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.
Team Lotus welcomed on board new sporting director Steve Nielsen today. He will be starting work in September. Steve formerly worked at Arrows, old Team Lotus, Tyrrell, Benetton and (most recently) Renault, and will be replacing Dieter Gass.
In the young drivers’ test, McLaren have revealed that they will be using regular test driver Gary Paffett (who has never driven in a Grand Prix) alongside Oliver Turvey; Mercedes will field Sam Bird; and Ferrari will field their test driver Jules Bianchi.
Arden’s GP2 final lineup was announced early this morning, mixing its GP2 and GP3 teams. Simon Trummer, who found his pace late in the season in GP3, will partner Josef Kral. This means that there will be two Czech drivers in the GP2 final.
There is still no news on who will be driving for Super Nova.
Sam Bird – 5
iSport’s Sam Bird has had an up and down season, and he is now the lowest-placed driver still matematically able to win the championship. His season began well, taking podiums in his first three races and fastest lap in the Istanbul feature. He also came fifth in the Barcelona sprint. His pole position at Monaco was no surprise, and though he failed to finish the race after stalling off the line he still led the championship. But Romain Grosjean quickly came back while Sam was pointless in the second race.
The Brit has had plenty of points finishes since then, though no more podiums. His qualifying performance has also dropped off in the last couple of races. But there should be more to come in Belgium and Italy.
Best qualifying: 1
Worst qualifying: 11
Best finish: 2 (Istanbul feature)
Worst finish: 17 (Hungaroring feature)
I knew there were more penalties coming. Romain Grosjean, who has been allowed to drive, has been handed an imaginary 5-place grid penalty (he starts from the back of the grid anyway). Marcus Ericsson has also been given one for crashing into the back of his teammate’s car, as has Giedo van der Garde, who should have been on pole, for causing a collision with with Oliver Turvey. This is the second race in a row that Grosjean has started from the back of the grid, and if he drives well he might do even better than in Barcelona, where he was able to finish close to the points.
The revised standings mean that Sam Bird takes the two points for pole, with Davide Valsecchi joining him on the front row. Tony Fernandes’ team are doing well this year in the series. Stefano Coletti has also been able to start from P4 at his home race. The table below shows the positions for the grid. Each * represents a 5-place grid penalty. Each + represents a place gained because of someone else’s penalty.
In Formula One’s FP2, Paul di Resta had electrical problems on his car. Several drivers went off at the new tarmac at Ste. Devote, including twice from Kovalainen, but nobody crashed as Schumacher had done earlier. Vitaly Petrov did manage to take off his front wing at the Louis Chiron chicane – the new name for the swimming pool chicane, named after the oldest driver to start a race. He started racing in the pre-F1 era, and was probably the only really good Monegasque driver – well, until Stefano Coletti gets into F1!
Speaking of Stefano Coletti, the GP2 rookie did well in the morning practice session. In qualifying, however, Coletti let himself down by trying a silly move on Fabio Leimer, taking the pair of them out and red flagging the session. It was a crazy session altogether, with drivers colliding and taking themselves out. Regularly ending up in traffic, Romain Grosjean got caught out by his teammate slowing down behind one of the AirAsia drivers and they both went out. Grosjean failed to set a time with in the 107% (a rule that GP2 has run for longer than F1) as he was 9.7s off the pace.
Yellow flags were flying with five minutes left in the session. Coletti and Leimer had managed to get driving again, but Luca Filippi had crashed out and was also unable to improve a time from earlier in the session. In the end, pole position was taken by Giedo van der Garde for the second race in a row. Second was the only driver to have scored points in every race, Sam Bird, and third after Bianchi’s demotion was Davide Valsecchi; Jules Bianchi was imposed with a five-place penalty for causing the van der Garde collision in Barcelona.. To finish the session off in a way that demonstrated the craziness of the course, Michael Herck crashed at the swimming pool. He qualifies P24.
