Ceccon gets Oceans of chance in GP3

F2
There’s just one week until the 2012 season kicks off, and it looks like a number of talented drivers will be on track. Swiss driver Mauro Calamia is the latest to be officially announced, but there are also a number of drivers listed on the website who are yet to be confirmed, including 2010 champion Dean Stoneman. With the new faster, better cars, this year looks set to produce some good racing. We can only hope that there aren’t too many regulars at the back of the field.
Mauro Calamia joins F2 from Formula Renault Alps, where he finished 10th of 25 drivers. He picked up a reasonable 125 points. He tended to be in the bottom half of the timesheets during testing, but hopefully the 20-year-old rookie will catch up as the season progresses.

GP3
As well as Tamas Pal Kiss, two other drivers have been announced this week. Status Grand Prix have a second driver in Kotaro Sakurai, a Japanese driver who was British F3 national class champion last season. The youngster has tested GP3 before, but this will be his first season in the series.
Meanwhile, Auto GP champion Kevin Ceccon will be joining Carmen Jorda and Robert Cregan at Ocean Racing Technology. Ceccon participated in GP2 for Scuderia Coloni last season after Davide Rigon was injured, but it was a premature step up for the Italian. Ceccon should do well in GP3, and I expect him to be a frontrunner from the first race.

F1
If you thought the Lotus saga was over, think again! Group Lotus, who were title sponsors of Renault last season, have pulled out of that role by mutual consent with the team. Group Lotus have been struggling, and their owners Proton have been cutting back. Lotus F1 Team will still keep the name, however, until 2017. So there will be a Lotus with no connection to either the original team or the car manufacturer for the next few years in F1. In fact, Caterham probably have more connection to the original Team Lotus than Lotus F1 now!
All you need to know is, Lotus are still called Lotus. They have no connection to Lotus but they still have the name. Ow my head!

Meanwhile, news out of South America suggests that Argentina are likely to be hosting an F1 race from 2013 and replacing South Korea, despite the Asian venue arranging a lower hosting fee. This will be confirmed (or not) within the next few weeks. If it does go ahead, this means there will be two new races for 2013: Argentina and New Jersey. The question is, which races will be set aside?

Things are hotting up once again in Bahrain, with the F1 race looking set to be the focal point of protests. While F1 should be careful not to take sides, I think that the situation merits a cancellation. I fear that the protesters would target the media and team personnel, to make sure that their voices are heard. It would be awful if anyone were injured or killed just because Bernie Ecclestone insisted the race go ahead. The protesters might see it as a victory, but it would be a hollow one. The government might be in the wrong, but I doubt they would target anyone connected to F1. I fear the protesters would have no such qualms.

British F3
The new season starts this weekend at Oulton Park. At the time of writing, only free practice has happened so far. Alex Lynn was fastest by almost 0.5s from Felix Serralles, which is a good start from the Formula Renault UK graduates who are both at Fortec. Jack Harvey was Carlin’s fastest, only 0.04s slower than Serralles, and his teammate Harry Tincknell was fourth-fastest.

Other
Formula Renault 3.5 champion Robert Wickens is setting his single seater career aside to join Mercedes’s DTM team this year. There are a lot of drivers taking part in the series, from a wide variety of nations. Most of them are talented, and if you can watch it then it should be good fun! The season starts on April 29th at Hockenheim.

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Young drivers’ test day one

The first day of the F1 young drivers’ test is over. Of the 23 taking part in the three-day test, fourteen were driving today. So far as I’m aware, nothing significant happened and the young drivers generally did well.
In the morning, Jean-Eric Vergne topped the times for Red Bull with Jules Bianchi about two seconds behind in the Ferrari. McLaren ran Oliver Turvey, who was 0.9s behind the French driver. Finn Valtteri Bottas was getting the most out of the Williams and set the fourth-fastest time.
In the afternoon, Charles Pic took over from Adrian Quaife-Hobbs in the Virgin, while Gary Paffett took over in the McLaren. The British team have been using the time to work on 2012 modifications, since Paffett has no race experience despite testing for a long time with them. Vergne was again fastest, with Bianchi around 0.9s slower in the Ferrari. Robert Wickens in the Renault set the third-fastest time. Williams had a few gearbox troubles, but Bottas still managed some good running.

Full times: TSL Timing

Razia, Chilton and Charouz in Abu Dhabi final

F1
Formula Renault 3.5’s 2011 champion Robert Wickens takes to the track for Marussia Virgin in the first practice session at Abu Dhabi next Friday. He will replace Jerome d’Ambrosio. The Canadian has shown great form over the past three years of racing, finishing second in GP3 and F2 before this year’s victory. It is unlikely that he will be an F1 driver next year, with GP2 being the most likely option, but he has the backing of Marussia. As the FR3.5 champion, he will also be taking part in the young drivers’ test at Abu Dhabi for Renault.

GP2
Kevin Ceccon will be taking part in the test as well, and like teammate Stefano Coletti will be in the Toro Rosso STR06. It’s a big step up for Ceccon, who only turned 18 this year and was moved into a GP2 seat after Davide Rigon’s accident. Though he wasn’t able to shine in GP2, he fought well in Auto GP to emerge victor in the final race of the season.
Carlin have announced that their full-time driver Max Chilton will be driving alongside Jan Charouz the Renault reserve and FR3.5 driver in the GP2 final. AirAsia have their driver Luiz Razia alongside Alexander Rossi for the final, and Razia will also be taking part in the F1 young drivers’ test for Team Lotus. Razia also took part last year for Virgin when he was their test driver.

