BARC graduates join F2

F2
With the first round coming up fast, more names have been confirmed on the roster. Others seem to have vanished. Iranian Kourosh Khani is one of those confirmed. Last year Khani drove in the Formula Renault BARC Championship, taking one win and three podiums on his way to fourth. He also finished third in the MRF Formula 1600 Delhi Championship supporting the F1 in |India. He picked up a podium in one of the two races.
One of Khani’s BARC opponents was Dino Zamparelli, a British-Italian driver who won the championship with 4 wins, 6 poles, 8 podiums and 1 fastest lap. Zamparelli was nominated for the McLaren Autosport BDRC Award. In previous years he has also won the Ginetta Jr Championship, where a lot of young British drivers start out before progressing to single seaters. In 2012, Zamparelli will also be in F2, at least for the opening round at Silverstone and hopefully longer.

GP3
Dry for most of the day, Silverstone turned wet in the final hour of testing. This gave plenty of time for the nine teams present at the test to get some work in, and for Mitch Evans to go fastest just ahead of his MW Arden teammate Matias Laine. On the face of it, Arden are most likely to provide the champion for GP3 this season. However, they will need more consistency than in 2011 when two of their three drivers could have taken the championship.
The names at the top of the timing screen today were much as expected: Tio Ellinas, Antonio Felix da Costa and Conor Daly. Will Buller and Alex Brundle were both doing well for Carlin, and Romania’s Robert Visoiu has been shining for Status.
Alice Powell was fastest of the three ladies, though she had caused a red flag in the morning. Most of her day has been spent getting used to the car, and she didn’t put on fresh tyres in the afternoon, so we can surely expect improved times from the British driver tomorrow.
Maxim Zimin will be in the car for Jenzer tomorrow.

F1
Suzie Wolff has become the latest female development driver in F1, taking on the role for Williams. Wolff is married to Toto Wolff, a Director at the team, though he did not take part in the decision to give her the position. Wolff drives in the DTM, and you may know her better as Suzie Stoddart.

Third F2 season for Kralev

F2
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.

GP3
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!

FR3.5
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.

Spavone signs for Trident

GP3
Having picked up 12 points at the opening weekend of the 2012 Auto GP season with Euronova, Antonio Spavone headed to Barcelona today to test – and sign – for Trident Racing. He will be teammate to Vicky Piria. Spavone, who drove in both Formula Arbath series last year, and is seventeen years old.
The young Italian was not the star of today’s tests, however. That was Kiwi Mitch Evans, who shone last season and seems set to do so again. Also on form was Formula Renault UK graduate Tio Ellinas, who looks set to be the rookie of the season – and a championship challenger. German Daniel Abt was also on form for Lotus GP. Matias Laine has been having a good start to the season and set the second-fastest time in the afternoon.

Tomorrow, Aaro Vainio returns to Lotus GP while Yann Zimmer replaces Tom Blomqvist.

It’s sad that Mucke Motorsport have not been present at the tests. We can only hope that they or a replacement team are found soon.

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.

GP3
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.

F1
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.

Cassidy joins Fortec in Eurocup

As the second F1 and first GP3 tests get going today, it’s time to talk about the news that’s been released over the last few days.

FR Eurocup
British team Fortect have announced that Nick Cassidy – deserved winner of the Toyota Racing Series – will be driving for them in Eurocup Formula Renault this year. There are a strong team of drivers in this year’s Eurocup, including several FRUK graduates, so it will be a great challenge for Cassidy.

GP3
Testing today saw strong performances from Mitch Evans (MW Arden) and Nico Muller (testing for Trident) in Estoril. Other drivers who did well included Antonio Felix da Costa (testing for Carlin), Aaro Vainio (Lotus GP) and Tio Ellinas (Manor). In total 25 drivers took part in the test, with Mucke Motorsport absent, while Tech 1 and Atech only fielded two drivers each.

F1
After a few laps of the Circuit de Catalunya, Romain Grosjean was uncomfortable with the feel of the E20 chassis that had been upgraded from the one used in Jerez. Lotus believe this to be an issue with the chassis, and have pulled out of this week’s test.
Fastest today was Sebastian Vettel, but Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was close behind. Times, of course, mean nothing, but Nico has been making positive noises about the car. Caterham had a problem with a broken track rod that left the CT-01 stranded on the final corner, but got just under an hour of running at the end of the test with Heikki Kovalainen. Daniel Ricciardo also caused a red flag in the STR7.
The new Mercedes was put through its paces by Michael Schumacher, whilst Charles Pic put in 121 laps as he got used to driving an F1 car. Marussia are still using the MVR02. Lewis Hamilton also put in over 100 laps, coming third-fastest in the McLaren.

Williams have hired former F1 and current WEC driver Alex Wurz as a driver coach for their team. They have a young duo in terms of races, as well as the inexperienced Valtteri Bottas as reserve driver. It is not common for teams to hire driver coaches, but hopefully this will have a positive effect on Maldonado and Senna.

Cassidy wins Toyota Racing Series

The final round of the Toyota Racing Series saw Mitch Evans’s dominance get rather irritating for some of the international drivers. The GP3 driver took first and second in the first two races, barely losing to Felix Serrales who took his first win of 2012. In the final race, only Evans’ retirement allowed series champion Nick Cassidy to victory.
Hannes van Asseldonk, who came second in the championship, was doing well, with two second-place finishes; the Dutch driver was due for a podium before he retired in race 2. The third place podiums went to Cassidy, Josh Hill and Lucas Auer – who won the rookie cup.
Third in the championship was Damon Leitch, whose good start to the series tailed off towards the end. Josh Hill came fourth, only four points behind the Kiwi. Jordan King, who was struggling this weekend, came fifth. Lucas Auer was overall sixth as well as rookie champion, while Nathanael Berthon came seventh.

HRT announced today that they have signed Spanish racing driver Dani Clos as third driver for 2012. Clos, who drove for Racing Engineering from 2009-2011 (no confirmed team for 2012 yet) has won one GP2 race – the Turkish sprint in 2010 – but taken many podiums as well as pole at Monaco in 2010. He finished 4th in the series that year, and last year came 9th. Going on past form, Dani Clos could be promoted to an HRT race seat mid-season, but for now the young Spaniard will be watching from the sidelines – except on a number of Fridays when he will be in the driving seat.

Also this weekend, BBC pitlane reporter for 2012 Jennie Gow got married. Congratulations to her!
It’s BAFTA weekend, and Senna was nominated in several categories. The movie won awards for Best Documentary and Best Editing, both of which it thouroughly deserves.

Arden signings for 2012

Last season, GP3 rookie Mitch Evans became the youngest driver in the series to win a race. The year began well, as he took points in his first race before winning the feature in Spain from pole. The Kiwi went on to finish third in the Valencia feature. His second half of the season was not so good, as Mitch made some driving errors and only scored three more points – two for pole in Germany (a dry to wet race) and one for an eighth place at Monza. His qualifying results, however, were excellent. As he signs for Arden for another year, let’s see if he can translate that to more results for the team.

Mitch is joined by Italian driver David Fumanelli, while his 2011 GP3 teammate Simon Trummer moves up to Arden’s GP2 team. His other teammate Lewis Williamson will be driving for the team in Formula Renault 3.5 as they join the series for the first time.