Formula Renault UK winter series

Formula Renault UK
The Formula Renault Finals Series (formerly the winter series) hits the tarmac at Snetterton this weekend, and unlike the summer series has a packed field. As well as the usual British teams, there are a few international teams and the drivers are truly international – though several of the summer series drivers return. Not, however, Alice Powell, who is missing out. Six of the cars will be BARC entries (running older Formula Renault cars), and those drivers will be in bold.
So who isn’t missing out? Korainen (FIN) are fielding six drivers in cars 2-7: Daniil Kvyat (RUS), Esteban Ocon (FRA), Hans Villemi (EST), John Bryant-Meisner (SWE), Martin Rump (EST) and Stefan Wackerbauer (GER). There will be two drivers for Atech Reid (GBR) in cars 8 and 16 – Geoff Uhrhane (AUS) and Dan Wells (GBR) respectively. Interwetten (AST) will be supporting just Melville McKee (GBR), and Van Amersfoort (NED) will field cars 11 and 12 – Dennis van der Laar (NED) and Joao Sergio Camara (BRA).
Next Fortec (GBR), the summer series champions, whose eight drivers include several series regulars and a few who are new to racing. Josh Hill (GBR) son of Damon and formerly of Manor is in car 14. Dan De Zille (GBR) is in car 19, Felix Serrales (PR) who took part in a few races as a guest driver is in car 24. Archie Hamilton (GBR) is in car 26; Ed Jones (UAE) another guest driver is in car 29; Thomas Jager (AST) is in car 34, and Shahaan Engineer (IND) is car 39. Jake Dennis is in car 41, and summer’s runner-up Oli Rowland is in car 44.
Manor Competition are entering three drivers, and retain just one of their summer lineup. With Alice not driving and Josh off to Fortec, it has to be the incredible Jordan King (GBR), who took a win and a second place in Indian GP support races. As usual he is in car 42. Nick McBridge (AUS) and Hector Hurst (GBR) are in cars 17 and 18 respectively.
Hillspeed (GBR) are also putting out three cars, with Victor Jiminez (ESP) in car 25, Joe Kibbler (GBR) in car 31, and Sean Walkinshaw (GBR) in car 33. Mark Burdett (GBR) have cars 21 and 22: Josh Webster (GBR) and Tomasz Krzeminski (POL). Antel Motorsport (GBR) have Ivan Taranov (RUS) and Chirag Marhotra (IND) in cars 27 and 28. Finally, MGR (GBR) have cars 66 and 99. James Fletcher (GBR) is in car 66, while 99 is TBC.
The drivers to look out for are probably Oliver Rowland, Daniil Kvyat, Josh Hill and Jordan King. The British drivers will have experience of Snetterton, and Daniil is simply a good driver.

Live timing will be at http://www.tsl-timing.co.uk

GP2 Final
Watch out James Calado and Tom Dillmann! GP3 double race winner Rio Haryanto and one-time winner (but consistent) Nigel Melker will be driving for DAMS in the GP2 final! Rio will be the first ever Indonesian GP2 driver.

F1
Sam Michael has begun working for McLaren after Williams gave him permission. He would originally have had to take ‘gardening leave’ until March before working for his new team, but the teams have recently made an arrangement that will see McLaren’s new sporting director present at Abu Dhabi and Brazil.

Indycar
Despite being sponsored by the Lotus car company, KV Racing will be using Chevrolet engines in 2012. I don’t usually report on Indycar, but with Lotus always a hot topic in F1 circles, I thought this merited a mention. Lotus engines will be available to Indy teams next season along with Chevvy and Honda, but so far only one team has committed to running them. It will be interesting to see whether this affects the relationship between KV and Lotus.

