Marlon Stockinger, who drove for Atech CRS in 2011, will continue in the series but with Status GP. Filipino-Swiss driver Stockinger was consistently fast in post-season testing, and hopes to do better than the 0 points he scored last season. This wasn’t completely Marlon’s fault, as the team only scored seven points in the whole season – all of which came at the extraordinary British Grand Prix from Nick Yelloly.
Three more cars were launched today – Sauber, Red Bull and Toro Rosso. Sauber’s livery features notably more black than last season, covering the back, and the front wings. All three feature the now-familiar stepped nose, and you have to ask – if Adrian Newey’s team thought the stepped nose was the best answer to the rule changes, have McLaren made a mistake somewhere? Out of the eight cars so-far launched (Williams’ will be revealed tomorrow), only McLaren lacks the ‘step’. All will soon be revealed, with pre-season testing starting tomorrow and the Australian Grand Prix only 40 days away.
Jaime Alguersuari has revealed that he was offered a seat with a leading team before the end of last season – and no wonder, he did a brilliant job! – but turned it down because he had verbal assurance from Red Bull and Toro Rosso that he would be retained for this year. This is not how it played out, of course. While Alguersuari considered HRT, he decided not to go there as he is still a young driver, with hopes of driving for a midfield team. It seems likely that the Spaniard will find a place as a reserve driver at one of the better teams this season.
Finally, it was one year ago today that Robert Kubica was badly injured in a rallying accident. While we all hoped he would be back on the grid for 2012, it was not to be. The Pole hopes to get back in a racing car some time this year, and who knows whether we’ll see him in a Ferrari come 2013?
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…
Sadly, Renault have confirmed today what we all suspected: Robert Kubica will not be returning to F1 for the start of the 2012 season. The Pole, who has kept out of the media spotlight since his accident, made an announcement via the team’s website to say that he would be unable to be drive-ready on time. Though he has 100% mobility in his hand and the rest of his body, getting back to race fitness and getting used to driving a race car again is hard work. It will take a long time to get there. Hopefully, Robert will be ready to return mid-season.
However, this does leave the future Lotus GP in a bit of a conundrum, with three drivers to fill two spaces. Romain Grosjean, the GP2 champion, is likely to take one of those seats. The remainder will be fought over by Petrov and Senna. Though Petrov has a contract for next year, Senna also brings good sponsorship and is in negotiations with the team. Having a Senna in a black and gold Lotus is obviously a very attractive option.
Meanwhile, F2 driver Alex Brundle will be taking part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans next season along with his father Martin. The endurance race does not fall on an F1 weekend this year, meaning that whether or not Brundle Sr is working for Sky or the BBC, he will still be able to race that weekend.
The GP3 teams have been testing in Valencia today. At midday of day one, Daniel Abt was fastest followed by Niederhauser, Guerin, Daly, Laine, Stockinger, Ellinas, Stevens, Zimin and Blomqvist.
Sunday was a bad day for Sebastian Vettel. First he had trouble with his hire car when entering the circuit – specifically, locking it! And when he began the race, he made it less than two corners before getting a puncture. Lewis Hamilton cannot have believed his luck as he saw the Red Bull spin off. Though Vettel made it back to the pits, he had damaged his suspension too much to continue.
Hamilton took his chance as his teammate was overtaken by Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard pushed hard all race, and at one point he came close to the Brit, but was unable to get there in the end. Behind, Jenson Button could not keep up due to a KERS failure in the first half of the race. He took the third spot on the podium.
One driver down, Red Bull botched Webber’s first stop and ended up moving him to a three-stop strategy. He went onto soft tyres for the first three stints, then did the final lap on hard tyres. This strategy allowed him to beat Felipe Massa, but I am sure the Aussie would much rather not have been racing the Brazilian, who as usual was in a race of his own.
Rosberg came home first in the Mercedes, with Sutil eighth and di Resta ninth on a failed one-stop strategy. Unfortunately, the Force India was just too hard on its tyres.
First of the lapped drivers was Kobayashi, scoring a rare point for Sauber, and Perez was eleventh. Barrichello finished 12th having started last, and behind him was Petrov. In fourteenth and fifteenth were Maldonado and Alguersuari. Maldonado was penalised twice for ignoring blue flags, the second time resulting in a stop-and-go penalty that became 30s of added time. Alguersuari had a drive-through for the same reason. Sixteenth was Senna, who also had a drive-through for ignoring blue flags and finished three seconds ahead of Kovalainen. Just as in Singapore, the Lotus was closing on the Renault in the final lap.
Trulli, who was ill this weekend, finished over a minute behind his teammate. Glock and Liuzzi followed the Italian home. Aside from Vettel, the retirements were Jerome d’Ambrosio, Sebastien Buemi and Daniel Ricciardo. All suffered mechanical failures.
