Power does what it says on the tin

IndyCar
After last week’s opening round of the 2012 IndyCar series season, I didn’t have high hopes for today’s race. But what a race it was! It seems all Indy needs for a decent race is a proper track and fewer caution periods. Surprisingly, there were only two in the whole race!
Strategy was still important, but Will Power capitalised on a pit stop error from Scott Dixon’s team to take the lead after the second restart. With only a few laps to go, he pulled slowly away for his first win of the season. Behind, polesitter Helio Castroneves was third after a tussle between himself, Graham Rahal and brilliant rookie Simon Pagenaud in the final laps.
Sixth was James Hinchcliffe, while Mike Conway capitalised on the restart and a struggling Andretti to take seventh. Barrichello was challenging Conway in those final laps, having gained several places on the restart, but lost distance to the Brit while trying to overtake Andretti. The Brazilian finally managed it and finished eighth. This left Sebastien Bourdais sandwiched between Andretti and Dario Franchitti. Bourdais in the Lotus-engined car did brilliantly, and took ninth. In a race to the line, reigning champion Franchitti just beat Andretti to tenth.

Auto GP
At Valencia it was chamionship leader Adrian Quaife-Hobbs who shone. The Super Nova driver, still in his 2011 Marussia Manor overalls, got up to third by the end of the first lap but made an early pit call to get fresh tyres that saw him in the lead after everyone had pitted. Meanwhile Facu Regalia took second, holding off Sergey Sirotkin. Daniel de Jong managed fourth for Manor, while Victor Guerin was able to finally have a good race and finished fifth. Rounding off the points were Max Snegirev, Chris van der Drift and Pal Varhaug.
Quaife-Hobbs now leads the championship by 21 points from Pal Varhaug, while Sirotkin is only 5 behind the Norwegian driver. Both Manor drivers are on 37 points, with Facu Regalia 2 behind them.
In the teams’ championship, Super Nova have overtaken Manor and lead by 11 points. Euronova are third, with Virtuosi UK sinking to fourth. Campos Racing, who have scored points with at least two of their three drivers in every race, are fifth.

Other
The Superstars series saw some brilliant racing from former HRT driver Tonio Liuzzi. Starting from the back row in the first race he finished third. This left him sixth in the reversed grid second race, where he dominated and won the race. The Italian is definitely going to be one of the title favourites, though he is currently second in the championship as Max Pigoli – who won the first race – came second in the second race.

In the first BTCC weekend, there was some incredible racing. A seven-car pile-up in the final race caused a red flag, and experienced racer Jason Plato was fourth just after the restart. As the cars ahead faded, Andrew Jordan and Jason Plato fought through and Plato keep pushing the Honda driver. Finding a gap, Plato got into the lead with five laps to go and won the first race for his new team despite their not testing until a week ago. The other races were won by Rob Collard and Matt Neal. Plato now leads the championship ahead of Neal and Jordan.

The WTCC races were won by Yvan Muller and Alain Menu respectively.

Valsecchi dominates at Jerez

GP2
After the final day of GP2 testing, new DAMS signing Davide Valsecchi has proved to be the most consistent and fastest driver – leading on all three days. The question is, can DAMS win a second driver’s championship with the Italian? If he wins, he could well become the next Italian in F1 – though Italians have a bad record when it comes to transferring between the series.
Of the GP3 graduates taking part, James Calado was one of the most impressive. Van der Garde was doing well for Caterham, while Stefano Coletti shone for Coloni. Max Chilton showed much improvement on 2011, and Carlin also have improved as they come to their second year (with a little help from Marussia). I expect we will see a good showing from all 2010 and 2011 GP3 graduates, but also from F2 runner-up Jolyon Palmer who is doing well with iSport.
There’s another GP2 test at Barcelona next week before they all head out to Malaysia for the first round of the season.

IndyCar
Rubens Barrichello’s CV boasts Jordan, Stewart, Ferrari, Honda, Brawn and Williams. Now, F1’s most experienced driver can add KV Racing to that list. The Brazilian today announced that he would be racing a full season for the IndyCar team, taking to ovals for the first time. Barrichello admitted to a little help from his kids in persuading their Mum that he could race. He will be partnering his close friend Tony Kanaan and Venezuelan EJ Viso. The team also drove with three drivers last year – Kanaan, Viso and another ex-F1 driver in Takuma Sato. Mika Salo also drove for the team in four races in 2003, back in the days of Champ Car.
KV were supported by Lotus in 2011, but will use Chevrolet engines this season despite the British marque supplying engines to the series. According to the IndyCar website, Barrichello will take number 8 on his car.

F1
The first day of testing, and Heikki Kovalainen was unable to take part due to food poisoning (apparently from one of the team’s sponsor’s!). The mechanics got the car sorted for Vitaly Petrov and he did a full day of running, taking the second-highest lap tally. It was Rosberg who did the most laps, with nearly 130. Fastest of all was Grosjean, with Button second. Williams only managed a small number of laps with Maldonado for unspecified reasons.
HRT hope to get on track by Sunday, while Kovalainen will be back tomorrow (Friday). Kamui Kobayashi was also ill today, but hopefully he will be well by the time he’s needed.

