GP2 and GP3 head to Sky

There has been plenty of motor racing news over the past few days, so this might be a long post!

Formula Renault 3.5
Eurocup champion Robin Frijns graduates to the elite Renault series, where he will be driving alongside Carlos Huertas at Fortec. Meanwhile Kevin Korjus, who came sixth in his rookie season with three wins, continues with Tech 1. P1 Motorsport, as last season, will field Daniil Move alongside Austrian driver Walter Grubmuller.
There are well-founded rumours that Arden and Caterham will be joining together for the 2012 FR 3.5 campaign, with Alexander Rossi alongside Lewis Williamson. However, these have not yet been confirmed. Wikipedia also lists a number of other drivers, but these have not been confirmed by the teams.

GP2 and GP3
The two F1 support series will no longer be shown by Eurosport but by Sky, which is good news for fans fed up with delayed GP2 coverage. The races will be shown on Sky Sports F1. This will definitely make the series more popular with fans. The series have changed their Twitter usernames to @GP2_Official (formerly @feeder_series) and @GP3_Official (formerly @stepping_series) respectively, which will help avoid confusion in the future.

Former F1 drivers
Rubens Barrichello has been testing the new IndyCar chassis at Sebring, primarily to help out his friend – KV Racing’s Tony Kanaan – but also to get a taste for the cars. He has said that he would consider entering the series next year, but this would depend on his wife giving him permission. Motor Racing is a scary sport, and especially with Dan Wheldon’s death so close at hand it would be a hard decision to make.
Adrian Sutil has had his court case after the incident with Eric Lux in a Chinese nightclub last year. The former Force India driver was given an 18-month suspended sentence and a large fine. This is likely to kill the German’s racing career, as he will find it difficult to get a visa for many countries.
Nick Heidfeld is moving on, and has confirmed that he will be taking part in the new FIA WEC at the Sebring 12 Hours, Spa 6 Hours and Le Mans alongside Neel Jani and Nicolas Prost. This will be for the Rebellion team in a Lola-Toyota LMP1 car. The last time Heidfeld competed at Le Mans was in 1999.

Formula One
McLaren’s MP4-27 was successfully launched yesterday, with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button as well as test drivers Gary Paffett and Oliver Turvey. The event was streamed online. The car is generally quite similar to the MP4-26, though it has a lower nose. Unlike Caterham, however, the nose does not have a strange dip in it to pass technical regulations.
Ferrari, however, have had to cancel tomorrow’s launch due to an overabundance of snow at Maranello. Photos and a technical Q&A will be launched on their website.

i1 SuperSeries
The 2012 i1 Super Series has been cancelled. The series will now begin in 2013. This is disappointing for all the drivers hoping to take part, and for everyone wanting to watch. The names associated with the series suggested it would be a great thing to watch, but now we shall have to wait another year.

2011 review part 6 – Spain

The Spanish Grand Prix marked the real start to the European season. Traditionally the place where most teams bring out major upgrades to their cars, perhaps Williams could improve on their poor start to the season. Another hope was that DRS would not be as effective as in Turkey.

Mark Webber proved to be fastest in the first sessions, while Lotus got a huge boost in pace to leave the Virgins in the dust. The McLarens – particularly Hamilton – were able to come close to the Red Bull’s practice pace. Final practice saw Vettel fastest by less than a tenth from his teammate. Renault were more concerned with their car making it to qualifying, as an issue with their exhaust set Nick Heidfeld’s car on fire. This would go on to cause a Photoshop meme, with the German leaping away from the fire.

Come qualifying, there was hope from Lotus that Kovalainen at least would make Q2, and so it proved to be. This was mainly thanks to problems with Williams (Barrichello had technical problems and would start 19th) and Renault’s injured car. Jarno Trulli was fastest of the dropouts in 18th. Q2 saw the Force Indias choose hard tyres while Kovalainen went for it on soft tyres. This placed the Lotus fifteenth on the grid ahead of di Resta and Sutil. The Saubers and Toro Rossos also failed to make the final session, but Pastor Maldonado made it for struggling Williams.
In the final session, Vettel had no KERS for his single lap, and he almost made it to pole. But Webber, who had the boost, went faster by two tenths of a second. Third was Hamilton, while on home turf Alonso got into fourth. Petrov managed sixth ahead of Rosberg, while Massa would start a disappointing eighth. Behind came Maldonado, and in tenth – saving tyres for the race – was Michael Schumacher.

