Penalties for Karthikeyan, Ericsson and Teixeira

F1
Narain Karthikeyan was given a 20-second penalty after the race in Malaysia for causing the collision with Sebastian Vettel. Considering how wet the edges of the track were at the time, and how the Indian needed to move away from the edges to make sure he didn’t spin, I’m not sure he was to blame. Vettel should have given the HRT more room – it was a wide stretch of track – and been less enthusiastic to move onto the racing line.

GP3
As expected, Antonio Felix da Costa has been confirmed at Carlin for 2012. The Portuguese driver who won the final GP3 race last year with Status, will be Alex Brundle’s teammate. da Costa was 2009 FR NEC champion and came third in the Eurocup. Clearly talented, he should have a great year at the British team.

F2
2010 champion Dean Stoneman returns to F2 for the pre-season test at Silverstone this week. The Brit, who was due to drive in FR 3.5 last season but was diagnosed with cancer, has made a good recovery. It is possible that he will be back in the series this year.

GP2
Marcus Ericsson was handed a 10-place grid penalty for the accident with Davide Valsecchi’s during the weekend’s sprint race. The Italian had gone off the road trying to overtake Luiz Razia, and when he came back onto the track, the Swede hit him and caused the car to flip over. GP2 cars are built to F1 safety standards, which was good news for the Indian. iSport believe the penalty to be unfair.
Meanwhile Ricardo Teixeira was fined for coming back onto the track in an unsafe manner. The Angolan driver had gone the wrong way down the access road after going off the track, then turned himself around once back on it.

Silverstone is on for FR 3.5!

FR 3.5
For a long time, there have been questions about the presence of Silverstone in the World Series by Renault calendar this year. A round had been declared for 25th-26th August, but with no location given. Was the track to be left off the calendar? It seemed even more likely with the WEC’s 6 Hours of Silverstone set for that weekend.
However, today it was revealed that Formula Renault 3.5 will be supporting the WEC event that weekend, which is great news for British fans who can go and see Sam Bird, Nick Yelloly and other great drivers. It remains to be seen whether the series will be able to offer free tickets as they have done in the past, but I hope so!

Eurocup
Formula Renault Eurocup, which will not be present at Silverstone, is testing for two days at Paul Ricard. There’s a huge number of drivers who are going to be there, and you can follow the progress on the WSR Twitter account @WSR_Live.

F2
According to F2 commentator Jack Nicholls, drivers are set to be announced over the next few weeks. He said, “Some interesting drivers are set to be announced for #F2 in the coming weeks. It’s going to be a very competitive season.” (@Jack_Nicholls) The first test is coming up at Silverstone on March 26th.

GP2
The teams get back to work tomorrow with three days at the Circuit de Catalunya. Many of the drivers were already out at the track, either with F1 teams or just to watch testing before they have their own turn. Giancarlo Serenelli (winner of the (South American) Latam Challenge Series and third in the SEAT Leon Super Cup Mexico) will be with Lazarus, Jon Lancaster – who had a brief spell in F2 last year – will be with Ocean, Sergio Canamasas and former Caterham test driver Ricardo Teixeira will be with Rapax.

F1
Marussia launched their smooth-nosed MR01 today at Silverstone. The car is not yet ready to race, still with crash tests to pass despite the first race being 13 days away! HRT also launched at Barcelona, with Narain Karthikeyan driving the few laps allowed. Pedro de la Rosa was also there, of course, as was former HRT driver Tonio Liuzzi. The HRT’s livery is fantastic – white, gold and maroon. In the end, livery doesn’t get you points, but the fact that their car is ready before FP1 is a real step up for the Spanish outfit despite a troubled winter.

New driver announcements

It has been a busy day in the world of motor racing, with driver announcements across all levels of the sport, in single-seaters and tin-tops. Here’s a summary of the single-seater news:

Formula One
First up, HRT revealed their second driver to be none other than Narain Karthikeyan, who drove a part-season for them last year. He and Pedro de la Rosa will make up the oldest team on the grid, and will have a combined age of 76 years at the Melbourne GP. Despite this, they have less F1 experience than several other teams, having only 113 F1 starts between them.
Ferrari and Force India both launched their cars today – the F2012 and the VJM05. Ferrari’s rather ugly, square design and Force India’s smoother design both have the platypus nose that was first seen on the Caterham CT-01.

