Kaltenborn to become first female Team Principal

F1
Monisha Kaltenborn is set to become the first female Team Principal in F1 following Peter Sauber’s intention to resign at the end of this season. Kaltenborn, who has been involved in F1 and motorsport for many years, will be a great replacement for Sauber’s namesake and founder. Monisha is currently CEO, and I expect her to do a great job. She is only 40 years old and hopefully we will have plenty of years with her around the paddock. It’s nice to see Team Principals who are experienced in motorsport, rather than wealthy businessmen (ie: Mallya and Fernandes).

F2
It was confirmed today that Romanian Mihai Marinescu will return to the series for 2012. He did very well towards the second half of the season last year, and should be challenging for wins and the championship.

GP3
Pre-season testing returns with two days at Silverstone this week. Notably, the Status lineup includes British driver Alice Powell. Alice is undoubtedly one of the most talented young female drivers out there, and will be competitive – unlike the other two girls on the grid. However, you have to wonder if there are even more talented male drivers who are being left out because teams want a female driver.
If Alice is hired by Status, I expect her to pick up a few points finishes at least this year. She did reasonably well in Formula Renault UK last year, and I can’t recall her ever being a backmarker.
The unsigned Will Buller is another unsigned British face who will be at Carlin. Meanwhile RSC Mucke Motorsport have once again failed to make an appearance. Surely it would be better for them to sell the GP3 team on to somebody else who wants to participate? Unlike F1, there are no excuses for missing testing since the chassis are made by Dallara. And there must be a lot of young drivers who want to drive in the series.

Bahrain
Nobody wants to make a decision. The general feeling of fans particularly is negative though a few faces have said F1 should go. As for me, I think F1’s reputation will struggle to survive if it goes ahead, especially if something happens. All the media and team members who go out there are incredibly brave. But it should not need to come to that. I won’t re-hash arguments again; you all know where I stand.

This weekend I’m going to Silverstone for the opening round of the Formula Two. I’ll come back with loads of pictures and autographs, and hopefully an exciting story of an amazing day out.

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.

Stockinger gets a new Status

GP3
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.

Formula One
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?

GP3 race report and season summary

We haven’t had the Formula One yet, but I am almost certain that the prize for the most exciting race of the day goes to GP3. The championship leader and runner-up were causing most of the havoc, with Valtteri Bottas taking out two drivers almost straight away. First to go was Conor Daly, running in third, who was spun off the track by the Finn. As Bottas returned to the track he caused Alex Sims to move out the way, and the Status driver hit the car in front of him. The ART driver couldn’t have his championship taken away, but he did receive a drive-through penalty.
Meanwhile, James Calado was running with the leaders including Antonio Felix da Costa, Nico Muller, Mitch Evans, Simon Trummer, Rio Haryanto, Adrian Quaife-Hobbs and – incredibly – Callum MacLeod of Carlin. At the first chicane, Calado was being squeezed off the track by the other runners and as he tried to stay on he went into Mitch Evans. The Arden driver had to retire, but it was a drive-throgh penalty for Calado who was running in second. Calado ended up with a time penalty due to the lateness of the punishment. Portuguese da Costa won, with Muller second and Haryanto third. Trummer came home fourth, while MacLeod was fifth and Quaife-Hobbs sixth. MacLeod was the only remaining Carlin runner after Leo Cordeiro spun and stalled, and he also took the point for fastest lap.
Despite not finishing the race after a self-caused accident, Nigel Melker finished third in the championship with 38 points. Fourth was Nico Muller, who had a great comeback at the end of the second. He and fifth-placed Adrian Quaife-Hobbs both finish with 36 points. Behind them, Alex Sims came sixth with 34 points after a horrendous end to his season and no points since Germany. Behind him, Rio Haryanto came seventh with 31 points – his two wins edge him ahead of Arden’s Lewis Williamson. Incredibly, a lot of these well-placed drivers have gone through some rough races. Nobody has been particularly consistent.
Ninth in the championship is Mitch Evans, who has done terribly since he led the championship early on through no fault of his own – usually in fact due to James Calado! In tenth is Andrea Caldarelli, with his 20 points picked up in the first four races enough for that position.
Teams Champion Lotus ART finished with 124 points – well ahead of second place MW Arden with 69 points. Just behind Arden is Marussia Manor Racing on 67 points, and last year’s losers RSC Mucke got 61. Status were fourth with 50 points, followed by Tech 1 with 43, Jenzer with 37, Addax with 33, Carlin with 21 and CRS with a lowly seven.

Summer day 26 – Alex Sims

Alex Sims – 2
One of GP3’s oldest drivers, Alex had a great start to the season by winning the sprint race at Istanbul from reversed pole. He also took the fastest lap. Immediately he went downhill at Barcelona, retiring from both races. Valencia was a return to form with sixth and second, before at Silverstone he came second and third to claim the championship lead. That lasted throughout the Nurburgring round, when despite not picking up points in the feature race he came second in the sprint. At Hungary, he was disqualified from the first race, but pushed back in the sprint to come ninth. By missing out on the points, however, he gave up the championship lead to Valtteri Bottas. He should continue to do well in the remaining races and is a strong challenger for the lead.

Points: 34
Best qualifying: 5
Worst qualifing: 16
Best finish: 1 (Istanbul sprint)
Worst finish: 12 (Nurburgring feature)
Retirements: 2

Summer day 12 – Antonio Felix da Costa

Antonio Felix da Costa – 16
AFDC is coincidentally the second Portuguese driver today, since he and Alvaro Parente are both 16th in their championships. Antonio is just one of the many strong drivers in GP3 this season, and of course that makes it hard to pick up points. He picked up his first this season in both races as Istanbul, coming fifth and then maintaining the fourth place from the reversed grid. Since then, his results have dipped, but Hungary was a return to form as he came sixth in the Hungarian sprint, taking another point for his tally. His best qualifying was at the Nurburgring when he was second on the grid, but when the rain came down he couldn’t keep it together on the slicks and he finished 28th in the end – I am not sure whether he stuck with slicks or changed to wets. In the second race he retired.

Points: 8
Best qualifying: 2
Worst qualifing: 27
Best finish: 4 (Istanbul sprint)
Worst finish: 28 (Nurburgring feature)
Retirements: 2

Summer day 4 – Marlon Stockinger and Ivan Lukashevich

Marlon Stockinger – 27
Marlon is a bit of an unlucky driver. He’s usually one of the first to retire – which means he goes out in the first lap – but when he does stay in the race he finishes midfield. In the British Grand Prix, he had 30s added to his race time demoting him from 9th to 16th after he ignored waved yellow flags – although to be fair that was a serious offence.

Best qualifying: 17
Worst qualifing: 30
Best finish: 12 (Hungaroring feature)
Worst finish: 26 (Barcelona feature)
Retirements: 5

Ivan Lukashevich – 26
Russian Ivan partners Alex Sims and Antonio Felix da Costa at Status GP, and the trio seem to get on well if their Twitter interation is anything to go by. Lukashevich is not doing as well as his teammates, but he is slowly getting there. So far his results do not display consistency: he might finish 14th in the feature race then nearly last in the sprint. However, an 11th place finish in the Nurburgring feature was enough to get him 26th in the championship.

Best qualifying: 12
Worst qualifing: 24
Best finish: 11 (Nurburgring feature)
Worst finish: 28 (Hungaroring feature)
Retirements: 2