Kaltenborn to become first female Team Principal

F1
Monisha Kaltenborn is set to become the first female Team Principal in F1 following Peter Sauber’s intention to resign at the end of this season. Kaltenborn, who has been involved in F1 and motorsport for many years, will be a great replacement for Sauber’s namesake and founder. Monisha is currently CEO, and I expect her to do a great job. She is only 40 years old and hopefully we will have plenty of years with her around the paddock. It’s nice to see Team Principals who are experienced in motorsport, rather than wealthy businessmen (ie: Mallya and Fernandes).

F2
It was confirmed today that Romanian Mihai Marinescu will return to the series for 2012. He did very well towards the second half of the season last year, and should be challenging for wins and the championship.

GP3
Pre-season testing returns with two days at Silverstone this week. Notably, the Status lineup includes British driver Alice Powell. Alice is undoubtedly one of the most talented young female drivers out there, and will be competitive – unlike the other two girls on the grid. However, you have to wonder if there are even more talented male drivers who are being left out because teams want a female driver.
If Alice is hired by Status, I expect her to pick up a few points finishes at least this year. She did reasonably well in Formula Renault UK last year, and I can’t recall her ever being a backmarker.
The unsigned Will Buller is another unsigned British face who will be at Carlin. Meanwhile RSC Mucke Motorsport have once again failed to make an appearance. Surely it would be better for them to sell the GP3 team on to somebody else who wants to participate? Unlike F1, there are no excuses for missing testing since the chassis are made by Dallara. And there must be a lot of young drivers who want to drive in the series.

Bahrain
Nobody wants to make a decision. The general feeling of fans particularly is negative though a few faces have said F1 should go. As for me, I think F1’s reputation will struggle to survive if it goes ahead, especially if something happens. All the media and team members who go out there are incredibly brave. But it should not need to come to that. I won’t re-hash arguments again; you all know where I stand.

This weekend I’m going to Silverstone for the opening round of the Formula Two. I’ll come back with loads of pictures and autographs, and hopefully an exciting story of an amazing day out.

Sunny day for F2 testing at Silverstone

Auto GP
The second weekend of the championship is coming up this weekend at Valencia, and there are some changes to the drivers. Brazilian Yann Cunha, who won F3 Sudamericana in 2010, came second in the Brazilian F3 open last season, and won one race in the European F3 Open, joins Ombra Racing. He will also be driving for Pons in the Formula Renault 3.5 series this year. He will be replacing Adderly Fong, who took a seventh place at Monza.
Former FR 3.5 driver Sten Pentus will also be joining Auto GP as part of the Virtuosi UK team. Virtuosi had a great first weekend with Pal Varhaug, and will be hoping to continue their success. Estonian Pentus has had a reasonably successful career in the FR 3.5 series, his best year being 2010 when he won two races and overall finished fourth with Fortec.

F2
It’s just a few weeks now until Formula Two gets back into racing action, and testing was underway today in glorious sunshine. While one driver dominated proceedings, others were also doing well including Britain’s Luciano Bacheta, and Romanian Mihai Marinescu. Dean Stoneman was also doing well on his return to the series. In session three, Alex Fontana was the only driver to come out on top apart from the German who had led the other sessions.
Present at the test were all the signings for 2012, including last year’s runner-up Christopher Zanella. Naturally, the Swiss driver will be looking for the championship this year, but I think Marinescu, Bacheta and the other driver will be giving him a run for his money.
Dino Zamparelli, winner of the 2011 FR BARC championship and runner-up in the McLaren Autosport BDRC award, was also present at the test. He had been hoping to drive in Formula Renault UK this year, though his hopes have been dashed, and has set a future target of driving in F2. The way he has driven today, hopefully that will not be far off.
Formula Pilota China champion Matheo Tuscher was also at the test, setting reasonable times, as was 2011 F2 driver James Cole. Axcil Jefferies, a Zimbabwean driver, and Kourosh Kahni of Iran (another BARC graduate) were also present and setting reasonable times. 2011 part-timer Jose Luis Abadin was also back to try out the new F2 car.
I hope we will be able to get a full field of 24 drivers for the first round at Silverstone, but there’s a reasonably strong field signed up already so there should be some good racing.

Other
While Dino Zamparelli was driving around Silverstone, Dan Wells – another who had hoped to drive in FR UK this year – was making announcements about his future. He will be heading east to take part in Formula Pilota China 2012. Good luck Dan!

Clos and Marinescu called up for Rapax

GP2
Rapax have announced their GP2 finals lineup. Despite not finishing in the top three in F2, Mihai Marinescu will have his chance in a GP2 car alongside experienced Spaniard Dani Clos. Romanian Mihai finished 5th this season, winning the first race at Monza from pole, and also taking the fastest lap. He also finished third on three occasions: in both races at the Red Bull Ring and in the second race at the Circuit de Catalunya.
Though he hasn’t won any GP2 races this season, Dani Clos finished second on two occasions and finished 9th overall. He won a GP2 race in 2010, and has plenty of experience.