GP3 race report and season summary

We haven’t had the Formula One yet, but I am almost certain that the prize for the most exciting race of the day goes to GP3. The championship leader and runner-up were causing most of the havoc, with Valtteri Bottas taking out two drivers almost straight away. First to go was Conor Daly, running in third, who was spun off the track by the Finn. As Bottas returned to the track he caused Alex Sims to move out the way, and the Status driver hit the car in front of him. The ART driver couldn’t have his championship taken away, but he did receive a drive-through penalty.
Meanwhile, James Calado was running with the leaders including Antonio Felix da Costa, Nico Muller, Mitch Evans, Simon Trummer, Rio Haryanto, Adrian Quaife-Hobbs and – incredibly – Callum MacLeod of Carlin. At the first chicane, Calado was being squeezed off the track by the other runners and as he tried to stay on he went into Mitch Evans. The Arden driver had to retire, but it was a drive-throgh penalty for Calado who was running in second. Calado ended up with a time penalty due to the lateness of the punishment. Portuguese da Costa won, with Muller second and Haryanto third. Trummer came home fourth, while MacLeod was fifth and Quaife-Hobbs sixth. MacLeod was the only remaining Carlin runner after Leo Cordeiro spun and stalled, and he also took the point for fastest lap.
Despite not finishing the race after a self-caused accident, Nigel Melker finished third in the championship with 38 points. Fourth was Nico Muller, who had a great comeback at the end of the second. He and fifth-placed Adrian Quaife-Hobbs both finish with 36 points. Behind them, Alex Sims came sixth with 34 points after a horrendous end to his season and no points since Germany. Behind him, Rio Haryanto came seventh with 31 points – his two wins edge him ahead of Arden’s Lewis Williamson. Incredibly, a lot of these well-placed drivers have gone through some rough races. Nobody has been particularly consistent.
Ninth in the championship is Mitch Evans, who has done terribly since he led the championship early on through no fault of his own – usually in fact due to James Calado! In tenth is Andrea Caldarelli, with his 20 points picked up in the first four races enough for that position.
Teams Champion Lotus ART finished with 124 points – well ahead of second place MW Arden with 69 points. Just behind Arden is Marussia Manor Racing on 67 points, and last year’s losers RSC Mucke got 61. Status were fourth with 50 points, followed by Tech 1 with 43, Jenzer with 37, Addax with 33, Carlin with 21 and CRS with a lowly seven.

GP2 and 3 qualifying

It’s not been a good weekend for Addax driver Giedo van der Garde. Qualifying 20th after he failed to get in a single clean lap, he and his trainer were robbed last night. Not a good way for the man currently second in GP2 to start the weekend.
The close battle for second is hotting up, and the front row is taken up by Charles Pic (VDG’s teammate and fourth in the championship) and Luca Filippi (fifth). Luca has been second for the last four races, and this has resulted in two wins and three fastest laps. Third-placed Jules Bianchi only managed to qualify nineteenth.
It was a better session for Carlin, as both their drivers made it into the top ten. Fabio Leimer starts third which is an improvement after a tough season for the Swiss. After Parente in fourth, champion Grosjean is fifth followed by the Racing Engineering drivers of Clos and Vietoris. Adam Carroll and Sam Bird start eighth and ninth respectively.
Yellow flags prevented anyone from setting a hot lap at the end of the session, but the nature of Monza should make overtaking fairly easy. With less than a second between pole and 20th, the field is as close as GP3. It should be – as ever – a cracking race this afternoon.

GP3 now, and Vittorio Ghirelli returns, albeit at Addax in place of Dean Smith who’s been struggling in the second half of the season. At Jenzer, his old seat has been taken by Christophe Hurni, a 48-year-old who is probably the oldest driver to take to the track at Monza this weekend! It’s possible that one of the Porsche drivers may be older of course.
Fifth-placed Adrian Quaife-Hobbs took pole for Manor Motorsport, while Silverstone winner Nico Muller is second. Adrian’s teammate Rio Haryanto is third, with Mitch Evans fourth. Championship leader Valtteri Bottas starts fifth with teammate James Calado in sixth. Arden’s Simon Trummer is seventh, next to Christensen. Tamas Pal Kiss and Tom Dillman make up row five. Alex Sims starts 11th and Nigel Melker 13th.
Free practice gave Lewis Williamson a ten-place grid penalty for putting himself and Quaife-Hobbs off the road, while Daniel Mancinelli was demoted three places for impeding AQH earlier in the same lap. They will start from almost the back of the grid.