In the news, reliable journalist Joe Saward has reported that Charles Pic will be driving for Marussia next season alongside Timo Glock. The French driver had a great season in GP2, driving for team champions Addax. He won twice, also finishing second on three occasions. He took pole in Valencia, at the Nurburgring and at Monza, and had only two points less than runner-up Luca Filippi at the end of the season. The French press have also reported this, and the driver will not be testing with Team Lotus as he was initially going to. Instead, Rodolfo Gonzalez will be in the car.
Meanwhile, with Renault confirming that Robert Kubica almost certainly not going to be driving at the start of the season, it seems most likely that Vitaly Petrov and Romain Grosjean will be driving for Lotus next year. (Renault, of course, will become Lotus after the end of this season)
Jesus is risen! And Robert Kubica is discharged from hospital. I have spent 2 weeks in hospital, and I can’t begin to imagine what 11 must have been like. I am sure he is overjoyed to be free to go home for a bit. Later he’ll be off to Italy to begin rehabilitation. It will be another four months before we can know whether or not he will be able to return to F1 or not.
So it’s a happy Easter Sunday for Robert. Hopefully when he is recovered enough we will see him back on track, although it can’t be easy seeing everyone else driving when he’s unable to. This is incredible good news.
Death hovers right at the edge of motorsport, and Robert Kubica was fortunate to miss it. In the last few years we’ve seen Liuzzi almost take Schumacher’s head off, Barrichello almost get shoved in a wall by Schumacher, some crazy crashes from various drivers, and of course Massa’s coma from the coil that flew off Barrichello’s car. There hasn’t been a death for nearly 17 years in F1, and the way drivers can mostly get out of their cars after these accidents is incredible. But these guys live on the edge every time they race. Just living is a deadly activity. And even if you avoid death by racing, it will find you one day. Mortality is 100% except for one man who lived 2000 years ago in Israel.
I’m not gonna use this blog to preach. But I do encourage you to think about what happens when you die. Because I do believe that in the great constructor’s championship of life, there’s only one winning team.
The best news of all today was off-track, since Robert Kubica has had an interview with Italian media. He says he feels that he is recovering well, and hopes to be back in a car before the end of the season. We all hope so too! Get well soon! Robert was due to undergo more surgery today on his leg, arm and shoulder.
On-track, there were more red flags today. First up was Jaime Alguersuari, who spun at 10am local time. Toro Rosso took so long to get him back to the pits that I was off to university before he was back. Later, Petrov caused a red flag from spinning, and after that it was Perez‘s turn; the Mexican went into a tyre wall and smashed his car up, ending his day. Just a short while later, Maldonado crashed, adding to Williams’ bad luck this weekend; not only did they get very little running time yesterday, but a KERS worry today put them out for several hours just before the Venusuelan’s crash.
Most teams were running the same drivers as yesterday, minus Ricciardo for Toro Rosso. However, McLaren and Mercedes are alternating their drivers so Button and Schumacher were in for Hamiton and Rosberg today.
Technical problems for Lotus meant they weren’t able to complete their running today, though they were within 2.9s of the fastest time: Schumacher‘s 1:20.352 and good news for Mercedes who have struggled so far. Massa continued to do well with 116 laps completed and less than a tenth off Schumacher’s time. Even Timo Glock set a surprisingly good lap in the Virgin, at 1:22.208 and just 1.8s off Schumacher (and only 2 tenths off Webber’s time from 2010). In comparison with 2010, the times are slightly slower, but Sauber were showing off to get sponsors last year and Schumacher is only 4 tenths off Kobasyashi’s time.
1 – Michael Schumacher 1:20.352
2 – Felipe Massa 1:20.413
3 – Jenson Button 1:21.009
4 – Jaime Alguersuari 1:21.214
5 – Mark Webber 1:21.613
6 – Adrian Sutil 1:21.780
7 – Sergio Perez 1:21.857
8 – Timo Glock 1:22.208
9 – Vitaly Petrov 1:22.493
10 – Pastor Maldonado 1:22.591
11 – Jarno Trulli 1:23.216
I haven’t done this for a while, because my Wednesdays are completely crazy with uni work. Beyond that, there wasn’t much to say with only Renault’s addition of several young drivers to their reserve squad. And then came last Sunday, with Robert Kubica‘s terrible accident. Thankfully, he seems to be recovering well, but he has more surgery tomorrow.
It didn’t take long for people to start speculating over who would replace the Polish driver. Bruno Senna was the natural choice to take the second seat temporarily, but whether he gets the permenant position is another matter considering Renault were hoping for a championship-winning car this year. Eric Bouiller has narrowed the options down to Senna, Nick Heidfeld (the ‘sensible’ option) and Tonio Liuzzi.
Elsewhere, Karun Chandhok will be testing for Lotus in Jerez and Barcelona, and his performance will help decide whether he will become the team’s reserve, though there are also other drivers waiting in the wings.