With the first round coming up fast, more names have been confirmed on the roster. Others seem to have vanished. Iranian Kourosh Khani is one of those confirmed. Last year Khani drove in the Formula Renault BARC Championship, taking one win and three podiums on his way to fourth. He also finished third in the MRF Formula 1600 Delhi Championship supporting the F1 in |India. He picked up a podium in one of the two races.
One of Khani’s BARC opponents was Dino Zamparelli, a British-Italian driver who won the championship with 4 wins, 6 poles, 8 podiums and 1 fastest lap. Zamparelli was nominated for the McLaren Autosport BDRC Award. In previous years he has also won the Ginetta Jr Championship, where a lot of young British drivers start out before progressing to single seaters. In 2012, Zamparelli will also be in F2, at least for the opening round at Silverstone and hopefully longer.
Dry for most of the day, Silverstone turned wet in the final hour of testing. This gave plenty of time for the nine teams present at the test to get some work in, and for Mitch Evans to go fastest just ahead of his MW Arden teammate Matias Laine. On the face of it, Arden are most likely to provide the champion for GP3 this season. However, they will need more consistency than in 2011 when two of their three drivers could have taken the championship.
The names at the top of the timing screen today were much as expected: Tio Ellinas, Antonio Felix da Costa and Conor Daly. Will Buller and Alex Brundle were both doing well for Carlin, and Romania’s Robert Visoiu has been shining for Status.
Alice Powell was fastest of the three ladies, though she had caused a red flag in the morning. Most of her day has been spent getting used to the car, and she didn’t put on fresh tyres in the afternoon, so we can surely expect improved times from the British driver tomorrow.
Maxim Zimin will be in the car for Jenzer tomorrow.
Suzie Wolff has become the latest female development driver in F1, taking on the role for Williams. Wolff is married to Toto Wolff, a Director at the team, though he did not take part in the decision to give her the position. Wolff drives in the DTM, and you may know her better as Suzie Stoddart.
39-year-old Bulgarian motorsport ambassador Plamen Kralev returns to the FIA Formula Two championship for a third season, continuing in his number 8 car. Kralev has scored two points in his F2 career – one in each season – and honestly I cannot think there is much hope of him doing better this season. He is the sixth driver to be announced for F2 so far, and more will come over the next weeks.
It was Antonio Felix da Costa who, despite not being signed for the coming GP3 season, set the fastest time in today’s test. He set a 1:37.934 around the Circuit de Catalunya, beating Arden’s Matias Laine and Mitch Evans – Laine was the only other driver to dip into the 1:37s.
In the afternoon, Daniel Abt went fastest after a troubled morning session. Maxim Zimin – driving for Jenzer as he did last season – showed considerable improvement by going second-fastest. Tio Ellinas was third-fastest with Tamas Pal Kiss fourth.
I have to say, some of the drivers who had a tough season last year in GP3 – Laine, Zimin, and Pal Kiss despite his win – look set to be much better this year. Let’s hope they get signed!
The premier Formula Renault series got its pre-season testing under way today. Fastest was Fortec’s Robin Frijns, setting a 1:47.006 around Paul Ricard in the afternoon. That’s impressive considering his rookie status – the Dutch driver was Eurocup champion last year. Lotus (formerly Gravity-Charouz) went second with a 1:47.125 from Richie Stanaway, another rookie, while Force India’s Jules Bianchi was third-fastest. Alex Rossi was fourth-fastest for Arden-Caterham, and the second Fortec driver of Carlos Huertas was fifth.
Having picked up 12 points at the opening weekend of the 2012 Auto GP season with Euronova, Antonio Spavone headed to Barcelona today to test – and sign – for Trident Racing. He will be teammate to Vicky Piria. Spavone, who drove in both Formula Arbath series last year, and is seventeen years old.
The young Italian was not the star of today’s tests, however. That was Kiwi Mitch Evans, who shone last season and seems set to do so again. Also on form was Formula Renault UK graduate Tio Ellinas, who looks set to be the rookie of the season – and a championship challenger. German Daniel Abt was also on form for Lotus GP. Matias Laine has been having a good start to the season and set the second-fastest time in the afternoon.
Tomorrow, Aaro Vainio returns to Lotus GP while Yann Zimmer replaces Tom Blomqvist.
It’s sad that Mucke Motorsport have not been present at the tests. We can only hope that they or a replacement team are found soon.
The first big piece of news today was that KMP Racing have been renamed Team RFR – Russia France Racing. The team will field a pair of Russian drivers in the 2012 championship – 2010 champion Mikhail Aleshin, and Anton Neybilitskiy. Neybilitskiy has managed one podium in the series so far, and with only average results in his two completed seasons, he will be hoping for better this year.
Nick Yelloly, who had a great part-season alongside his GP3 races last year, has signed for British team Comtec, who came last in the championship with only two points. With Yelloly, they will hope for much better.
Testing continued in Estoril for the second and final day, and once again the drivers were showing a strong hand. Finnish driver Aaro Vainio was fastest, beating Nico Muller’s time from yesterday by one second. Tio Ellinas was second-fastest, the Cypriot showing just how good British racing series are at training young drivers (he graduates from Formula Renault UK). Ellinas was also fastest in the afternoon, though he could not match his morning time. Other drivers who shone were Mitch Evans, Conor Daly and Antonio Felix da Costa. Not all these drivers have been signed for 2012, and it its hoped that they soon will be, because they could make this an incredibly close and hard-fought championship to rival last season.
Times mean nothing in F1 testing. Lotus were of course not present after the problems of day one. Toro Rosso were also struggling, causing two red flags though one was deliberately caused by running out of fuel. Petrov had his first day in the Caterham and was doing okay. Fastest overall was Nico Hulkenberg, the Force India continuing to put in good times.
After months of speculation, when people finally began to think that maybe Caterham would honour Jarno Trulli’s contract, the rumours have come true. The Italian driver, who won at Monaco with Renault and has spent two years with the back-of-the-grid team, has been fired despite taking part in the first F1 test of 2012. He has been replaced by Vitaly Petrov, and there is no doubt that the money has helped. You need money to improve your prospects.
Vitaly isn’t a bad driver, and definitely has potential with Caterham, but Trulli had potential too. It is a shame he – like Rubens Barrichello – wasn’t given the opportunity to retire gracefully. At least Barrichello’s replacement was done honestly by Williams, and the Brazilian seems likely to continue his career in IndyCar. What is there for Trulli?
What is done is done. I think Petrov will do well, and he looks alright in green. Much better than black anyway.
The SuperNova team have left the GP2 championship after seven years. The British team, who have featured such drivers as Giorgio Pantano, Adam Carroll, Luca Filippi and Mike Conway, will be replaced by Venezuela-sponsored Italian outfit Venezuela GP Lazarus. Team Lazarus took part in Auto GP, last year running with Fabrizio Crestani and Fabio Onidi. The drivers finished 6th and 5th respectively in the championship.
Two drivers have been signed today. Trident revealed their first driver, Vicky Piria. She will be the first girl to take part in GP3. Hopefully she’ll do well, though she has not scored any wins or podiums so far in her career.
Meanwhile Cypriot Tio Ellinas, who came fourth in the 2010 British FFord season and finished third in Formula Renault UK on equal points with Oli Rowland and after dropping 40 points from his total (Rowland dropped none), comes to GP3 with Marussia Manor Racing. He will partner Dmitry Suranovich and Fabiano Machado.