Race day, and Webber did not hold his lead as Vettel snatched it straight away. But he didn’t have it all his own way as Hamilton hounded him for two-thirds of the race. Only DRS’s ineffectiveness prevented Hamilton from getting that much-needed overtake on a track that has always been notoriously difficult in this area.
Alonso struggled on the Pirelli tyres, ending up fifth and the first of the lapped drivers. Webber and Button finished third and fourth to maintain their teams’ perfect total of laps completed thus far. Schumacher beat Rosberg, while Nick Heidfeld proved tyres were everything by finishing in the points from starting 24th. Both Saubers also got points.
Team Lotus’s Kovalainen had a rare crash while pushing hard on the circuit. He had been running well in a midfield position when he lost it and went into the wall. Retirements also came from Tonio Liuzzi and Felipe Massa, the Brazilian suffering from a gearbox problem.

The teams had to leave Barcelona quickly for Monaco, where the race weekend starts a day early and you have to fit in the track walk and setting everything up. Could Lotus continue to close on the midfield? Could Red Bull hold off McLaren? And how well would DRS work on the narrow streets of Monte Carlo?

[To be continued]

2011 review part 3 – Malaysia

Malaysia saw the first real running of HRT’s F111, though as expected they were slow. The Renault drivers shone in golden racing suits, to protect against the heat; their regular suits were black. It was expected that this would be the first wet race of the season, but despite bad weather in the days coming up to the race, it was dry.
Red Bull racing’s first goal was to get their KERS working. Right after the Australian Grand Prix it was revealed that their KERS had not been operating at all during the race, yet Vettel had still won. But the team would need to get the KERS working if they were to maintain their lead as other teams developed.
In first practice, Nick Heidfeld’s car suffered a serious problem as the front-right tyre locked up as he was negotiating the track. He struggled back to the pits, wearing a huge amount of rubber from the bottom of the tyre.

Qualifying saw Williams rookie Pastor Maldonado become the fall guy along with the two Lotuses, Virgins and HRTs. The Spanish outfit saw both cars easily beat the 107% rule to make their first Grand Prix of the season. Q2 saw Schumacher fail to make the third session for the second race in a row, but both Renaults survived. In the final session, it was Sebastian Vettel who again took pole, with Lewis Hamilton alongside him.

Race day, and the Williams cars were destined to retire once again as the team suffered their worst ever start to the season. Nick Heidfeld, however, was having a good day. He got his Renault into second at the start, and held back the other cars to give Vettel a good lead. Perez was unable to give another demonstration of his skill after his car was struck by debris. Meanwhile, Jarno Trulli suffered a clutch failure. Both HRTs were withdrawn from the race for ‘safety reasons’.
Vettel won the race with Button second. In third, Nick Heidfeld secured another podium to make him the driver with the most podiums without a win. Petrov was on course for a points finish when he went off track. Coming back on, his car jumped into the air, and when it hit the ground the steering column broke.
Alonso and Hamilton were both given 20s penalties after the race for their actions as they fought each other on track. Alonso’s was for contact while trying to pass Hamilton, while Hamilton’s was for weaving while trying to pass Alonso. This demoted Hamilton to eighth behind Kamui Kobayashi. And as we all know, it would not be the last time the Englishman came off badly after fighting for position with a Ferrari this season!

Los Mini Drivers – amazing!

[To be continued]

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]

Sponsors and drivers

There are a couple of changes to the GP2 lineup this weekend. Alvaro Parente returns for Carlin now that his McLaren commitments are over, so no Mikhail Aleshin. After his injury at Spa, Stefano Coletti’s place is taken by fellow Monagesque driver Stephane Richelmi. Richelmi currently drives in Formula Renault 3.5, and has taken six points so far in his debut season. Those six all came at Monza, which is encouraging.