FR 3.5
Andre Negrao and Nico Muller have been confirmed at Draco for 2012. Muller is a GP3 graduate, winning three races in the series and coming 3rd in 2010 (4th in 2011). He won the Silverstone feature race where unexpected rain caused a mass pit stop at the start of the race – all seven other drivers who scored points were British. Brazilian Negrao enters his second year of the series, and with Draco, having graduated from the Eurocup at the end of 2010.

GP2 and GP3 head to Sky

There has been plenty of motor racing news over the past few days, so this might be a long post!

Formula Renault 3.5
Eurocup champion Robin Frijns graduates to the elite Renault series, where he will be driving alongside Carlos Huertas at Fortec. Meanwhile Kevin Korjus, who came sixth in his rookie season with three wins, continues with Tech 1. P1 Motorsport, as last season, will field Daniil Move alongside Austrian driver Walter Grubmuller.
There are well-founded rumours that Arden and Caterham will be joining together for the 2012 FR 3.5 campaign, with Alexander Rossi alongside Lewis Williamson. However, these have not yet been confirmed. Wikipedia also lists a number of other drivers, but these have not been confirmed by the teams.

GP2 and GP3
The two F1 support series will no longer be shown by Eurosport but by Sky, which is good news for fans fed up with delayed GP2 coverage. The races will be shown on Sky Sports F1. This will definitely make the series more popular with fans. The series have changed their Twitter usernames to @GP2_Official (formerly @feeder_series) and @GP3_Official (formerly @stepping_series) respectively, which will help avoid confusion in the future.

Former F1 drivers
Rubens Barrichello has been testing the new IndyCar chassis at Sebring, primarily to help out his friend – KV Racing’s Tony Kanaan – but also to get a taste for the cars. He has said that he would consider entering the series next year, but this would depend on his wife giving him permission. Motor Racing is a scary sport, and especially with Dan Wheldon’s death so close at hand it would be a hard decision to make.
Adrian Sutil has had his court case after the incident with Eric Lux in a Chinese nightclub last year. The former Force India driver was given an 18-month suspended sentence and a large fine. This is likely to kill the German’s racing career, as he will find it difficult to get a visa for many countries.
Nick Heidfeld is moving on, and has confirmed that he will be taking part in the new FIA WEC at the Sebring 12 Hours, Spa 6 Hours and Le Mans alongside Neel Jani and Nicolas Prost. This will be for the Rebellion team in a Lola-Toyota LMP1 car. The last time Heidfeld competed at Le Mans was in 1999.

Formula One
McLaren’s MP4-27 was successfully launched yesterday, with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button as well as test drivers Gary Paffett and Oliver Turvey. The event was streamed online. The car is generally quite similar to the MP4-26, though it has a lower nose. Unlike Caterham, however, the nose does not have a strange dip in it to pass technical regulations.
Ferrari, however, have had to cancel tomorrow’s launch due to an overabundance of snow at Maranello. Photos and a technical Q&A will be launched on their website.

i1 SuperSeries
The 2012 i1 Super Series has been cancelled. The series will now begin in 2013. This is disappointing for all the drivers hoping to take part, and for everyone wanting to watch. The names associated with the series suggested it would be a great thing to watch, but now we shall have to wait another year.

MW Arden completes Laine-up

It’s a few months until the first GP3 race of 2012, but MW Arden aren’t hanging around. The Australian team have chosen to fill all three of their driver slots, placing Finn Matias Laine alongside Mitch Evans and David Fumanelli. Laine has one year of GP3 experience, though he failed to finish higher than 14th last season. He has also participated in Formula Renault UK and the F3 Euroseries.

In other news, Pirelli have launched their 2012 F1 tyres. The colourings on the dry tyres will be similar to 2011, but the wet tyres have changed with the intermediate going from blue to green while the wet goes from orange to blue. The compounds will also be softer, with the new soft tyre closer to 2011’s super-soft. This is designed create more challenging and interesting racing, though as teams are allowed more flexibility on weight distribution this year they should overcome some wear problems.
Former Virgin (now Marussia) driver Jerome d’Ambrosio has signed with Lotus (formerly Renault, as I have to keep reminding myself) as third driver for 2012. The Belgian will be present at every Grand Prix next season, on hand in case one of them is unable to race for some reason.
It is rumoured that Rubens Barrichello will be testing the DW12 – the new Indycar chassis – in the next few days. It would be good to see the Brazilian continue his motorsport career, and if he does race then he will certainly improve IndyCar’s international viewing figures (especially from Brazil). It will be the first time in a while that an experienced and proven F1 driver has gone to the series, which has one round in Sau Paulo. Indy is not as lucrative as F1, and there is a shadow over it since the death of Dan Wheldon last season. Perhaps his wife might prefer it if he retired! You can take the driver out of racing, but you can’t take racing out of the driver. Even Stirling Moss only hung up his gloves last year. I say, keep going Rubinho!