FR UK
The experienced Formula Renault UK drivers shone in qualifying, with Daniil Kvyat also making good pace. Josh Hill was fastest, with Jordan King second, Oliver Rowland third, Dan Wells fourth, Kvyat fifth and Felix Serrales sixth. For the second race, the drivers’ second-fastest times were taken. Again, Hill took pole, with Rowland second, Wells third, King fourth, Serrales fifth and Kvyat sixth.
The races went well for Rowland, who won both. Josh Hill was demoted to second, and followed by Dany Kvyat and Jordan King. But King and Hill both spun, leaving them further down the results. Instead, Felix Serrales joined Rowland and Kvyat on the podium. The second was marred by a clumsy overtake from Rowland on Josh Hill who was forced out of the race. The situation also caused a safety car for several laps. Dan Wells came second followed by Serrales. Kvyat was fourth, with King seventh behind Josh Webster and Stefan Wackerbauer.

Tomorrow there will be more GP2 news and more Formula Renault UK racing.

Title deciding weekend – F2 and Auto GP

F2
The morning’s qualifying session saw Mihai Marinescu take pole for the first time this season, with Alex Brundle next door on the front row. Behind, Ramon Pineiro and championship leader Mirko Bortolotti shared the second row. The only remaining championship contender, Christopher Zanella, was on the third row ahead of Tobias Hegewald.
When the lights went out, Brundle took the lead from Marinescu, while Pineiro headed Bortolotti and Hegewald got ahead of Zanella. Marinescu got his position back after the first lap, but it remained tight between the pair while the Pineiro-Bortolotti and Hegewald-Zanella battles continued behind them.
About a third of the way into the race, Bortolotti got the better of Pineiro and prepared for his next goal – Brundle, who was slowly falling behind Marinescu. And Zanella behind knew he had to overtake Hegewald, to prevent the Austro-Italian from taking the title today should Bortolotti get Brundle.
Bortolotti soon closed on Brundle, and it was a tight battle between the pair for the remainder of the race. The Brit held on to second for all but the final lap, as he refused to give in to the pressure. But on the final lap, Bortolotti had his way as he got past Brundle and took a close second. Brundle took the final podium spot, while a trailing Pineiro came fourth. Zanella, who had overtaken Hegewald, had tried to fight with Pineiro but ended up fifth. Hegewald came sixth, with Thiemo Storz seventh, Jack Clarke eighth, Mikkel Mac ninth and Luciano Bacheta picking up the point for tenth after struggling all weekend.
If Zanella is to take the title, he will need Bortolotti to DNF all the remaining races, whilst winning them all himself. Not quite as hard as Jenson Button’s task in F1, but about as unlikely!

Auto GP
The penultimate race of a closely-fought championship took place today. Polesitter Adrien Tambay (son of Patrick Tambay) took the win, just ahead of GP2 runner-up Luca Filippi who had fought hard. Tambay is now fourth in the championship, and needs the win at least (he could also do with fastest lap) – plus disaster for his opponents – if he’s to take the title.
More likely to win are the top three. Leading the championship is Kevin Ceccon. Already the under-21 champion, he’s already taken part in the GP2 test he won. Ceccon came fourth in today’s race and will start fifth tomorrow with the reversed grid. Luca Filippi is in second – nine points behind Ceccon – and will start seventh tomorrow. In third is Sergei Afanasiev of Russia, who finished sixth today and starts third tomorrow. He is 11 points behind Ceccon.
Third-placed in today’s race was Fabio Onidi, who also took part in this week’s GP2 test. Eighth was Adam Carroll, who stalled on the grid but came back to take reversed pole tomorrow and also set the fastest lap.

Summer day 19 – Mihai Marinescu

Mihai Marinescu – 9
With 150 points up for grabs in the remaining six races of the season, the top nine drivers in F2 are the only drivers mathematically still able to win the championship. There’s a big gap between Jordan King’s 17 points and Mihai’s 58. The Romainian driver has been having a reasonably good season, almost always qualifying in the top ten though not at Brands Hatch where he received a grid penalty. He started second at the first race at the Nurburgring and third for the second race at Magny-Cours. Though he has never had a podium, he has almost always got points when he has finished the race and come fourth and fifth a couple of times each. He only missed out on points in the second race at the Nurburgring.