Renault has signed a number of sponsorship deals recently, including with a Brazilian oil company and Gillette. Cue jokes about how they couldn’t sign with Gillette before because of Nick Heidfeld’s beard. After the amicable parting of Heidfeld and Renault, Bruno Senna will be driving for the remainder of the season.
At Toro Rosso, there’s also a sponsor coming on board in the form of Spanish company Cepsa. This might be good news for Jaime Alguersuari who of course is looking for a race seat next season. If Jaime doesn’t get the seat, he does have an alternative income as he moonlights as DJ Squire. The Spaniard is launching his debut album next week.
Virgin have got a sponsorship deal with Belgian company Soleco, who are renewable power company mainly dealing in solar panels and other forms of environmentally friendly power generation.

Finally, it is Vitaly Petrov’s birthday today. The Russian is 27 years old.

Big changes at Spa and the Red Bull Ring

Renault have announced today that what Eddie Jordan said about Bruno Senna replacing Nick Heidfeld for the remainder of the season is at least partly-true. The Brazilian driver will be taking Quick Nick’s place at Spa – a track he has experience of in the car from a World Series by Renault demo earlier in the year. Check out his video here.

In the other series who return this weekend, there are changes in GP3 and Formula Two. In GP3, ART have dropped Brazilian Pedro Nunes for German F3 leader Richie Stanaway, Jenzer have replaced Vittorio Ghirelli with Alex Fontana, and Mucke Motorsport have dropped Luciano Bacheta for Daniel Mancinelli.
Italian driver Mancinelli is currently competing in Italian F3, though since winning the first race he has struggled. Last season he came fourth in the series. Kiwi Stanaway has won all but three German F3 races this season and taken a lot of pole positions too. Swiss Alex Fontana currently leads the European F3 Open.

In F2, Jose Luis Abadin is unable to take part at the Red Bull Ring but will return to Monza. Luciano Bacheta will make his F2 debut at the ring as will Austrian driver Rene Binder. Binder will be in the 25 car and Bacheta in the 26 car.
Rene Binder is also taking part in German F3. He is currently 8th in the series having taken a podium in the second race. Luciano Bacheta picked up his only GP3 points this season at Silverstone after some good tyre strategy.

In GP2, the lineup from Hungary will be retained, with Filippi driving for Coloni and Aleshin for Carlin.

Summer day 20 – Nick Heidfeld

Nick Heidfeld – 8
At the start of February, on a normal Sunday morning, I went off to church still thinking about the first pre-season test. When I came back, the news of Robert Kubica’s accident hit like a stone. All day I kept checking anywhere I could to find new news, to find out if he was okay. All kinds of crazy rumours were going around. And of course another question that had to be answered – who would replace him?
In the end, the obvious choice was Robert’s former teammate Nick Heidfeld. ‘Quick Nick’ with all his podiums and no wins. Surely he would be the best driver to guide the team in Robert’s absence? Well, he’s done an okay job since then, but he hasn’t shone in the way that Renault were really expecting. Although he is ahead of Petrov in points, he really should be much further ahead. There is now talk of his replacement by Senna or Grosjean after the European rounds, though I doubt Grosjean would do that.
His season began in the worst way possible: while his teammate got into Q3, he was the fall guy and sat just in front of the two Lotuses on the grid. While he attempted to push his way through the field, he didn’t get any points in the end and finished 12th.
Malaysia was a complete turnaround, and he got the Renault into Q3 and ahead of Petrov. In the race, he pushed onwards and came home third, taking his 13th podium finish to make him the driver with the most podiums without a win. China was another disappointing pointless race, with Petrov picking up two for the team, but then he had a run of three points finishes in Turkey, Spain and Monaco.
Next stop Canada, and an error of judgement saw Heidfeld push his front wing into Kobayashi’s car. The win slipped under his front wheels, and he went skidding off the track. He scored more points in the next two races, before being put out of the German Grand Prix in the early laps by Sebastien Buemi. And then came the Hungarian Grand Prix. Fighting to try and overtake Heikki Kovalainen, he came in for a pit stop where the car was held on the throttle for too long. Renault’s exhausts were apparently already damaged, and the strain was too much. Fire resulted, for the second time for the German whose car had also had a fire in free practice in Spain. Hopefully, Nick won’t have to do much more escaping from fire this year! He’s already had a crazy-enough year!

