup was announced early this morning, mixing its GP2 and GP3 teams. Simon Trummer, who found his pace late in the season in GP3, will partner Josef Kral. This means that there will be two Czech drivers in the GP2 final.
There is still no news on who will be driving for Super Nova.

Friday morning practices

First up today, GP3, who have only one practice session this weekend. Instead of two 30 minute sessions, they had one 45 minute session. It was dry and wet, but the session was topped by championship leader Valtteri Bottas. Second was currently-struggling Mitch Evans, with James Calado in third. Most surprising are Simon Trummer 8th and Ivan Lukashevich 10th. Neither driver has yet scored points this season.
Matias Laine was 11th, which is also a surprise. However, the Manor driver went out from the pits after they had closed at the end of the session and did a lap of the track. He will receive a 15-place grid penalty for the race tomorrow.

In F2, we’ve got a slightly bigger field than Brands Hatch. Jordan King of course is not racing in the series for the rest of the season, and Jose Luis Abadin is also unable to drive this weekend. However, Luciano Bacheta and Rene Binder add to the numbers, as does the return of Johannes and Julian Theobald.
It was a good debut for Bacheta, who took eighth in the practice session. Championship leader Mirko Bortolotti came first, with Zanella second. Miki Monras didn’t make the top ten. But Julian Theobald (that’s right, Julian!) made tenth. Julian has usually been behind his brother this season.

F1 practice began dry, and the Mercedes drivers (perhaps doing some laps to celebrate 20 years of Michael Schumacher in F1) were doing multiple installation laps. Thus they had the two fastest times just before it started to rain. It was bad enough that for a long while there was no running on the track. The rain died down a bit, and the teams began to test the track again. First Vettel on inters, and then some others. As the track began to dry, the drivers were giving it a bit more. Bruno Senna lost control of his Renault and hit the back end into the wall, writing off the rest of his session. Later, while Bruno’s car was on the way back to the pits, Paul di Resta managed to put his car off at the same spot. The damage wasn’t so bad for the Force India. However, due to the crane being busy, they had to red flag the session as they couldn’t retrieve the car. Nobody could go faster than Schumacher on the drying track, but really the time was meaningless.

The rain affected the GP2 session towards the end. No surprise for Grosjean being fastest, but a big surprise for Romainian Michael Herck taking second just a thousandth ahead of Marcus Ericsson. Jolyon Palmer, who caused a red flag just as the session was starting, didn’t set a time and came last. Fortunately this is only practice.