Points: 58
Best qualifying: 2
Worst qualifing: 13
Best finish: 4 (Silverstone race 1, Brands Hatch race 2)
Worst finish: 11 (Nurburgring race 2)
Retirements: 3

Pole for Bortolotti and Vergne

I completely overslept this morning! Anyway, championship leader Mirko Bortolotti is on pole for the F2 race this afternoon. That’s his second of the season, having taken pole in the first round at Silverstone. Second is Romanian Mihai Marinescu, which is his best of the season so far. Third is Will Bratt, who took the pole at the second Spa race and is currently fourth in the championship. In fourth is Alex Brundle, who had a rough weekend at Spa and is only sixth in the championship and 60 points behind Bortolotti.
Christopher Zanella took a disappointing seventh, while the suberb 17-year-old rookie Jordan King again managed the top 10 to start 9th. He’ll be one to watch in the future. And by the future I mean this afternoon.

In Formula Renault 3.5, pole was taken by Jean-Eric Vergne for Carlin. The French driver struggled at the last race with a retirement in the first round, and is joint second in the championship 30 points behind teammate Wickens.
Second and third are both surprises. Spaniard Sergio Canamasas is 18th in the championship, and his best finish is 8th. But he’s in P2. Russian Daniil Move is 11th in the championship with a best finish of third but mostly low finishes. He starts P3. In fourth is Brendon Hartley, fifth is Alexander Rossi, and Daniel Ricciardo – 43 points behind Wickens with 8 races to go – qualifies sixth. Can he really make up for missing out on the first race? Wickens starts 11th.

F2 testing Magny-Cours

It was announced today by Formula Two and “Team Silver Lining” that Jon Lancaster will be driving in the Formula Two series this weekend, and I would guess for other races in the year. Drivers don’t enter F2 in teams, but Silver Lining sponsor one of the cars, and Lancaster will be replacing Tom Gladdis who drove in Silverstone.
Jon Lancaster – appropriately enough from Leeds – began his career in FR 2.0, taking part in the UK winter series in 2006 before moving into the French and European cups in 2007. He came second in the 2007 Eurocup FR 2.0. In 2008 he moved to F3 Euroseries, finishing 12th, and coming third in the Masters of F3 race. For 2009, he moved to FR 2.0, finishing 13th, and continued in the series last year to finish 13th again, having taken one podium, one pole position and two fastest laps. Series director Jonathan Palmer has high hopes for Jon, so let’s hope he lives up to them and does well in 2011.

Today the F2 cars have been testing at Magny-Cours. 22 cars registered times, though one of those was the test car so only 21 drivers actually set a time. Leading the first session was Miki Monras, who took podiums in both rounds at Silverstone and is second in the championship. Alex Brundle came second, and Jack Clarke (who took points in both Silverstone races) came third.
In the second session, Will Bratt – 2nd in the first race at Silverstone and disqualified from the second – set the fastest time, with Brundle again second and Monras third. In the third session, excluding the test car Tobias Hegewald was fastest, suspiciously over a second faster than second-placed championship leader Mirko Bortolotti. In third was Miki Monras. The final session was led impressively by Christopher Zanella, currently 4th in the championship, with Benjamin Lariche second and Mihai Marinescu third. The fastest overall times are listed below:

Pos

Driver

Time

Difference

1

Miki Monras (ESP)

1:30.841

2

Christopher Zanella (SUI)

1:30.846

0.005

3

Benjamin Lariche (FRA)

1:31.059

0.218

4

Mihai Marinescu (ROM)

1:31.129

0.288

5

Alex Brundle (GBR)

1:31.284

0.443

6

Ramon Pineiro (ESP)

1:31.397

0.556

7

Johannes Theobald (GER)

1:31.402

0.561

8

Jack Clarke (GBR)

1:31.472

0.631

9

Will Bratt (GBR)

1:31.490

0.649

10

Tobias Hegewald (GER)

1:31.787

0.946

11

Jon Lancaster (GBR)

1:31.988

1.147

12

Mikkel Mac (DEN)

1:32.018

1.177

13

Mirko Bortolotti (ITA)

1:32.147

1.306

14

Armaan Ebrahim (IND)

1:32.280

1.439

15

Kelvin Snoeks (NED)

1:32.463

1.622

16

Max Snegirev (RUS)

1:32.718

1.877

17

Jose Luis Abadin (ESP)

1:32.822

1.981

18

Natalia Kowalska (POL)

1:32.835

1.994

19

Plamen Kralev (BUL)

1:33.435

2.594

20

James Cole (GBR)

1:33.528

2.687

21

Sung-Hak Mun (KOR)

1:33.573

2.732

It remains to be seen who will join these 21 for the race at the weekend. Let’s hope for another full field! It’s the first time F2 (in its current format) has been to the track, which last saw an F1 race in 2008. Its facilities have been substantially improved, but it’s doubtful that a French GP will be returning any time soon, with F1 taking to many different parts of the world. But all the same, a good race is on the cards, and will be broadcast for free on the F2 website as well as on pay-to-view Motors TV.