GP2
Josef Kral is the latest driver to be confirmed for the series. The Czech, who drove for Arden last season and picked up podiums in Monaco and Belgium, will be driving alongside Johnny Cecotto at Addax.

GP3
Marussia Manor Racing have confirmed their first driver as Dmitry Suranovich, who is currently competing in the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand. Born in Belarus, Suranovich is a Russian citizen and drives under a Russian license. The 16-year-old last year competed in Formula Arbath Europe and Italy. He did not have brilliant results. However, his rookie season in TRSNZ is going well and he is 9th in the championship, having picked up a podium at Timaru.
Carlin have also been confirming drivers in various series, including one in GP3. This is Alex Brundle, son of Martin, who will also be competing in European rounds of the WEC. Brundle had mixed luck in F2 last year, taking one pole and three podiums and finishing 7th in the championship.

British F3
A number of drivers have now been confirmed for the 2012 BF3 season, very few of whom are British. Carlin have five drivers signed so far – Pietro Fantin (BRA), Jazeman Jaafar (MAL), Jack Harvey (GBR), Carlos Sainz, Jr (ESP) and Harry Tincknell (GBR). At Fortec, Pipo Derani (BRA) joins FR UK champion Alex Lynn and another graduate of the series Felix Serralles. Only one driver – Spike Goddard (AUS) has been confirmed for T-Sport so far.

IndyCar
Takuma Sato, who drove for KV Racing for the last two seasons, was today announced as Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (wow, long name or what?) lead driver. The Japanese driver has taken two poles and a best finish of fourth in his career so far. This will be Rahak’s first full IndyCar season since 2008, and they also hope to run a second car at some point.

2011 review part 1 – pre-season

As ever, 2011 has been a busy year in Formula One. As January began, the constructors announced when they would launch their cars. HRT, meanwhile, still had no drivers announced in their lineup. On January 7th, they shocked everyone by revealing former Jordan driver Narain Karthikeyan – India’s first F1 driver – would be part of the team.
At the end of the month the first cars were launched – Ferrari, Red Bull, Lotus and Renault amongst them. It was a surprise on the first day of testing – the 31st of January – to see so many reserve drivers at Renault: Fairuz Fauzy, Bruno Senna, Romain Grosjean, Ho-Ping Tung and Jan Charouz. Senna would be the most likely to get himself into a race seat, should he be required during the season.

On the third day of testing, Renault were shining as Robert Kubica – in the new black and gold car – topped the tables. But Renault’s high was not going to last. As we all know, the Pole was severely injured in a rallying accident between the first and second tests, leaving him badly injured and certainly unable to drive an F1 car for the forseable future.
Renault were stranded. Their best hope for 2011 was gone, and they had only a limited time to decide who would replace him. In the end they drafted in Nick Heidfeld, Kubica’s former teammate. A solid driver, he would be able to help the team develop their car.
HRT launched their new car livery on February 8th as Force India had an online launch including interviews with Sutil, di Resta and new reserve driver Hulkenberg. The FIA Academy drivers were chosen, including Alexander Rossi and Richie Stanaway. Both drivers would go on to shine in 2011.

As pre-season testing continued, things were changing across the Arab world. Beginning in Tunisia, the appetite for protesting spread to Bahrain where the second round of GP2 Asia was due to take place. With medical staff needed in the city, the race was cancelled, and as the situation refused to calm down, the F1 round was postponed. The final testing session was moved from Bahrain to Barcelona, and the first race of the season would be in Australia.
Pre-season testing ended with Red Bull looking like the championship was in the bag already, with Ferrari close behind. McLaren were struggling slightly, but things could still change before the first race. Williams also had a good turn of pace, it seemed, but they were having KERS problems. As for HRT, with the new 107% rule it was doubtful whether they’d make it past the first race, let alone complete the season…

[To be continued]

Qualifying in India

Five drivers will suffer grid penalties tomorow: Petrov for colliding with Schumacher in Korea (5 places), Perez and Hamilton for not being sufficiently cautious under waved yellows (3 places), Ricciardo for changing gearbox (5 places) and Karthikeyan for impeding Schumacher (5 places). Timo Glock failed to meet the 107% rule, but will be allowed to race. He will start from the back of the grid, just as Kobayashi did in Turkey – grid penalties are applied before 107% rule.