Summer day 18 – Rio Haryanto

Rio Haryanto – 10
Until the British Grand Prix, Rio Haryanto was sitting low down in the table, not a single point in hand. But in the sprint race he did brilliantly, pushing his way up the field to finish an excellent fourth, just off the podium. Then, the Manor racing driver went with his team to the Nurburgring. Perhaps inspired by his first points haul, he qualified third – the first time he’d ever qualified in the top ten – then went on to win the race. Never before has an Indonesian driver done so well in motor racing.
For the next two races, Rio just missed out on the points, finishing 10th and 9th. Then in the Hungaroring sprint he became the second GP3 driver to win more than one race this season. It was a fantastic effort, and is the reason he is now 10th in the championship. He only has 21 points less than the leader, but can he catch the Finn? We shall see.

Points: 19
Best qualifying: 3
Worst qualifing: 21
Best finish: 1 (Nurburgring feature, Hungaroring sprint)
Worst finish: 26 (Istanbul feature)
Retirements: 0

Rain makes great racing

After two tame races yesterday, GP2 and GP3 needed some added spice today. GP3’s came in the form of a wet race, and GP2’s was in a race with mixed conditions where one strategy proved better – though it was a close thing.

GP3
Nigel Melker was given pole for this morning’s earlier-than-usual GP3 race after Sims was excluded from the feature race for technical infringements. It was a wet track and raining lightly; GP3 has been afflicted by wet races this season. Immediately there were spins, and Williamson was taken off in an ambulance though it didn’t appear to be serious. Evans also registered another DNF.
There were spins all over the place, with cars regularly having to cut the chicane. Those who did manage to avoid spinning managed to get good finishes, and particularly Maxim Zimin registering his best-ever finish of 9th.
After a safety car towards the end of the race, Rio Haryanto managed to overtake a struggling Melker, as did the ART cars of Valtteri Bottas and James Calado – Calado in particular impressing as he had started 25th on the grid. Bottas leads the championship with 40 points, but just 12 points behind is seventh place: Antonio Felix da Costa has 28 points, equal with Mitch Evans in 6th. This is still anyone’s to call with two rounds left.

GP2
At the start it wasn’t raining but the track was damp. A few drivers started on slicks, including Coletti, Gutierrez and Luca Filippi. Filippi was the strangest choice, as he was starting from near the front of the grid. And immediately he slid down to the back of the field. He ended up having to retire from the race.
Wets seemed the way to go until the track began to dry, and as drivers started to pit for slicks the safety car came out as Max Chilton’s stricken Carlin car needed moving off the track. Coletti, not needing to pit, found himself at the front, and once the safety car came in he was battling against Romain Grosjean.
The DAMS and Trident cars scrapped until the rain began to fall again. Some teams pitted, but Charles Pic stayed out as a second safety car period began. This was not the way to go, with Stefano Coletti, Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez all up at the front on wet tyres. They soon got past Pic, and Gutierrez hounded a more-cautious Grosjean as Coletti zoomed into the lead. The Monagesque driver won, and as they rounded the final corner Grosjean went wide and Gutierrez took second by 0.2s.

Saturday Summary

It was a good day for Russian racing drivers today. In Formula Two, Max Snegirev – who’s done a bit of driving at Brands Hatch – got his second points finish with a strong qualifying and race to finish 7th. He’s now 16th in the championship. In Formula One, Vitaly Petrov got into Q3 at the expense of his teammate. And in GP3, Ivan Lukashevich didn’t get points but finished 11th – his best finish of the season.

