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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

Spanish driver at HRT in 2012

Of all the drivers thrown up as possibilities for HRT in 2012, nobody expected one of them to be Pedro de la Rosa. The Spaniard will be 41 next season, but won’t be the oldest driver on track as Michael Schumacher will be 43. If Rubens Barrichello continues to race, he will be 40 in May.
The contract is for two seasons, and has met the approval of McLaren – de la Rosa’s current team, whom he test drives for. He also drove for Sauber in place of Perez in Canada. Though he has only driven for eight F1 seasons – most of them not complete seasons (only 1999 and 2000 for Arrows, and 2002 for Jaguar, were full seasons) – he has plenty of experience as a test driver. He scored six points for Sauber in 2010, and picked up a podium for McLaren in 2006. He had fastest lap at his only race of 2005 – for McLaren in Bahrain – and is one of those rare drivers who score points in his first race by finishing sixth in Australia in 1999.
Pedro is sponsored by Santander, and his presence as a well-known Spanish driver in a Spanish team is likely to bring in other sponsors as well. Clever move, HRT. It will be disappointing for many young drivers who may have been looking at HRT as an option for 2012 in order to break into F1. However, from the perspective of the team and driver, I have to say – well done!

Summer day 11 – Liuzzi, Trulli, De La Rosa, Barrichello

Sorry for the delay. My laptop wanted to get friendly with some water but the relationship didn’t work out.

Tonio Liuzzi – 20
Throughout the winter, Tonio Liuzzi was sure that despite Paul di Resta winning the DTM championship, he had a safe seat at Force India. But Mercedes – who provide Force India’s engines – backed Paul, and with Nico Hulkenberg taking the reserve seat Tonio was left teamless. Pretty swiftly, however, the Italian driver was snapped up by Hispania Racing. Despite being unable to provide any funding, he was able to provide them with help in developing the car.
The start of the season was dismal. Neither HRT driver qualified in Australia after getting hardly any time on track, and coming nowhere near the pace in the qualifying session. But Malaysia was an improvement as both HRTs squeaked under the 107% time along with the Virgins. As the car has improved, Tonio has been able to scrap for position with the Virgins in qualifying, and even started 20th in Istanbul.
But his greatest race came in Canada. The wet/dry conditions somehow played into HRT’s hands, and while nobody was paying attention he finished ahead of his teammate, both Virgins, and the sole remaining Lotus of Jarno Trulli. His thirteenth-place finish has allowed him to slot in behind Trulli in the championship, and brought his team back to 11th where they finished the championship last year. HRT have had a lot of luck to be ahead of Virgin in 2010 and 2011, but in this game luck is a big part of it. And when your next rivals have an incredibly unreliable car, you can see why HRT have hopes of getting that elusive 12th-place finish that will get them 10th in the championship.

Worst qualifying: 23
Best qualifying: 20
Worst finish: 23 (Valencia)
Best finish: 13 (Canada)
Average difference: 2.3
Laps completed: 531/681 (78%)
Average race position: 10.82 (Best: 18.9 Canada; Worst: 22.9 China)

Jarno Trulli – 19
Having been hit by most of Team Lotus’s reliability problems in 2010, Jarno seems to have the more reliable car this year. Though to be honest, three is still a huge amount. Finishing 13th in the very first race of the season has sealed Jarno’s place at 19th in the championship, and he matched that finish in Monaco when he came in ahead of Kovalainen.
For the first half of the season, however, the Italian has been having trouble with the team’s power steering, which did not meet the sensitivity he required to be able to drive the way he prefers. This has been part of the reason why he has been half a second off his teammate in most sessions, as proven in Hungary when only a last-gasp effort got Kovalainen ahead on the grid.
We can expect much closer racing between the two Team Lotus drivers in the future, which will make life a lot more interesting for them. Let’s hope they can stay out of each others’ way and keep the retirements mechanical.

Worst qualifying: 21
Best qualifying: 18
Worst finish: 20 (Valencia)
Best finish: 13 (Australia, Monaco)
Average difference: 1
Laps completed: 490/611 (79%)
Average race position: 17.73 (Best: 15.9 Monaco; Worst: 20.4 Britain)

Pedro de la Rosa – 18
Stepping in for Sergio Perez at the Canadian Grand Prix, Pedro did a reasonable job considering he’d not been in the 2011 Sauber before. He finished on the leading lap thanks to the red flag and safety cars. Nothing else to say, really.

Qualifying: 17
Finish: 12
Average race position: 13.54

Rubens Barrichello – 17
After a good 2010, this season was looking even better for Rubens Barrichello. Winter testing showed promise, and the ‘tight rear end’ was the talk of the press. Then came Australia, and the first of two consecutive double DNFs for the team. Since then, Rubens has been pushing the team to improve. Already reluctantly putting aside this season, the Renault deal should make things better for 2012. But will the Brazilian be there? Rumours abound, questioning whether he will be replaced or remain. As the most experienced driver in F1, he can retire without shame, but he is still a good driver.
Despite not making it into Q3 at all, the high attrition in Monaco and Canada was enough for Rubens to snatch a couple of ninth-place finishes and four points. Aside from that, the Williams’ best finish was 12th at Valencia. Aside from the two DNFs at the start, Rubens’ FW33 has also had a problem in Germany. Bring on 2012.

