Vettel and Bortolotti dominate in India and Spain

What a day! Formula One completed the inaugural running of the Indian Grand Prix (won, as expected, in a dominant fashion by Sebastian Vettel) and the F2 championship was completed.

The sun was shining through the haze as twenty-four cars set off for the first corner. But only 23 made it through as Kamui Kobayashi got into an incident with a few other drivers including Barrichello and Glock. Barrichello pitted for a new front wing, and despite attempting to continue, Glock retired on lap two.
There was a second incident at the next corner, and Jarno Trulli received a puncture from one of the HRTs. He drove slowly back to the pits, but ended up finishing the race two laps behind Daniel Ricciardo. Trulli’s teammate Kovalainen, howver, had a good race. For the first half he scrapped with the back of the midfield, but after changing to hard tyres he could not keep in touch with Petrov, Perez and di Resta. The trio had got their hard tyre stint done in the first lap, which paid off in the form of a point for Perez.
The Toro Rossos had plenty of wings, and though Sebastien Buemi had a failure which forced him to retire, Jaime Alguersuari finished eighth. This puts the team level with Sauber on points, though Sauber are ahead due to a fifth-place finish for Kobayashi. Renault weren’t so lucky. Senna was running well but needed to use the hard tyre. He had to pit in the final few laps, losing him the chance of a point, while Petrov was unable to overtake Perez.
Schumacher had a brilliant start and finished fifth with teammate Rosberg unable to keep up. Rosberg was sixth. Behind them came Lewis Hamilton, who once again came off badly after an incident with Felipe Massa. It is astonishing how regularly they have collided this year. Massa was penalised with a drive-through, but later retired after breaking his suspension on one of the kerbs. The other driver who retired was Pastor Maldonado, who has been having problems all weekend. He also had a mechanical failure.
Sharing the podium with Vettel were Jenson Button – who had a relatively quiet race after being troubled by Webber – and Fernando Alonso who undercut Webber in the pits. If Red Bull are going to get Mark into second in the championship, it is going to be hard work; he is 19 points behind Button and 6 behind Alonso. The way Button has been running recently, he is most likely not to lose out to the Aussie or the Spaniard. As for Hamilton, he is 38 points behind Button. This is very likely to be the first season he is beaten by his teammate.
Elsewhere, the Renaults finished 11th and 12th, di Resta came home 13th ahead of Kovalainen, and the two HRTs finished behind d’Ambrosio in 17th and 18th for Karthikeyan and Ricciardo respectively. The Indian should consider this to be a good race.

Two spectacular dominating races for Mirko Bortolotti saw him top the podium in Barcelona on Saturday and Sunday, starting each from pole. Second on Saturday was Miki Monras, who found himself in a no-man’s land between Bortolotti and his fellow-countryman Ramon Pineiro who came third. Pineiro was in a similar state. On Sunday, Pineiro came second, once again running a lonely race. Behind him, however, Mihai Marinescu fended off Monras for third. It was not enough for Pineiro to take second in the championship, but he did take a well-deserved third and will soon get to test a GP2 car along with Christopher Zanella. Bortolotti, however, will be packing for Abu Dhabi where he will participare in the young drivers’ test with Williams.
There was not a huge amount of overtaking in the race, but Mikkel Mac managed a spectacular pass on Jack Clarke. Alex Brundle finishes the season top Brit after a tough year. He has only two points more than Jack Clarke, and ten more than Will Bratt who probably would have been a championship challenger if he had been able to continue. Full championship listings will be found on this website in a few days’ time.

Summer day 21 – Ramon Pineiro

Ramon Pineiro – 7
Spanish driver Ramon Pineiro’s car has been getting more horrendously yellow throughout this F2 season. Part of it is for the sponsors, but some of it must surely be to put off his fellow drivers. It certainly worked at Brands Hatch, when he took the win at the tenth attempt. It came the day after he finished second to take his first podium.
Ramon had already taken pole at Spa, but the wet weather caused him to lose places and finish seventh – though he did get the fastest lap in the end. He’s done well and only missed out on points three times, without a single retirement.

Points: 72
Best qualifying: 1
Worst qualifing: 14
Best finish: 1 (Brands Hatch race 2)
Worst finish: 14 (Nurburgring race 1)
Retirements: 0

The weekend is over (phew)!

It was a good weekend for racing. It began on a wet morning in German with the GP3 boys taking to the track, and culminated in a quiet F2 race at Brands Hatch. I didn’t watch much of the F2 today, however, as the F1 race was tense right to the end.

