Caterham comes to Formula One

Today Team Lotus takes on its new name Caterham F1. While the Lotus name isn’t gone from F1, many people will be sad to see it leave Tony Fernandes’ team. The rights to the ‘Team Lotus’ name have gone to Group Lotus, which is why they will be called ‘Lotus F1 Team’ for 2012.
All Lotus-connected teams in GP2 and GP3, Indycar and elsewhere will be painted black and gold to match the Formula One team, while all Caterham-connected teams will wear the traditional Lotus colours of green and yellow.
The new Caterham car will be called the CT01.

In BBC news, Ben Edwards will be leading the television commentary. He has formerly done commentary for F1 on the F1 digital+ channel, for CART, for the A1 GP and this year for ITV4’s BTCC coverage. He will be a popular replacement. However, his departure leaves ITV in a quandry as they search for replacements – they have also lost Steve Rider. There is also a question mark over who will partner Edwards in the commentary box.

F2 testing today saw several series regulars joined by several up-and-coming drivers including British Formula Ford champion Scott Malvern, and GP3 driver Vittorio Ghirelli. Ghirelli was unlucky not to score any points in the series this season. Hopefully some of the testing drivers will be in F2 next year. Fastest of all was Miki Monras, who is likely to be a challenger for the title next season.

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Practice report – India

F1
It was certainly an eventful first day for the Indian Grand Prix. There was a red flag in each session, plenty of off-track excursions by the drivers as they learned their way around, and a couple of grid penalties as well.
Session one was the most dramatic. Dusty and hazy, the first drivers on track were the Indians – Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok (replacing Heikki Kovalainen for the session) – and the two Force India drivers. The first flying lap was a 1:52.148 by Chandhok, but before he could really get going the session was red-flagged due to a dog on the circuit. That will have brought back memories for Bruno Senna, who was taken out of a GP2 race in Turkey in 2008 after he hit a dog.
Once the session resumed, things were rather quiet until the Hispanias began their work. Narain Karthikeyan moved into P1. But he was soon overtaken, and half-way through the session it was Jenson Button’s McLaren fastest with the Toro Rossos close behind. The times were tumbling for most, but not for Fernando Alonso whose car broke down as he was attempting his second timed lap. He pulled off on the escape road, so the session was not interrupted. He ended up sitting looking rather glum under the big screen.
The session continued with times falling. But it was still dusty in the pit lane, and as Karun Chandhok attempted to lay down some rubber the car spun rather dramatically and almost went too far into the path of Pastor Maldonado. The Venezuelan managed to avoid the accident, which allowed him to continue.
The Toro Rosso of Jaime Alguersuari crashed in the final minutes of the session, causing waved yellow flags. Then Pastor Maldonado had a firey mechanical failure. As marshalls cleared the cars and track, Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton set their fastest laps – Perez first then Hamilton right at the end to beat Sebastian Vettel. Both have been given 3-place grid penalties for qualifying tomorrow. Hamilton’s lap was the fastest of the session.

Practice two saw Pastor Maldonado crash, though Williams were able to get him out again. The story of the day was Ferrari’s flexible front wing. Especially for Felipe Massa, it was noticably scraping the ground. But it was clearly working for the team, as Massa set the fastest lap of the session. It is the first time he has topped a session since second practice in Silverstone. Fernando Alonso hit traffic as he was attempting to beat that time.
The red flag came mid-way through the session, when Jerome d’Ambrosio spun dramatically and hit the wall. Most drivers were getting used to the track, however, and apart from a spin for Petrov and a few off-track moments for Heikki Kovalainen and Sebastien Buemi, things went smoothly.

F2
A small field for a wet Barcelona. Spaniard Miki Monras was fastest in the first session, and German Tobias Hegewald was fastest in the second. Parthiva Sureshwaren set a top-ten time in FP2, perhaps inspired by the Grand Prix in his home country. Champion Mirko Bortolotti remained consistent, setting the second-fastest time in both sessions, but there is going to be an almighty scrap for second and third in the championship over the next two days.

Summer day 25 – Miki Monras

Miki Monras – 3
Three F2 drivers have scored points in every race this season, and unsurprisingly those are the top three in the championship. Spanish rookie Miki Monras began his season on a high by qualifying second in the first race at Silverstone before taking pole and winning in the second race. Always starting in the top ten, he had three eighth-places at Spa and the Nurburgring but has since improved again. He is hoping to win again and pick up some podiums in the remaining three races. Recently, Miki had a boost in his funding from Silver Lining, which means he’s definitely going to finish the season. He’s a championship contender – a long way back from Zanella and Bortolotti at the moment, but there are still 150 points up for grabs.