Points: 34
Worst qualifying: 24*
Best qualifying: 6
Worst finish: 12 (Australia, China)
Best finish: 3 (Malaysia)
Average difference: 1.09
Laps completed: 564/681 (83%)
Average race position: 10.60 (Best: 4.4 Malaysia; Worst: 17.7 Germany, Hungary)

Grosjean DSQed

Nick Heidfeld starts from the pitlane tomorrow after his crazy fire in practice.
The fastest lap in the GP3 race went to Valtteri Bottas, who finished P10. Any penalties are yet to be confirmed.
In GP2, Esteban Gutierrez has been relegated to P25 for the next race after the collision with Michael Herck. The Mexican was deemed to be at fault. Meanwhile, with his car failing to meet technical regulations Romain Grosjean has been disqualified from today’s race, putting him P26. Davide Valsecchi takes P4, with Fabio Leimer gaining points with P8.

GP2 Quotes

Happy with the team performance p2 Today, problem with pit stop, lost a lot there.. Anyway again good points And looking forward to tomorrow
@GvanderGarde (Giedo van der Garde, Addax, P2)
Thank you for all you support today 🙂 grid postions for tomorrows sprint race Ericsson P3 and Bird P6
@iSportOfficial (iSport, P3 & P5)
Bad performance today… From p8 to p10… Trouble With the front tyres at the end of the race…
@stefanocoletti (Stefano Coletti, Trident, P10)
Had a good start today and got up to p.9 but didn’t get the pitstop sequence perfect so ended up dropping to p.12 31 laps tomoz on 1 set :-/
@F1MAX (Max Chilton, Carlin, P12)
We finished 15 in Barcelona. At the end of the race we ran out of rubber and lost rhythm. The second SC affected the strategy
@jcecotto (Johnny Cecotto, Ocean, P14)
Today was a tough day, many things happened during the weekend so far. But tomorrow is another day, everything will improve!
@luizrazia (Luiz Razia, AirAsia, Ret)

GP3 Quotes

I have just won my first GP3 race!!! Lead from start to finish after a close start but pulled out a gap and controlled the whole race. The most special moment of my career. Thanks to everyone! Keep pushing on for race 2 tomorrow
@mitchevans_ (Mitch Evans, Arden, P1)
Hard qualifying session again, 2 tenths lost with traffic, and 2 tenths from top 6, in those 2 tenths are 14 drivers, so P19 to P13 in race
@GabbyChaves (Gabby Chaves, Addax, P13)
Had a good race today. Got a bad start bad made some good passes and the car had good pace. Tried to make a pass about half way through and the left front flat spotted all the way to the chords in 1 turn! Couldn’t believe it. Just tried to hold on from then on. Learning a lot! Looking forward to race 2 tomorrow. It’s taking some time but we’re making good progress. We’ll get there.
@conordaly22 (Conor Daly, Carlin, P21)
Very disappointing day. Decent race start but crashed after half a lap. Bizare how it has all changed around from pre-season testing here…
@simsracing (Alex Sims, Status, Ret)

F1 Qualifying Spain 2011

That was one of the best qualifyings of 2011 so far. With Heidfeld not making it to Q1 and Barrichello having car problems, Heikki Kovalainen squeaked into Q2. He managed to set a lap on soft tyres when the Force Indias were on hards, and so qualified P15. In Q3, it all shifted again. Mark Webber beat Vettel to pole position for the first time, breaking the German’s run and making everyone very happy (well, except Vettel). With Mitch Evans’ pole for MW Arden earlier in GP3, he’s having a good day. Alonso managed to split the McLarens, qualifying P4 behind Hamilton but ahead of Alonso.
For Jerome D’Ambrosio it was disappointing to qualify behind both Hispanias, and he will be P23. Heidfeld should be allowed to race and will be P24, while Barrichello is P19 behind Trulli in P18.
So what will happen tomorrow? Who knows. But it should be a great day. Rosberg, Alonso, Kovalainen and Liuzzi have outperformed their teammates on every qualifying so far. Next up: GP2 race.

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.