GP3 Rain. But the FIA didn’t start the race under the safety car. Everyone was on full wets as they made their way around. Yesterday’s podium sitter Valtteri Bottas was able to make the most of the conditions as Tom Dillmann and Alex Sims both made excellent gains. Williams reserve Bottas took the win – the tenth winner we’ve had this season in a tight field. Sims managed to get onto the podium for his first points of the weekend, and to become the first driver in 2011 to score over 30 points. He still leads the championship. Third was Nigel Melker, who has been through a points drought since the first two races when he led the championship. He also got the fastest lap, having pushed through the rain to make incredible gains on Sims.
The other points scorers were Pal Kiss, Dillmann (who started 22nd) and Calado.

GP2 It began wet but dried out. AirAsia tried a risky strategy of staying out on the wet tyres for longer than everyone else, but it failed them as they were losing 9s per lap by the time they switched. Valsecchi collided with Palmer on his pit exit, which means he has a penalty in Hungary of five places on the grid.
By the end it was a dramatic battle for the win with Grosjean, Bianchi and Filippi in the top three. Grosjean won that battle, with his fellow Frenchman in second and Filippi third in his 101st race.
Behind them, Vietoris came from 23rd to 4th after some good calls from Racing Engineering – who only had one driver to worry about after Clos went off the track at turn 5 after contact with van der Garde (who also retired). Adam Carroll managed to finish 5th from 15th, picking up two points on his return to GP2. In sixth, Carlin managed to get the final point with Max Chilton after Bird and Ericsson’s scrap made them lose out.

F2 Bortolotti was on pole with Pineiro in second and Clarke third. Pineiro pushed his way into the lead and stayed there, though the other two were close behind. There were several battles down the field, and Brundle and Monras both ended up at the back after spins.
Mihai Marinescu enjoyed battling with Tobias Hegewald, and they finished fourth and fifth. Armaan Ebrahim magnificently held off Zanella for sixth. Ebrahim had also had a battle with Russian Max Snegirev, who ended up retiring after crashing off the track.
Eighth was Benjamin Lariche, who has really been shining this weekend. Monras managed to come back to 9th in the final lap after a battle with Jordan King. King in his final F2 race this season came 10th.

F1 Vettel got stuck behind the Hamilton, Webber, Alonso trio and from there his race was over. Meanwhile the front three spent most of the time in close competition, showing just how even it is between the top three teams at this stage of the season. Any of them could have won, and Webber led his first laps of the race. But in the end Hamilton pulled ahead. The Ferrari came second, and the Red Bull came third. In fourth, jumping Massa in a last-lap pit stop, was Vettel. Massa had held off Vettel for fourth all the way up to that point, the Brazilian doing an excellent job.
Further back, Adrian Sutil started 8th and finished 6th. He was helped by Button retiring with hydraulics issues, but it was still a good race for the German. He’s helped Force India to retake 7th in the constructors’ championship. Seventh and eighth were the two Mercedes drivers, with Schumacher behind Rosberg. In ninth was Kobayashi, who had started 17th – boosted one place after Buemi was relegated to the back with irregular fuel. Tenth was Vitaly Petrov.
Heidfeld was another retiree, having been shunted off the track by Buemi on the ninth lap just as he was due to receive a drive-through for hitting Di Resta on the first lap. The final retirees were Liuzzi with an electrical issue, and Barrichello with fuel supply issues.

Next race, Buemi has a 5-place grid penalty for causing Heidfeld’s crash. That’s in just a week’s time at the Hungaroring. Meanwhile, F2 takes its summer break but will return at the Red Bull Ring at the end of August.

F2 and GP3 qualifying

Italian Mirko Bortolotti took provisional pole today for the first race at a soggy Spa. He qualified 1.3s ahead of the nearest competitor Ramon Pineiro, with Alex Brundle in third and Christopher Zanella fourth. However, he was then penalised for going too fast with yelow flags waving so now Pineiro and Brundle will share the front row. Jon Lancaster is again notable by his absence, the cause of which I am unable to determine. I am concerned that something serious has happened, since if it had just been a car failure they surely would have mentioned something by now. Neither Mun, Kralev or Sureshwaren set reasonable qualifying times, but will hopefully still be able to race.

In GP3, plenty of different drivers took the chance to lead the session including Mitch Evans and Adrian Quaiffe-Hobbs. But in the end it was Evans’ Arden teammate Lewis Williamson who took his first pole position. Arden have a good lineup for 2011 with a pair of strong rookie drivers who taken two of the three pole positions this season. Second and third were two other Brits: Dean Smith and Adrian Quaiffe-Hobbs. Evans was fourth, then Vainio, Sims, Dillmann, Chaves, Bottas and Calado, with Sims and Chaves both recovering despite a collision. The final qualifying positions are as ever subject to penalties.

