Russian team, Russian drivers, rushing around…

FR 3.5
The first big piece of news today was that KMP Racing have been renamed Team RFR – Russia France Racing. The team will field a pair of Russian drivers in the 2012 championship – 2010 champion Mikhail Aleshin, and Anton Neybilitskiy. Neybilitskiy has managed one podium in the series so far, and with only average results in his two completed seasons, he will be hoping for better this year.
Nick Yelloly, who had a great part-season alongside his GP3 races last year, has signed for British team Comtec, who came last in the championship with only two points. With Yelloly, they will hope for much better.

Testing continued in Estoril for the second and final day, and once again the drivers were showing a strong hand. Finnish driver Aaro Vainio was fastest, beating Nico Muller’s time from yesterday by one second. Tio Ellinas was second-fastest, the Cypriot showing just how good British racing series are at training young drivers (he graduates from Formula Renault UK). Ellinas was also fastest in the afternoon, though he could not match his morning time. Other drivers who shone were Mitch Evans, Conor Daly and Antonio Felix da Costa. Not all these drivers have been signed for 2012, and it its hoped that they soon will be, because they could make this an incredibly close and hard-fought championship to rival last season.

Times mean nothing in F1 testing. Lotus were of course not present after the problems of day one. Toro Rosso were also struggling, causing two red flags though one was deliberately caused by running out of fuel. Petrov had his first day in the Caterham and was doing okay. Fastest overall was Nico Hulkenberg, the Force India continuing to put in good times.

Tomorrow, F1 testing continues.

Summer day 1 – Mikhail Aleshin and Kevin Ceccon

Mikhail Aleshin – 30
The Russian driver began the season with budget problems, and only completed the first two rounds for Carlin before being replaced by Oliver Turvey. When Alvaro Parente went to the Spa 24 hours, he was able to return for the Hungarian round. He has struggled in the races, with an accident in qualifying at Turkey causing him to miss both rounds there. In Barcelona, he had pretty miserable finishes, and in Hungary he had a midfield finish in the feature race and a retirement in the wet/dry/wet sprint race. When he wasn’t competing in GP2, he took part in Superleague Formula, finishing 3rd in the second race and 8th in the super final, and also in Formula Renault 3.5, the series he became champion of last season.

Best qualifying: 17
Worst qualifying: 23
Best finish: 15
Worst finish: 18
Retirements: 1

Kevin Ceccon – 29
Drafted in after Davide Rigon broke his leg in Turkey, the Italian became the youngest ever GP2 driver. Also competing in Auto GP, which he currently leads over Luca Filippi by two points, he has not found the GP2 cars easy to handle. However, it will be good experience for when he (presumably) returns next year.

Best qualifying: 17
Worst qualifying: 23
Best finish: 11
Worst finish: 20
Retirements: 2 (1 classified)

Aleshin in for Parente

Alvaro Parente won’t be driving in GP2 this weekend, as he’s in Spa driving a McLaren MP4-12C in the 24 hour race. Good luck Alvaro! The Portuguese driver will be replaced at Carlin by their original driver – Mikhail Aleshin. Aleshin has struggled to find a regular seat this year as he has had budget difficulties. He began with a complete GP2 Asia series for Carlin, then took part in the Turkey and Spain rounds of GP2. An injury meant he failed to start in Turkey, and he had miserable results in Spain – 16th and 18th. After a gap of just other a month, the Formula Renault 3.5 champion went to the Hungaroring with the series, picking up four points.
His next stop was Zolder, where he drove for Russia in Superleague Formula. In the first race he finished 11th, but took advantage of the reversed grid to finish 3rd as he got used to the V8 engines. Because England failed to finish the second race, he got into the Super Final, but stayed at the back and finished 8th.

Germany race winner Luca Filippi leads the Auto GP championship with 98 points over Kevin Ceccon’s 80 – a second place in race one or a win in race two – but has decided not to contest this weekend’s round. Instead, he will continue with Coloni in GP2. This is also an advantage to his Auto GP teammate Jon Lancaster, who is currently sixth in the championship and 47 points behind Luca.

GP2, FR 3.5 Birthdays: 22/5/2011

Russian GP2 driver Mikhail Aleshin – a young star for Carlin – celebrates his 24th birthday today. FR 3.5 driver Daniel Zampieri, from Italy, is 21.
Muskovite Aleshin began racing in Russian Formula Three in 2002, finishing fourth. He moved into German FR 2000 the next season, finishing 12th and then 5th the year after that. Also in 2004 he did FR 2000 Italia, which he won. He continued in the remained FR 2.0 Germany, finishing 2nd in 2005. Over the winter, he competed for A1 team Russia, but the team finished 25th after only competing in three races.
In 2006, Mikhail began his long stint with Carlin. He’s driven for them in every year since except for 2009. Driving in Formula Renault 3.5, he finished 11th in his first year taking one pole and 2 podiums. The next year he had 1 win and 1 pole, but no other podiums, to finish 13th. He also had his first GP2 experience with ART, gaining three points in four races.
In 2008, he finished 5th in FR 3.5 despite no wins or poles, having gained three podiums. The next year, he went to Formula Two for its debut year, sponsored in part by Red Bull, and finished 3rd. Fully prepared, he returned to FR 3.5 to get three wins and 8 podiums overall and take the championship home.
This year, he has stuck with his team for 2011. After a rather dismal GP2 Asia, he was hoping for better in GP2. Sponsorship problems left him struggling for a drive, but he managed to get one for Turkey. Disappointingly he was injured and had to miss both races. On Friday, he qualified a lowly 23rd for yesterday’s race, and finished 16th.
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