Qualifying was generally okay, though once again three drivers failed to set a timed lap in Q3. The first session saw Kovalainen once again force drivers to push to get into Q2, including the impeded Schumacher. It was the Sauber of Kobayashi who fell eventually. Suffering a gearbox problem, Glock was unable to complete a good-enough timed lap and will start 24th. The remaining HRTs both beat d’Ambrosio’s Virgin, but their penalties placed them behind him – Ricciardo first as he was penalised earlier.
In Q2, despite some determined laps, neither Senna, Petrov or Schumacher made it to the third session. Instead, both Toro Rossos and Adrian Sutil were there (they were the drivers who didn’t set a timed lap). Petrov qualified 11th so will start 16th, while Perez qualified 17th and will start 20th behind the two Lotuses and Kobayashi. Schumacher will now start 11th, with Paul di Resta beside him.
Q3 was looking close for pole, until Felipe Massa crashed right at the end. So naturally Vettel took it, giving Red Bull their sixteenth this season – a record number. It is Sebastian’s 13th of the year. Hamilton set the second-fastest time, but his penalty leaves him fifth behind Jenson Button (who was not having a good qualifying), Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber. Beside him on the grid is the man he always seems to end up fighting – Felipe Massa. Seventh is Rosberg. The Force India and Toro Rossos are in numerical order behind.

Narain’s in, but is Karun?

HRT confirmed their driver lineup for the Indian Grand Prix today. Narain Karthikeyan will be partnered by Daniel Ricciardo, the driver who replaced him from Silverstone. Tonio Liuzzi, therefore, will be on the sidelines.

There is no word yet from Team Lotus on whether their Indian reserve driver, Karun Chandhok, will be replacing Jarno Trulli for the race. If this happens, this will be the first race since the 2005 US Grand Prix that no Italians have taken part. Before that race (which was in exceptional circumstances), we need to go back to the 1996 Japanese Grand Prix (for which Giovanni Lavaggi – the only Italian entrant – failed to qualify) to find a race where no Italians took part.

The Indian Grand Prix will be Felipe Massa’s 150th Grand Prix. If Jarno Trulli takes part, it will be his 250th. Several drivers have anniversaries coming up at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, including Mark Webber (175th) and Bruno Senna (25th).

Timetable South Korea

Jean-Eric Vergne will be replacing Jaime Alguersuari at Toro Rosso in FP1. Narain Karthikeyan will also be taking part with HRT. However, Nico Hulkenberg will not be driving.

Day

Time

BST

Session

Length

Friday

10:00

02:00

Practice 1

90 mins

Friday

14:00

06:00

Practice 2

90 mins

Saturday

11:00

03:00

Practice 3

60 mins

Saturday

14:00

06:00

Qualifying

60 mins

Sunday

15:00

07:00

Race

55 laps

i1 Super Series

There’s great excitement buzzing in India. Not only are they having their first Grand Prix this year, but the first major Indian racing series will be taking place over the European winter. As part of the incredible campaign to make motor racing as mainstream as cricket in India (a big ask, let me assure you), the I1 Super Series (I1SS) will be kicking off at the New Delhi track the weekend before Christmas. It seems to be similar to Superleague Formula.

Normally, this would be nothing to shout home about, but some of the names associated with the series already make it worth watching. There will be nine teams of two drivers each. One driver will be Indian, the other international. There are only about nine Indian racing drivers out there, and I can only name four of them – Chandhok, Karthikeyan, Sureshwaren and Ebrahim. As for the international drivers, names like Schumacher (Ralf), Hakkinen and Fisichella are being bandied about. And of course Karun’s teammates Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli, and Narain’s teammate Tonio Liuzzi, have been mentioned.

