Davidson back for Le Mans

In the news today…

Le Mans
Former Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Buemi, and former Super Aguri driver (and current Sky commentator) Anthony Davidson have been signed up for Toyota’s second LMP1 team at Le Mans this year. Davidson was left without a drive this season when Peugeot announced their departure from the WEC, and the skilled British driver thoroughly deserves a place at Le Mans. Buemi remains a Red Bull and Toro Rosso tester, but it’s good to see him in a race seat at least once this year. This will be the Swiss driver’s first endurance race.
Ant Davidson’s former Peugeot teammate Alex Wurz, along with Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima, have already been signed to complete a full WEC season with Toyota in the LMP1 hybrid car.

GP2
Fabio Leimer, who has twice won the Barcelona GP2 sprint race and came second in the Italian sprint last season with Rapax, has signed with Racing Engineering for 2012. The Swiss driver also took second with Rapax at Imola for GP2 Asia. Leimer and Racing Engineering seem to be a good combination, as the GP2 final proved this year. He took pole in qualifying at Abu Dhabi, going on to win the feature race and take the fastest lap. This was enough to give him victory in the non-championship event, and already he is one of the favourites for the championship this year.

F1
Lots more testing going on today, with Jarno Trulli and Nico Hulkenberg both out with their teams for the first time in 2012. Alonso for Ferrari has been fastest so far, while Red Bull have had electrical issues so Vettel has not yet set a time. More to come later…

Advertisements

Red Bull keep hold of Buemi

Good news today as Sebastien Buemi remains in Formula One. With Red Bull lacking a junior series driver at the right level for F1, they have retained the Swiss for the next season. He will be reserve at Red Bull and Toro Rosso.
Buemi was the last of the Red Bull drivers to go through GP2, with the scheme preferring Formula Renault 3.5. He drove for ART in 2007 for half a season, taking two seventh places and a fastest lap. In 2008 he moved to Arden, run by Christian Horner’s Dad (the team originally being set up for Horner to race in) and took two wins and three other podiums on his way to sixth. So in 2009 he became a Toro Rosso driver.
In his first season, he scored six points (under the old top-8 system) with a best finish of 7th. This would end up being his best finish of his career so far, achieved on his debut in Australia and at the Brazilian GP that year.
2010 was a tough year for Toro Rosso, scoring few points and finishing ninth as they lacked an f-duct where every other team developed one. Buemi scored six points, beating his teammate Jaime Alguersuari.
Finally 2011, and Toro Rosso were improving. Despite a strong start to the season he faltered, and was overtaken in the points by his younger teammate. While Buemi’s best finish was 8th, Alguersuari finished 7th twice, both in races that Buemi also finished (Italy and Korea). The Spaniard also managed to finish in the points twice after going out in Q1.
Clearly Red Bull still think they can get something from Sebastien, and hopefully he will be able to continue improving the Toro Rosso as well as working with the RB8.

In other news, P1 Motorsport founder Roly Vincini hopes to be joining the Formula Renault UK championship this year. He has abandoned British F3 plans, and is likely to enter two cars under the GP1 Engineering name. This is good news for the championship, which had a regular field of about 12 drivers last season. Vincini aims to increase the size of the team to four eventually, and says that he is already close to signing his first driver. (via Autosport Magazine)

The first F1 cars are due to be launched next month, with McLaren first before pre-season testing begins in Jerez on February 7th. The noise coming from McLaren (and in particular Lewis Hamilton) is that the MP4-27 should be a good contender against the RB8. Of course, testing can only tell you so much. Nothing is certain until the first race in Australia.

More news will hopefully come soon regarding Williams. See you soon!

2011 review part 5 – Spain

After the traditional short break for Easter, the European season began in Turkey. Joining the F1 circus were the GP2 and GP3 teams, beginning their own championship races.
The Friday morning was soaking wet, which meant Team Lotus’s Karun Chandhok was once again denied any decent practice time (he had crashed the car at the start of FP1 in Australia). The biggest event of the session, however, was caused by Sebastian Vettel. Pushing the RB7 to its limits, he got onto the wet kerbs just after turn eight and spun, skidding through the grass and hitting the wall.

http://www.ebaumsworld.com/player.swf

The rest of practice was dry and uneventful, with Vettel failing to run in the second session. In the third, he set the fastest time by a thousandth of a second from Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher. On Saturday afternoon, it was time for qualifying.

Kamui Kobayashi became the fall guy, not even setting a time after his Sauber broke down. D’Ambrosio received a penalty for ignoring yellow flags in practice and started 23rd, with Kobayashi at the back as he did not meet the 107% rule but was granted permission to race. (The penalties would not always be applied in this order for future races) In Q2, Barrichello was narrowly squeezed out of the top ten by Nick Heidfeld, and the two Force Indias would start behind the Brazilian but ahead of Maldonado. Perez and the Toro Rossos were next. In Q3, Felipe Massa failed to set a time after mechanical problems and would line up tenth on the grid for race day. Nico Rosberg trounced his teammate for Mercedes’ best qualifying thus far, starting third behind the Red Bulls. Vettel, as ever, was on pole.