There were a lot of drivers under investigation for causing collisions, speeding under yellows or blocking, so the final results are still to be confirmed. Bird and Ericsson, the iSport teammates, are under investigation after their collision after Bird set his lap, as are Grosjean and Pal Varhaug the DAMS teammates. So although I don’t think van der Garde is under suspicion, I wouldn’t give him the pole 100% just yet…
GP2 and GP3 had their races this afternoon. Qualifying for the Indy 500 is also going on. Ho Pin Tung, the Renault reserve driver, has been in an accident just a short while ago, and taken to hospital. It’s on YouTube: a terrifying spin and smash, but he walks away.
In GP2, the race was begun on pole by Giedo van der Garde. The Dutchman also took fastest lap, but the win went to Charles Pic – his French teammate – jumping him in the pits. Sam Bird made it three podiums out of three as he finished third. Both Johnny Ceccotto and Fabio Leimer started from the back of the grid, but improved dramatically. Leimer was P9, only just outside the points! He has a chance to get there tomorrow. However, there was a retirement for AirAsia’s Luiz Razia, Luca Filippi (Super Nova) had an accident right at the start, and Michael Herck spun and collected Esteban Gutierrez mid-way through the race.
In GP3, the win went to polesitter Mitch Evans, taking a great victory for MW Arden. Tech 1’s Andrea Caldarelli started from second but could only manage fourth, being beaten by James Calado of ART and his teammate Aaro Vainio. Tech 1’s third driver Tamas Pal Kiss celebrated his recent birthday by also finishing in the points – a great day for the French team. Nigel Melker managed more points, giving him at least joint lead depending on who got the fastest lap.
Fabio Leimer didn’t even make it through his first flying lap, stopping with mechanical problems, and so qualified P26 before Julian Leal‘s penalty. The Columbian-Italian driver qualified 24th, meaning his 10-place penalty didn’t have much effect. Alvaro Parente and Kevin Ceccon both did well in their first qualifying session of 2011, Ceccon managing much better than he had done in practice this morning. Parente went P15 and Ceccon P17. Considering Kevin’s made a massive leap from Auto GP to GP2 at only 17 years old, that’s very impressive (and I bet there are some very jealous GP3 drivers out there).
Pole was taken by ART/Ferrari driver Jules Bianchi. Giedo van der Garde took a great P2, and Britain’s Sam Bird took third as he looks to add to his podium total this year. Turkey’s polesitter Romain Grosjean was P5, 0.4s off Bianchi and only just faster than Valsecchi in P6. Dani Clos, winner in Imola at the start of this year, went P7, while Turkey sprint race winner Stefano Coletti managed P9, in with a chance at points.
Of the other F1 reserves, Luiz Razia was P13 for AirAsia, Esteban Gutierrez P16 for ART, and Fairuz Fauzy P21 for Super Nova.
Some quotes from drivers/teams:
We said after Istanbul we want to improve, 2nd position in qualifying is the way to start the weekend! @gvandergarde (Giedo Van Der Garde, Addax, P1*) Fantastico whole team. @GvanderGarde 2nd is a great way to start the weekend. And saving a set of tyres. @Charles_Pic1 completes the two drivers in the top 4. Very good work hope to continue in both races. @addaxteam (Addax, P1* & P3*) Today’s quali was a bit more difficult than the last one, However, I’m feeling confident for the race tomorrow starting from the 3rd row @RGrosjean (Romain Grosjean, DAMS, P4*) “Today was my best qualifying of the season. Maybe we could get something more, but we paid for the change in track conditions between the practice and qualifying. I tried to improve my time with the second set of tires, but it was really impossible. Tomorrow I expect a tough race, and the variable factor will be the management of the tires.” Stefano Coletti (via Trident Racing Facebook page, P8*) “Compared to Istanbul I had a good feeling with the car. I think the car is much better for my driving style, and I liked the overall balance. Unfortunately, with the second set of tires I had a lot of traffic on the track, but I’m still confident for the race tomorrow. I think with a good tire management and without adverse circumstances I can get to the points.” Rodolfo Gonzalez (via Trident Racing Facebook page, P18)
*Jules Bianchi given a 10-place grid penalty for ignoring yellow flags, so will start P11. Giedo van der Garde is now on pole.