So with such talent, and with Sachin Tendulkar the great Indian cricketer becoming an ambassador for the series (he’s a big F1 fan too), India should really get to see how incredible motor racing is. Apart from the four Indian drivers I mentioned, nobody has been confirmed for the series. But it would be a good way to keep up with the racing during the off-season, and with three F1 tracks in the calendar – India, Abu Dhabi and Malaysia – it’s good practice too.

I’ll be bringing you more information as I find out about it, but for now the website is i1superseries.com

Summer day 3 – Narain Karthikeyan

Narain Karthikeyan – 25
HRT surprised the entire world when they announced that Narain Karthikeyan would be driving for them in the 2011 season. Although considering the team’s track record with drivers, is it really that surprising? The team put Narain in the number 22 car and accepted his Tata funding which meant that they were able to put updates on their car for the first time.
Narain had been out of F1 for several years since the 2005 season with Jordan. Jordan had Bridgestone tyres, which proved to be of great benefit to them when despite their rocky performance they got a podium for Tiago Monteiro in the infamous US Grand Prix that year. In the meantime, the Indian had been driving in the A1 GP for Team India (and winning races) and in NASCAR Trucks. He was one of the most liked NASCAR trucks drivers. So naturally he struggled a bit when returning to the pace of F1 – even in an HRT.
He only had one retirement in his seven races, having been too slow to qualify in Melbourne. His best finish was in Canada, where the HRTs shone in the rain, but cutting the chicane to overtake saw him demoted to 17th. It’s a shame he didn’t just give the place back as he could have finished 15th. He also became the first ever driver to finish 24th in a race at the European Grand Prix.
Narain was replaced by Daniel Ricciardo from the Silverstone Grand Prix, but should return for India in October.

Worst qualifying: 24
Best qualifying: 22
Worst finish: 24 (Valencia)
Best finish: 17 (Monaco, Canada)
Average difference: 2.1
Laps completed: 381/499 (76%)
Average race position: 21.68 (Best: 19.2 Canada; Worst: 24.0 Valencia)

Season so far stats

So stats and facts time. Some of this information was shamelessly taken from F1 Fanatic.

For the first time ever, 23 drivers finished classified in a Grand Prix. At Brazil last year, 23 people finished but Virgin’s Di Grassi was not classified as he’d gone into the pits for a while and was a long way behind the other drivers.

Williams have had their worst season start ever. Four retirements in the first two races, followed by a 17th and 13th place finish. The only other time they have failed to finish in the points at their first three races was in their first season as a proper constructor – 1979. That year, they only had two retirements in their first three races, as well as two ninth-place and one tenth-place finish.

Red Bull, by contrast, have had their best season start ever. With two wins and no finishes below fifth, they are leading the championship. Webber has also had two of the three fastest laps, thanks to his driving on fresh soft tyres for most of the race. In total Webber has 8 fastest laps in his career – the same as Lewis Hamilton.

Speaking of whom, Lewis Hamilton is the first driver to win the Chinese Grand Prix twice. He is now fifteenth in the all-time list of race winners, and has won in every single season of his career. This also gives McLaren the same number of wins at the track as Ferrari, and their 170th win.

Six drivers have outperformed their teammate in every race of the season: Vettel, Alonso, Rosberg, di Resta (the only rookie to do so), Kovalainen, and Liuzzi. The most consistent qualifiers are Vettel (1st in every race), Alonso (5th), Kovalainen (19th), Trulli (20th), Liuzzi (23rd) and Karthikeyan (24th).

With an average race position of 1.5, Sebastian Vettel is ahead of every other driver. His results are also closer to the average than any other driver except Narain Karthikeyan, who has an average of 22.11 and is behind every other driver. Maldonado is the only driver whose average is behind that of any of the backmarkers at 17.64. Kovalainen’s 16.45 average is better.

Narain Karthikeyan has completed only 68 laps in this year’s F1 season, with Pastor Maldonado just 4 ahead on 72.