Points: 110
Best qualifying: 1
Worst qualifing: 8
Best finish: 1 (Silverstone race 2)
Worst finish: 9 (Spa race 1, Brands Hatch race 2)
Retirements: 0

Practice sessions

Lots of practice sessions today. It’s been hard to keep track! Jordan King was one of the slowest in F2 morning practice, at which Ramon Pinero set the fastest time, but third fastest in the afternoon. He’s getting the hang of the F2 cars and Spa very quickly. It must be crazy going out there for the first time. Miki Monras was fastest in that session.
The F2 driver missing out on this weekend is Natalia Kowalska. For some reason that I am unable to discover, Jon Lancaster hasn’t set a single lap in the morning or the afternoon despite his tweets to say that he would be driving at Spa. I hope he is okay.

In Formula One, Nico Hulkenberg crashed Paul di Resta‘s car in morning practice, and it was not ready for the Scotsman until very close to the end of the second session. Karun Chandhok suffered gearbox problems, and didn’t set a time. Red Bull are gearbox suppliers to Team Lotus, but the team were unable to get the spare parts until after the session. Jarno Trulli‘s car was ready for the afternoon.
The Red Bulls failed to dominate. Mark Webber went fastest in the morning, but it was Fernando Alonso who dipped below the 1:37s mark in the afternoon with Hamilton second and Vettel third. Jaime Alguersuari’s car had problems and the Spaniard failed to set a time.

In GP2, several drivers set good times but in the end it was Jules Bianchi who went fastest for Lotus ART. Esteban Gutierrez, who won the race here in GP3 last year, did well and finished P8 ahead of Davide Valsecchi the Monaco feature race winner. They are currently in the middle of the first qualifying session.

Finally in GP3 Alex Sims went fastest followed by birthday boy Mitch Evans. They have a second practice sesson later.

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).

No weekend break for these guys!

GP3 leader Nigel Melker is having another good weekend. He’s participating in F3 Euroseries as a rookie alongside the F1 feeder series’ feeder series. Anyway, he doesn’t lead F3 Euroseries, which has had two rounds of three races each so far. But the Dutchman did win the first race. This week, he’s on pole position for the first race; then the second race has the top 8 finishers from the first race reversed. In the final race, he has qualified P2. He drives for the same team in F3 Euroseries as GP3, but he is the only driver to be competing in both series. Definitely Melker will be one to watch. There are seven rounds of three races left, so the results could go anywhere.
Winning the F3 Euroseries is usually a sign of a good driver. In 2005, Lewis Hamilton won with Adrian Sutil second; in 2006, Paul di Resta won with Sebastian Vettel second. In 2007, Romain Grosjean won with Sebastien Buemi second and Nico Hulkenberg third; the Hulk won in 2008, and Julies Bianchi came third; Bianchi won the next year, and current GP2 driver Christian Vietoris came second. Christian Klien came second in 2003, with Lucas di Grassi coming third in 2005. Valtteri Bottas (currenly 7th in GP3) came third for the last two seasons. IndyCar driver Ryan Briscoe won the 2003 series. However, GP3 seems to be causing attendance in this series to diminish, with only 12 regular drivers for the last two seasons compared to at least 20 in 2009.

Rio Haryanto and Luca Filippi have also been off in Auto GP, the new name for Euroseries 3000. They were qualifying today in Monza, with Luca in P4 for Super Nova and Rio P11 for DAMS. Rio drivers for Manor Racing in GP3, while Luca is still a Super Nova driver in GP2.

In F2, there were two practice sessions today. Miki Monras headed both of them. Three Brits featured in each top ten: Will Bratt (5th, 5th), Jon Lancaster (7th, 6th) and Alex Brundle (9th, 9th). As for Natalia “I’m a girl so you have to mention me” Kowalska, she was P15 in the first session. In the second session she was P11, but only 0.002s off P10 (Kelvin Snoeks), 0.015 off P9 (Brundle) and 0.016 off P8 (Bortolotti). That is incredibly close between P11 and P8. I’ll be back with a race report tomorrow.

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.