Vettel and Wickens win titles

Two titles were decided today, as the inter-team battle of Vergne vs Wickens was decided in Formula Renault 3.5, while Sebastian Vettel finished in the points at Suzuka to take the world championship and become the youngest-ever double world champion.

Robert Wickens only needed to finish nine points or less behind Jean-Eric Vergne to take the title, but his hopes were almost dashed at the start of the race as he took himself out in an altercation with Vergne. The Virgin driver had to watch the race from the pits, and hope Vergne didn’t finish in the top five. The Red Bull driver struggled himself, and eventually retired on lap nine when he clashed with Fairuz Fauzy.
It was a race of high attrition, with only fourteen drivers surviving till the finish. Six of those drivers (including Wickens) didn’t even complete the first lap. Albert Costa won, with Nick Yelloly second and Brendon Hartley third. But it was Robert Wickens who celebrated winning the title after two years being runner-up.
Alex Rossi took third in the drivers’ championship after finishing seventh in the race, with Albert Costa’s win taking him to fourth. Daniel Ricciardo’s F1 career meant he missed the race and was demoted to fifth.

In Formula One, Vettel naturally took the lead from pole, with Lewis Hamilton getting into second. But Button was on the pace, and overtook Hamilton when his tyres were fading. After the first round of pit stops he was right on the tail of the Red Bull, and came out ahead after the second stops. From then on, Jenson dominated, though Alonso (who got out ahead of Vettel as well) was closing on him at the finish. Vettel took his first third-place of the season, which was enough to secure him the championship.
It was a good race for Team Lotus, who finished for the first time on the lead lap. They were helped by a safety car mid-way through the race, which pulled the field back together. Both Virgins and Daniel Ricciardo finished two laps down, while Tonio Liuzzi was lapped three times. The only non-finisher was Sebastien Buemi, whose tyre hadn’t been fitted properly. It was a similar problem to Alguersuari’s in China.
Hamilton and Massa had their regulation collision, though for once Lewis wasn’t penalised. It did cause Massa to lose a small part of his car, which was the cause of the safety car. But these two seem to be coming together far too often. Massa ended up seventh as Schumacher’s tyre strategy paid off. The German led a race for the first time today since the Japanese GP five years ago. Hamilton finished fifth, with Webber fourth. In eight was Perez, not letting his illness get him down. Perez set the second-fastest lap of the day by 0.001 seconds – fastest was Button, whose previous lap had been 0.005s slower than Perez. Ninth was Petrov, and Rosberg came 10th from 23rd.

Final race showdown for Carlin

The fight between Robert Wickens and Jean-Eric Vergne continues to the final race of the Formula Renault season, as today’s race failed to find a victor. Wickens led the race from pole, while Vergne fought his way up the order and onto the podium. There are only nine points between them, but Wickens holds the advantage. Having been runner-up in Formula Two in 2009, and GP3 last year, he’ll want to win tomorrow. Even if he doesn’t, the support from Marussia Virgin Racing should see him get a GP2 seat next year. As for Jean-Eric Vergne, he’s a Red Bull driver so will probably stick in the series as he begins to test drive in a Toro Rosso from the next Grand Prix.

There are nine points difference between the drivers, and both are on an equal number of wins following today’s race, but it is Wickens who has taken more second-places. Therefore Vergne needs to finish at least 10 points ahead of Wickens (if he wins the race, the Canadian cannot score exactly nine points less) in order to win the championship.

  • Vergne wins – Wickens must be 3rd or lower
  • Vergne 2nd – Wickens must be 6th or lower
  • Vergne 3rd – Wickens must be 8th or lower
  • Vergne 4th – Wickens must be 9th or lower
  • Vergne 5th – Wickens must not score
  • Vergne 6th or lower – Wickens is champion

Got that? Tomorrow, the F1 championship will probably be decided. Vettel is on pole. Race begins at 7am British time, with BBC coverage beginning from 6am. See you then!

FR3.5 Championship Down to Carlin

Today was a bit crazy for Jean-Eric Vergne. Qualifying on pole at Paul Ricard, he also won a race that happened quite a bit earlier in the season – the second round at Monza. He had originally been demoted to third with a ten-second penalty, but the penalty was removed on appeal by the team. This gave him ten extra points, but Ricciardo lost seven and Rossi lost three. The French driver now only had 24 points less than teammate Wickens.
With 100 points up for grabs, today’s race turned out to be a decider for Daniel Ricciardo, who was mathematically in contention. Held up by a very slow Alex Rossi for a good part of the race, he was unable to contend for a podium position. The win was taken from pole by Vergne, and in second was Albert Costa. Costa was disqualified, however, after his car was ruled underweight in post-race scrutineering. Crossing the line third and promoted to second was Robert Wickens. He now has 216 points to Vergne’s 199 – 17 points apart. In third was Brendon Hartley, and fourth was Jake Rosenzweig who crossed the line sixth, but was promoted due to Costa’s disqualification and also a ten-second penalty to Riccidardo for breaking track limits. Sergio Canamasas took fifth, with the Aussie demoted to sixth. The Aussie is now out of contention, with only 126 points. That’s 90 less than Wickens with three races to go. Ricciardo might be able to get third in the championship, but his F1 career might just get in the way. The two drivers behind him – Korjus and Costa – both have 120 points, and Rossi has 113.
So it’s down to new Toro Rosso reserve Verge and Virgin reserve Wickens. If Carlin keep Max Chilton on for next year, they’ll only be able to put one of them in their GP2 team. That is, if they don’t get snapped up by one of the other teams first, or if their respective F1 teams don’t take a punt on them next year.