Race day came, and DRS was to play a major part in the action. In the opinion of many, it was just too easy at Istanbul Park, especially after the zone had been extended. The Pirellis wore quickly and winner Sebastian Vettel stopped four times on his way to the third win of the season. Pit stops, however, were all he had to worry about. Mark Webber took second while Fernando Alonso claimed third for Ferrari having been overtaken by the Aussie close to the end of the race. Both Buemi and Kobayashi would put in great drives, finishing in the points despite bad qualifying.
Retirements were few, coming only from Paul di Resta whose car broke down late in the race. Timo Glock failed to start the race. Kovalainen would have beaten his teammate had his Lotus not suffered mechanical issues which slowed him down.

Vettel dominated the championship. But with Barcelona traditionally the location for major car upgrades, there was still a chance to beat him despite the huge lead on Hamilton.

In GP2, Romain Grosjean won the feature race from pole, and took fastest lap in the sprint. This put him at the top of the championship, on equal points with Sam Bird and just three ahead of GP3 graduate Stefano Coletti who won the sprint race.
In GP3 it was Nigel Melker who had the best start, winning the feature race and coming third in the sprint for fourteen points. Andrea Caldarelli was closest behind, on ten points. Sprint winner Alex Sims had eight points – the same as fourth-placed Tom Dillmann.

[To be continued]

All change at Toro Rosso

In a surprising move, Toro Rosso have dumped both their 2011 drivers and replaced them with their two up-and-coming juniors Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne. This will put an end to the ‘Ricciardo to Caterham’ rumours, which is good news for Jarno Trulli, but leaves Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi in the cold.
Ricciardo did as good a job as possible under the circumstances, and in the young driver test at Abu Dhabi Jean-Eric Vergne shone; the Frenchman was close runner-up to Robert Wickens in Formula Renault 3.5 this season too, and Ricciardo would have had a chance if he had not been busy with his F1 commitments.
For the dropped drivers, Alguersuari in particular had a good season, and deserves to continue in F1. Red Bull, however, have a reputation for abandoning drivers; Sebastian Vettel is the only survivor. Former Toro Rosso drivers have typically not survived in F1 – out of Speed, Bourdais and Liuzzi, only Liuzzi managed to continue and he does not look like surviving into 2012.

Meanwhile, HRT’s Team Principal Colin Kolles is leaving the team. They struggled in their first two seasons, usually losing out to Virgin in the races but getting just enough good finishes to beat the Russian team. HRT, who will be a Spanish national team next season, could well hire Jaime Alguersuari to partner Pedro de la Rosa.

F2 testing today saw many of the eighteen drivers set very similar times. The twelfth-fastest (Scott Malvern) was less than a second away from Christopher Zanella’s fastest time. Second-fastest driver and F2 rookie Markus Pommer was only 0.014s away from Zanella’s time in his fastest lap of the day, though it was set in a different session. Even fourteenth-fastest Max Snegirev was only 1.066s away from Zanella’s time.
Meanwhile Mirko Bortolotti was testing the 2012 F2 car. The new car should be able to lap around 2 seconds faster than the current car, which should make for much more exciting racing in the future.

Friday practice summary

Well, what can I say? Today was very exciting! Ten minutes before FP1 was supposed to begin, the race director announced that it would be delayed by 30 minutes due to the need to repair some kerbs that the support races had damaged. This was in multiple sections of the track, and there was also a water leak at turn 14. Kerbs were removed, and the cars permitted to cross the white lines.
Thirty minutes late, the shortened sixty-minute session got underway. It began fairly calmly, before Webber got stuck behind Glock for several laps. Instead of holding back to gain more space, he tried to overtake the Virgin on the final corner. But Glock turned in without seeing the Red Bull – he had no reason to expect him to be there – and Webber’s front wing caught on Glock’s tyre. This resulted in a puncture and a broken front wing.
A few minutes after that, Heikki Kovalainen was suffering from mechanical issues so had to pull up in a run-off area. But his front brake ducts overheated as he stopped, setting both front tyres alight. Red flags went out, giving teams even less running time in the session.
Things got going again, until Felipe Massa ran over some of the repaired kerbing. It hadn’t been repaired very well, and the Ferrari pulled it loose. The session was again red-flagged, and there were about three minutes of running left at the end for one flying lap.
The fastest driver was Lewis Hamilton, with Sebastian Vettel 0.4s lower. Third was Mark Webber, a second off his teammate’s pace, and fourth Alonso.

