Summer day 22 – Mitch Evans

Mitch Evans – 6
New Zealander Mitch Evans began his 2011 season like a dream. Mark Webber’s prodigy quickly became the youngest-ever GP3 race winner, when he took pole and the win in the Barcelona feature race. But he was still third in the championship. In the Valencia feature, however, he came third and leapt up to top the championship. He maintained this position with one more points finish until the Silverstone sprint, when Alex Sims took the lead. At the Nurburgring feature race, Mitch took pole, but a late tyre choice for the team and struggling with slicks in the rain caused the Kiwi to miss out on any more points.
He has had a tough season recently, with three retirements and a best finish of 19th in the last five races. Mitch has caused most of the problems himself, however, in particular in an incident with James Calado at Hungary. But he is only young and there are plenty of seasons of racing left ahead.

Points: 28
Best qualifying: 1
Worst qualifing: 7
Best finish: 1 (Barcelona feature)
Worst finish: 22 (Nurburgring sprint)
Retirements: 3 (1 classified)

GP3 Birthdays: 24/6/2011

New Zealand’s superb driver Mitch Evans celebrates his 17th birthday today. One of the youngest drivers in GP3, and definitely the youngest-ever race winner, Mitch won driver of the month at driver database last month after his superb performance in Barcelona. With seventeen points from four races, he is currently third in the championship.

His racing career began in NZ with Formula Ford, winning the Manfeild Winter Series in 2008, then coming second in his first NZ Formula Ford Championship season with 1111 points. The next stop was Australian Formula Ford for 2009. He won six races – not nearly as many as the winner Nick Percat, but Mitch came second with 297 points, retiring from only one race and only missing out on the points once.
In 2010, he went into the Toyota Racing Series – NZ’s biggest championship – winning three races and beating brilliant NZ driver Earl Bamber by 3 points despite being four years younger. He also took part in the Australian Drivers’ Championship, finishing second by a single point because of missing out one of the championship rounds.

Mitch Evans is good. Good in Australia, anyway. And he seems to be keeping his feet well in Europe as well, thanks to the support of his team boss Mark Webber. He took Arden’s first GP3 win, and looks set to get more as he’s continued to shine in the recent practices. I’m not going to call him the next Sebastian Vettel yet, and his teammates are starting to improve as well, but Mitch Evans clearly has talent. Could F1 beckon one day for this youngster?

The ups and downs of Arden

GP3 tests got underway today in Hungary. In the morning session, the fastest driver was GP3’s youngest ever race winner Mitch Evans. He’s really shining for Arden, who after several years struggling in GP2 are making a comeback. Arden were the kings of Formula 3000 before it became GP2, with Tonio Liuzzi taking the title for them, and in 2005 when boss Christian Horner began moving his focus towards his new job with Red Bull, Heikki Kovalainen came second for them in the first GP2 season.
Heikki Kovalainen won five races for Arden in 2005, taking four pole positions. He also took one of the team’s two fastest laps. His teammate took the other, along with a pole position. Since then they have struggled in GP2. Last year they finished eighth. Here’s a quick summary.

Year

Wins

Poles

Podiums

F. laps

Pts

C’ship

2005

5

5

13

2

126

2nd

2006

1

0

6

1

57

4th

2007

1

0

2

0

44

7th

2008

2

0

6

0

56

6th

2009

1

0

3

3

41

8th

2010

1

1

2

0

32

7th

So far this year, Arden have no wins, no poles, no fastest laps and one podium, with second-placed Josef Kral finishing P2 in the Monaco sprint race. With nine points, the team stands eighth in the championship.
GP3 is looking better, with Mitch Evans the stand out driver. The rookie is currently third in the championship, just five points behind leader Nigel Melker. He, Andrea Caldarelli (who is being replaced) and Nigel Melker are far ahead of the other drivers. Neither of Arden’s other drivers have scored points just yet, but the team stands third in the championship.

Arden is named after the Forest of Arden, an area close to my home in England.You might also recognise the name if you know about Shakespeare. His mother was Mary Arden, and you can visit Mary Arden’s House near Stratford (Warwickshire, not London). Mary Arden’s family owned the forest. So I’m a bit of a fan, and will be supporting them. Their GP3 ability is shining through. On the GP2 record, a lot of Arden’s drivers have gone on to finish well in the series for other teams. Bruno Senna came second with iSport, Sergio Perez finished second with Addax, and Charles Pic is currently third with Addax. Sebastien Buemi moved straight from Arden to driving for Toro Rosso.

GP2 and 3 races

GP2 and GP3 had their races this afternoon. Qualifying for the Indy 500 is also going on. Ho Pin Tung, the Renault reserve driver, has been in an accident just a short while ago, and taken to hospital. It’s on YouTube: a terrifying spin and smash, but he walks away.

In GP2, the race was begun on pole by Giedo van der Garde. The Dutchman also took fastest lap, but the win went to Charles Pic – his French teammate – jumping him in the pits. Sam Bird made it three podiums out of three as he finished third. Both Johnny Ceccotto and Fabio Leimer started from the back of the grid, but improved dramatically. Leimer was P9, only just outside the points! He has a chance to get there tomorrow. However, there was a retirement for AirAsia’s Luiz Razia, Luca Filippi (Super Nova) had an accident right at the start, and Michael Herck spun and collected Esteban Gutierrez mid-way through the race.
In GP3, the win went to polesitter Mitch Evans, taking a great victory for MW Arden. Tech 1’s Andrea Caldarelli started from second but could only manage fourth, being beaten by James Calado of ART and his teammate Aaro Vainio. Tech 1’s third driver Tamas Pal Kiss celebrated his recent birthday by also finishing in the points – a great day for the French team. Nigel Melker managed more points, giving him at least joint lead depending on who got the fastest lap.

Quotes will come in a separate blog entry.

Fire! Nick Heidfeld survives.

GP3 Qualifying: Mitch Evans, Arden’s Kiwi rookie, took pole position in the second round of the season. It’s also Arden’s first ever pole! He was 0.001s faster than Andrea Caldarelli – who is racing, by the way. Autosport got their facts mixed up. Tamas Pal Kiss was much improved on his first race, qualifying in the top ten. Worse luck for Luciano Bacheta who had an electric failure and qualifies 29th.

FP3 for Formula One, and Nick Heidfeld’s car exploded in flame. There was a sensor claiming high temperature on the number 9 car which Renault ignored as they thought it was faulty. “Rather evidently, it wasn’t.” (@OfficialLRGP, Renault) Red Bull and Ferrari both had problems. Alonso’s car got stuck in sixth gear, and Vettel didn’t get out until the end of the session, but then set a single flying lap to go fastest of everyone – 0.084 better than Mark Webber.

GP3 driver quotes (position includes Dom Storey’s penalty):

First GP3 pole!! Race 1 17:20 local time (03:20 NZ) lets do this!
@mitchevans_ (Mitch Evans, P1, Arden)
Bizare quali session. Was top 5 on first set, then 16th on second set… Not sure why at the moment.
@simsracing (Alex Sims, P15, Status)
0.7 sec slower than p1 and just p22 for me today in the qualy as it’s very close in GP3. Need to have a good start today.
@ivanlukaschevich (Ivan Lukashevich, P21, Status)

Next up: the porsches have the track, then F1 qualifying starts at 1pm GMT, with build up on the BBC beginning at noon.