New driver announcements

It has been a busy day in the world of motor racing, with driver announcements across all levels of the sport, in single-seaters and tin-tops. Here’s a summary of the single-seater news:

Formula One
First up, HRT revealed their second driver to be none other than Narain Karthikeyan, who drove a part-season for them last year. He and Pedro de la Rosa will make up the oldest team on the grid, and will have a combined age of 76 years at the Melbourne GP. Despite this, they have less F1 experience than several other teams, having only 113 F1 starts between them.
Ferrari and Force India both launched their cars today – the F2012 and the VJM05. Ferrari’s rather ugly, square design and Force India’s smoother design both have the platypus nose that was first seen on the Caterham CT-01.

GP2
Josef Kral is the latest driver to be confirmed for the series. The Czech, who drove for Arden last season and picked up podiums in Monaco and Belgium, will be driving alongside Johnny Cecotto at Addax.

GP3
Marussia Manor Racing have confirmed their first driver as Dmitry Suranovich, who is currently competing in the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand. Born in Belarus, Suranovich is a Russian citizen and drives under a Russian license. The 16-year-old last year competed in Formula Arbath Europe and Italy. He did not have brilliant results. However, his rookie season in TRSNZ is going well and he is 9th in the championship, having picked up a podium at Timaru.
Carlin have also been confirming drivers in various series, including one in GP3. This is Alex Brundle, son of Martin, who will also be competing in European rounds of the WEC. Brundle had mixed luck in F2 last year, taking one pole and three podiums and finishing 7th in the championship.

British F3
A number of drivers have now been confirmed for the 2012 BF3 season, very few of whom are British. Carlin have five drivers signed so far – Pietro Fantin (BRA), Jazeman Jaafar (MAL), Jack Harvey (GBR), Carlos Sainz, Jr (ESP) and Harry Tincknell (GBR). At Fortec, Pipo Derani (BRA) joins FR UK champion Alex Lynn and another graduate of the series Felix Serralles. Only one driver – Spike Goddard (AUS) has been confirmed for T-Sport so far.

IndyCar
Takuma Sato, who drove for KV Racing for the last two seasons, was today announced as Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (wow, long name or what?) lead driver. The Japanese driver has taken two poles and a best finish of fourth in his career so far. This will be Rahak’s first full IndyCar season since 2008, and they also hope to run a second car at some point.

F2 and GP3 qualifying

Italian Mirko Bortolotti took provisional pole today for the first race at a soggy Spa. He qualified 1.3s ahead of the nearest competitor Ramon Pineiro, with Alex Brundle in third and Christopher Zanella fourth. However, he was then penalised for going too fast with yelow flags waving so now Pineiro and Brundle will share the front row. Jon Lancaster is again notable by his absence, the cause of which I am unable to determine. I am concerned that something serious has happened, since if it had just been a car failure they surely would have mentioned something by now. Neither Mun, Kralev or Sureshwaren set reasonable qualifying times, but will hopefully still be able to race.

In GP3, plenty of different drivers took the chance to lead the session including Mitch Evans and Adrian Quaiffe-Hobbs. But in the end it was Evans’ Arden teammate Lewis Williamson who took his first pole position. Arden have a good lineup for 2011 with a pair of strong rookie drivers who taken two of the three pole positions this season. Second and third were two other Brits: Dean Smith and Adrian Quaiffe-Hobbs. Evans was fourth, then Vainio, Sims, Dillmann, Chaves, Bottas and Calado, with Sims and Chaves both recovering despite a collision. The final qualifying positions are as ever subject to penalties.

Finally, a brief word to say that Takuma Sato has taken his first IndyCar pole. So far the best Japanese F1 driver, Sato has been doing reasonably well in IndyCar as well, though sometimes his races have been muddled by his team’s poor strategy choices.