Practice two was the full 90 minutes, and there were thankfully no red flags. The kerbing had been removed from the apex of Turn 13, however, which allowed the cars to cut it close to the wall there and on the track they turned into.
A lot of drivers came millimetres from the wall, a few touched it lightly, and Sebastien Buemi managed to knock his wheel completely off, held on merely by the tethers. Fortunately he only caused a yellow flag, but his session was over. His teammate also suffered mechanical issues and missed half the session, which is not good for Toro Rosso.
Jenson Button was another driver to have problems, when his McLaren’s wheels locked as he was going around a corner. He went straight on instead, but was unable to get reverse gear. The front of his car started smoking and he quickly got out to head back to the paddock. Incredibly, once you leave the circuit you find yourself in the middle of a normal, active city, and it was strange to see the McLaren driver motorbiking through the people.
Maldonado, Sutil and other drivers sometimes found themselves in run-off areas, but they managed to spin around and get back on track. Paul di Resta had mechanical issues as well and only set eight laps.
Fastest was Vettel, with Alonso 0.2s slower. Hamilton was just ahead of Massa, both around 0.7s slower.

So it was definitely an interesting day at the Singapore Grand Prix circuit. This bodes well for qualifying tomorrow, and the race on Sunday.

Summer day 15 – Sebastien Buemi

Sebastien Buemi – 13
Two points separates the two Toro Rosso drivers who are battling with each other for position and a race seat in 2011. For seven out of eleven races this season, Sebastien has beaten his teammate. He had a cracking start. But whether it was using up tyres getting his car into Q2 or whether he’s just had a down patch, in the last few races he has struggled to compete against Alguersuari. In Hungary he did finish ahead, but that was mostly because he had a five-place grid penalty because of the Heidfeld incident at the Nurburgring.
Sebastien was perhaps a little careless there, but generally he has not been a bad driver. He has only had one retirement, and I believe that was because Paul di Resta shredded his tyre with his front wing. He’s had five points finishes, and with the improved car has picked up four more points than his 2010 total already.
Most of what I could say here was already said yesterday. Sebastien vs Jaime – it’s too close to call at the moment.

Points: 12
Worst qualifying: 23* (5-place grid penalty)
Best qualifying: 9
Worst finish: 15 (Germany)
Best finish: 8 (Australia and Hungary)
Average difference: 3.36
Laps completed: 647/681 (95%)
Average race position: 12.96 (Best: 10.0 Turkey; Worst: 16.5 Germany)

*In Germany he started 24th as his qualifying times were erased due to a fuel irregularity

The ups and downs of Arden

GP3 tests got underway today in Hungary. In the morning session, the fastest driver was GP3’s youngest ever race winner Mitch Evans. He’s really shining for Arden, who after several years struggling in GP2 are making a comeback. Arden were the kings of Formula 3000 before it became GP2, with Tonio Liuzzi taking the title for them, and in 2005 when boss Christian Horner began moving his focus towards his new job with Red Bull, Heikki Kovalainen came second for them in the first GP2 season.
Heikki Kovalainen won five races for Arden in 2005, taking four pole positions. He also took one of the team’s two fastest laps. His teammate took the other, along with a pole position. Since then they have struggled in GP2. Last year they finished eighth. Here’s a quick summary.

Year

Wins

Poles

Podiums

F. laps

Pts

C’ship

2005

5

5

13

2

126

2nd

2006

1

0

6

1

57

4th

2007

1

0

2

0

44

7th

2008

2

0

6

0

56

6th

2009

1

0

3

3

41

8th

2010

1

1

2

0

32

7th

So far this year, Arden have no wins, no poles, no fastest laps and one podium, with second-placed Josef Kral finishing P2 in the Monaco sprint race. With nine points, the team stands eighth in the championship.
GP3 is looking better, with Mitch Evans the stand out driver. The rookie is currently third in the championship, just five points behind leader Nigel Melker. He, Andrea Caldarelli (who is being replaced) and Nigel Melker are far ahead of the other drivers. Neither of Arden’s other drivers have scored points just yet, but the team stands third in the championship.

Arden is named after the Forest of Arden, an area close to my home in England.You might also recognise the name if you know about Shakespeare. His mother was Mary Arden, and you can visit Mary Arden’s House near Stratford (Warwickshire, not London). Mary Arden’s family owned the forest. So I’m a bit of a fan, and will be supporting them. Their GP3 ability is shining through. On the GP2 record, a lot of Arden’s drivers have gone on to finish well in the series for other teams. Bruno Senna came second with iSport, Sergio Perez finished second with Addax, and Charles Pic is currently third with Addax. Sebastien Buemi moved straight from Arden to driving for Toro Rosso.