Finally, a brief word to say that Takuma Sato has taken his first IndyCar pole. So far the best Japanese F1 driver, Sato has been doing reasonably well in IndyCar as well, though sometimes his races have been muddled by his team’s poor strategy choices.

Practice sessions

Lots of practice sessions today. It’s been hard to keep track! Jordan King was one of the slowest in F2 morning practice, at which Ramon Pinero set the fastest time, but third fastest in the afternoon. He’s getting the hang of the F2 cars and Spa very quickly. It must be crazy going out there for the first time. Miki Monras was fastest in that session.
The F2 driver missing out on this weekend is Natalia Kowalska. For some reason that I am unable to discover, Jon Lancaster hasn’t set a single lap in the morning or the afternoon despite his tweets to say that he would be driving at Spa. I hope he is okay.

In Formula One, Nico Hulkenberg crashed Paul di Resta‘s car in morning practice, and it was not ready for the Scotsman until very close to the end of the second session. Karun Chandhok suffered gearbox problems, and didn’t set a time. Red Bull are gearbox suppliers to Team Lotus, but the team were unable to get the spare parts until after the session. Jarno Trulli‘s car was ready for the afternoon.
The Red Bulls failed to dominate. Mark Webber went fastest in the morning, but it was Fernando Alonso who dipped below the 1:37s mark in the afternoon with Hamilton second and Vettel third. Jaime Alguersuari’s car had problems and the Spaniard failed to set a time.

In GP2, several drivers set good times but in the end it was Jules Bianchi who went fastest for Lotus ART. Esteban Gutierrez, who won the race here in GP3 last year, did well and finished P8 ahead of Davide Valsecchi the Monaco feature race winner. They are currently in the middle of the first qualifying session.

Finally in GP3 Alex Sims went fastest followed by birthday boy Mitch Evans. They have a second practice sesson later.

F2 practice 2 – Silverstone 2011

Two more red flags in the afternoon practice session. The rookies were in fine form overall, but second-seasoner Mihail Marinescu set the fastest lap on 1:51.636. Second was rookie Ramon Pineiro, whose fastest sectors in FP1 would have given him the fastest lap if they’d all come together. Pineiro was the only other driver to dip into the 1:51s.
Slowest of all was red-flag causer Mun, and Julian Theobald again lagged behind his brother. The overall gap between first and last was 3.3s. Natalia Kowalska was disappointingly slow, but she is recovering from an injury that hampered her over the winter, so hopefully she will improve.
Times and stats to come…

F2 Practice 1 – Silverstone 2011

The Formula Two series got under way today at Silverstone on the Arena circuit layout – the same one that was used in the British Grand Prix last year – though I am not sure whether or not they were using the new pit complex. With five British drivers, they’ll be hoping for a good home race, and Jack Clarke – an expert at F2 having been in the reincarnated series since its return in 2009) – finished top of the timing sheets. Second, however, was rookie Ramón Piñeiro of Spain. So experience doesn’t count for everything!

There were two red flags – a brief one from rookie James Cole who managed to get going again and finished fifteenth – and one right at the end of the session from Johannes Theobald, who finished 14th. Johannes is the younger of the Theobald brothers, but finished far ahead of Julian, who was 24th.
A gap of only 3.230 seconds between first and 24th shows how close these drivers are. Of course, the cars are all the same build, and the drivers and their engineers can only adjust certain things to get the best out of them. A lot of it is down to driver skill.
I’ve updated the championship and driver lists with the final two drivers. You’ll notice that Jose Luis Abadin is daringly running with the number 13 car. I don’t believe in superstition like that, so I would probably do the same thing. He finished 21st out of the 24 drivers.

Full times and information on each driver’s runs available here at . More to come when I’ve looked at the data.

Formula Two adds Spanish flair

And we have 22! Formula two has been joined by Spaniard Ramon Pineiro. Last year he competed in the final race of the series in Valencia, and finished third in UK Formula Palmer Audi. That series, sadly, has folded. However, the series was comparable to F3 in terms of ability, yet much cheaper – the 2009 season cost a ‘mere’ £55,000 plus VAT.

Ramon took car 16 for his race last season, which has not yet been stolen by another driver so I expect we will see him in the same number this year. It’s gonna be busy at Silverstone on Saturday!