Rubens Barrichello – F1 legend

For the past nineteen years, one name has been found on the entry list for every single Formula One race: Rubens Barrichello. On March 14th in South Africa, the Brazilian began his career with Jordan. He qualified fourteenth, a long way begind polesitter Prost and second-place Ayrton Senna. Even Schumacher for Benneton was 1.5s behind those two. All but seven drivers were unclassified, and two of the classified drivers were non-finishers. His first points came at the Japanese Grand Prix that year, as he took fifth ahead of Eddie Irvine – the British driver taking part in his first race.
The next year began well, and he took points at his home race before his first podium at the Pacific Grand Prix behind Berger and Schumacher. Then came the San Marino Grand Prix, and the Brazilian was injured in practice. We all know the events of that tragic weekend. He picked up some more fourth places and came sixth in the championship.
The Braziliam would drive for Jordan for two more years, taking second place at the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix behind Jean Alesi. Then in 1997, he became one of Stewart’s first drivers alongside Jan Magnussen. The car was fragile, but Barrichello brought it home in Monaco for second place and their first points thanks to the Bridgestone tyres’ quality in the wet.
He continued with the team for the remaining two years of its existence, and got three podiums in 1999 as well as pole position in France.
The Brazilian impressed Ferrari and the team brought him in to partner (and follow) Michael Schumacher the next year. Schumacher won the first race, with Barrichello second and taking the fastest lap. He took his first win at the Hockenheimring, and finished fourth in the championship.
Ferrari favouritism kept Barrichello from winning the championship, but he stuck with the team until 2005. His next move was to Honda, who in 2007 would struggle – even losing to their junior team Super Aguri. At the end of 2008, Honda decided to pull out of F1, and it seemed Barrichello’s career was over after sixteen seasons. Ross Brawn, however, gave the Brazilian a chance as he bought the team very cheaply from its owners. Brawn’s genius gave Rubens two more wins, and the team a championship. Then, Brawn was bought by Mercedes.
Three new teams were formed in 2010, and there was a lot of movement in the driver market. Rubens moved to Williams, where he did a great job for a struggling team. But at the start of 2012 it seems his time is over. Youth and potential (not to mention money) are what they need now.

Nineteen years, 326 entries, 322 starts, 11 wins, 68 podiums, and not forgetting over 1 million Twitter followers. Sadly, we probably won’t see more of Rubens Barrichello in F1. He may not have won a championship, but he will be sorely missed.

Maldonado still in F1

Williams announced today that Pastor Maldonado will continue to drive for them in 2012. The Venezuelan had flashes of brilliance in Monaco and Belgium but otherwise did not impress fans, receiving two penalties in Abu Dhabi for ignoring blue flags and suffering more crashes in practice and the race than can be accounted for by Williams’ unreliability.
Third driver for the team will be GP3 champion Valtteri Bottas. What the Finn will be doing besides his reserve position remains unclear, as ART have already signed up Esteban Gutierrez and James Calado to their GP2 team. A vast number of spaces in GP2 remain open, and he could also take his chances in Formula Renault 3.5.

The question remains over who will take the second Williams seat. Current speculation sees Barrichello losing his seat to Sutil, with Petrov, Bianchi and Senna the other options.

More to come over the next few weeks! The 2012 lineup under the F1 tab reflects the FIA entry list plus De La Rosa and Maldonado.

Raikkonen to Williams – opinion

Kimi Raikkonen has had an interesting year. Being removed from the WRC championship for not competing in the two required overseas rounds, and having a rather troubled attempt at NASCAR, perhaps he’s regretting his move away from F1.
Interest in the championship-winning Finn has been shown from Williams, who also had Adrian Sutil looking around. But will Kimi race his whole heart in F1? And is it right to bring a veteran back into the sport when there are so many youngsters looking for a seat?
Williams could take a look at Sauber, whose drivers have both done spectacular jobs in the first half of the season though the car’s poor development – and gearbox problems – have lost them points more recently. Though Kobayashi and Perez have limited time in F1, they can drive well. Could Williams go with two junior drivers?
It is unlikely. After their disasterous 2011, they’ll want an experienced driver to help with the car’s development (though Barrichello should have been able to do that). And having a champion on their side could give another boost. But Adrian Sutil is an experienced driver too. He has spent all his career at the same team – albeit with a name change – and could do with a new team although he says he is happy at Force India. Well I would be too – sixth in the championship! But I am biased and want to see Nico Hulkenberg return to F1, which a Sutil move would do.

I think Barrichello retiring would be good for F1 after 19 seasons of the Brazilian in the series. Once you have been around for such a long time, even if you love driving, it’s time to give youngsters a chance. As it is, it is hard to see anywhere for even GP2 champion Romain Grosjean to fit in. Therefore I do not think it is right for ex-drivers to return, no matter how prematurely they left the sport.
So if you want my thoughts, it would be Sutil to Williams, Hulkenberg up to second driver at Force India. Valtteri Bottas will remain Williams test driver with a hope of coming to F1 in a season or two, and meanwhile make Max Chilton or Luca Filippi the Force India tester.