GP3
There was a threat of rain at the start of the race, and a couple of drivers took the risk of wet tyres. But that was a mistake as the rain held off for the moment. They were forced to pit and change tyres. Mitch Evans maintained his lead from pole, while Lewis Williamson became second. But Evans – along da Costa – had a bit of a problem caused by their teams. Their cars had had their tyres fitted too late on the grid. They were given 10 second stop-and-go penalties.
Conor Daly had a fantastic start and moved into the points with Evans’ penalty. Other drivers also benefited and managed to move up the field, including Ivan Lukashevich and Nico Muller. Rio Haryanto on his best race weekend ever was battling with Williamson for the lead.
Then, in the last four laps, it began to rain. A few drivers pitted for tyres – giving Conor Daly even more points – and the frontrunners were struggling on slicks in conditions remeniscent of the Formula One race in 2007. Haryanto, Williamson and James Calado struggled against each other, but it was the Indonesian driver who took the win. There aren’t a lot of racing drivers from his country, but he’s shown that Indonesians have talent. Well done Rio!

GP2
Caterham Team AirAsia provided a lot of the entertainment but failed to score points after Fabio Leimer pushed Luiz Razia off the track while they were battling for 9th. Auto GP championship leader Luca Filippi in his 100th GP2 race moved from second to first in the pits, then pushed and pushed to gain a small lead and take the win. Charles Pic and Romain Grosjean took the remaining podium places.
Marcus Ericsson overtook van der Garde at the end to take fifth behind Jules Bianchi, and in seventh was Dani Clos. On pole tomorrow will be Sam Bird. Clos was gifted seventh place after Parente recieved a drive-through penalty.
Fabio Leimer got into trouble twice in the race – he almost took out Adam Carroll on his charge before he pushed off Razia. He has been excluded from the race results. Meanwhile Pal Varhaug has a 10-place grid penalty for tomorrow after colliding with Kevin Mirocha on the first lap and causing a safety car period while the marshals rescued the two cars from the track.

F2
A brilliant cheeky move by Jack Clarke between the polesitter and Ramon Pineiro got him into first place. Pineiro got into second. An unlucky accident on the first lap saw Jordan King go off along with Lariche, Snoeks and Marinescu. Alex Brundle retired shortly after with a broken suspension, and Thiemo Storz beached himself in the Brands Hatch gravel.
But apart from that, it was a good race with Jose Luiz Abadin battling Mikkel Mac for 10th. Abadin got the point in the end – his first. Armaan Ebrahim also scored two points.
Jack Clarke took the win and fastest lap. Pineiro came second. Further back, a battle for third had polesitter Hegewald in the lead all the way, with Silver Lining’s Miki Monras fourth and Mirko Bortolotti fifth. Bortolotti still extends his lead over Zanella as the Swiss driver came sixth. James Cole also broke his points duck by coming eighth.

F1
Qualifying almost went as normal. The expected drivers went out in Q1 along with a less expected Kamui Kobayashi. But he’s done well starting from the back before. The Toro Rossos, Perez, Heidfeld, the Williams and di Resta went out in Q2, leaving Sutil and Petrov in Q3 along with the Mercs, Ferraris, Red Bulls and McLarens.
It was close. In the end, Hamilton split the Red Bulls. But the Red Bulls were not in their typical order. Webber took his second consecutive pole, while Vettel is off the front row for the first time since Monza last year. Alonso is next to him. It will be an interesting race.
Liuzzi was relegated five places and will start from the back of the grid. But as it turns out, that is 23rd. Sebastien Buemi has had his qualifying results excluded because of irregularities in his fuel. He will probably start from the back of the grid or the pit lane.

Post-Valencia penalties

The incident-strewn GP2 and GP3 races have resulted in the following 10-place grid penalties at the next round at Silverstone:

Romain Grosjean for the first-lap collision of the GP2 sprint.
Rio Haryanto, Nigel Melker and Thomas Hylkema for causing collisions in the second GP3 race.

The incident-free F1 race resulted in no penalties being applied. Zzzzzz…