Worst qualifying: 19
Best qualifying: 11
Worst finish: 17 (Spain)
Best finish: 9 (Monaco, Canada)
Average difference: -0.09
Laps completed: 585/681 (86%)
Average race position: 13.76 (Best: 10.2 Monaco; Worst: 22.0 Malaysia)

Sauber’s last-minute swap

The Pedro de la Rosa situation is getting as confusing as Bahrain. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. First, it seems Sauber were prepared to drop Perez if he wasn’t feeling well, but they didn’t tell Esteban Gutierrez who found out about the situation over Twitter. Meanwhile, they ready prepared for de la Rosa and brought his old seat from last year for the car, and the Spaniard had brought his race kit just in case. However, Martin Whitmarsh didn’t know, and was only approached by Sauber about 15 minutes before the start of FP2. De la Rosa only found out he’d definitely be going in the Sauber 10 minutes before the start, when Monisha Kaltenborn (Sauber CEO) approached him while he was finishing lunch, so he got about as much warning as the rest of us (although well done to F1 Live Timing who got the name in the system with such short notice).
Pedro is not going to have the easiest of times in the Sauber. The steering wheel is not what he is used to from either 2010 or McLaren, and he hasn’t raced with KERS and DRS before. Right now, he says that he has to look at the wheel when he needs to press something, which will affect his lap time. I guess he is going to be spending all night practising. Meanwhile, Sauber still need to adjust the pedals in the car to something more reasonable for the long-legged Spaniard.
It’s a shame that Gutierrez did get left out. The point of reserve drivers is to take over when they’re needed. It’s not like we have a Renault situation where a driver is out for the entire season; this is just one race. It is perfectly acceptable for a new driver to come in. Drivers (Timo Glock, for example) have successfully debuted at this track. Sauber have taken risks with two young drivers this season. Why not take a risk with another one? Perez had never driven at Canada before yesterday, so Gutierrez would just be another newbie. It would be quite a leap for Gutierrez to go from GP3 to GP2 to F1 in less than a year, but he could manage it. And as for putting the car into the wall – okay, Sauber can’t see into the future so they didn’t know that Kamui would do that.
Anyway, no good complaining or wondering ‘what if’. We’ve got Pedro the McLaren test driver in a Sauber. Let’s see what happens.

Wall of Wannabes?

Not only did Sebastian Vettel make friends with the Wall of Champions this weekend, but Sergio Perez is not as well as he thought. He has been replaced by 2010 Sauber driver and current McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa for the remainder of the weekend, as Sauber test driver Esteban Gutierrez is in Mexico this weekend. Perhaps a bit stupid of Sauber not to bring their test driver with their first choice driver still recovering from a bad accident. All the same, Canada might not be the best place to make your debut though Timo Glock did make his debut at the track for Jordan in 2004.
More bad luck for Sauber came in the second practice session, when Kamui Kobayashi shoved his Sauber into a different – so-far unnamed – wall. The session was red flagged. It resumed but was red flagged again minutes later when Jerome d’Ambrosio put his Virgin in the same wall. Perhaps it needs a name too. The Wall of Wannabes ‘cos Kobayashi and d’Ambrosio aren’t champions just yet. Sauber had spent the first half of the session getting the car ready for De La Rosa, and he went out in McLaren overalls in the Sauber (his helmet, however, had Sauber sponsor stickers on) when the session resumed after Kobayashi’s accident.
The Sauber has been looking good this season. I wonder how well the Spanish driver can do in it? Better than Mercedes’ drivers, it seems. Schumacher and Rosberg were both slower than the Team Lotus cars in FP2. This is strange because they were some of the fastest cars in FP1. Only d’Ambrosio in the Wall of Wannabes was outside the 107% time, and the Hispanias were fighting with the Virgins for pace.
Fastest in FP1 was Rosberg, then Alonso and Schumacher. Fastest in FP2 was Alonso, then Vettel and Massa. Is this Ferrari’s weekend at last? Despite that, it would be funny to see three drivers in McLaren overalls on the podium (though I’m not sure the Sauber has that much pace). De La Rosa being McLaren’s tester, he doesn’t have Sauber overalls.

24 drivers in 24 days – twenty-three

Quick news bite: Pedro de la Rosa is back at McLaren and is doing test work for them again, having left Pirelli. And now back to your regularly-scheduled blog post…

#24 – Timo Glock In total this German driver has had four seasons in Formula One, starting as a test driver in 2004 where he drove for four races for Jordan, then having a break including a trip into GP2 before returing to drive with Toyota for two seasons. With the loss of Toyota, he became a Virgin Racing driver. His last ever race for Toyota saw him finish second, and he’s definitely got talent! Hopefully, Virgin will give him the opportunity to show it in the future. He’s currently recovering from an appendix operation, but seems to be very bored because of missing out on testing.
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