Practice report – India

It was certainly an eventful first day for the Indian Grand Prix. There was a red flag in each session, plenty of off-track excursions by the drivers as they learned their way around, and a couple of grid penalties as well.
Session one was the most dramatic. Dusty and hazy, the first drivers on track were the Indians – Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok (replacing Heikki Kovalainen for the session) – and the two Force India drivers. The first flying lap was a 1:52.148 by Chandhok, but before he could really get going the session was red-flagged due to a dog on the circuit. That will have brought back memories for Bruno Senna, who was taken out of a GP2 race in Turkey in 2008 after he hit a dog.
Once the session resumed, things were rather quiet until the Hispanias began their work. Narain Karthikeyan moved into P1. But he was soon overtaken, and half-way through the session it was Jenson Button’s McLaren fastest with the Toro Rossos close behind. The times were tumbling for most, but not for Fernando Alonso whose car broke down as he was attempting his second timed lap. He pulled off on the escape road, so the session was not interrupted. He ended up sitting looking rather glum under the big screen.
The session continued with times falling. But it was still dusty in the pit lane, and as Karun Chandhok attempted to lay down some rubber the car spun rather dramatically and almost went too far into the path of Pastor Maldonado. The Venezuelan managed to avoid the accident, which allowed him to continue.
The Toro Rosso of Jaime Alguersuari crashed in the final minutes of the session, causing waved yellow flags. Then Pastor Maldonado had a firey mechanical failure. As marshalls cleared the cars and track, Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton set their fastest laps – Perez first then Hamilton right at the end to beat Sebastian Vettel. Both have been given 3-place grid penalties for qualifying tomorrow. Hamilton’s lap was the fastest of the session.

Practice two saw Pastor Maldonado crash, though Williams were able to get him out again. The story of the day was Ferrari’s flexible front wing. Especially for Felipe Massa, it was noticably scraping the ground. But it was clearly working for the team, as Massa set the fastest lap of the session. It is the first time he has topped a session since second practice in Silverstone. Fernando Alonso hit traffic as he was attempting to beat that time.
The red flag came mid-way through the session, when Jerome d’Ambrosio spun dramatically and hit the wall. Most drivers were getting used to the track, however, and apart from a spin for Petrov and a few off-track moments for Heikki Kovalainen and Sebastien Buemi, things went smoothly.

A small field for a wet Barcelona. Spaniard Miki Monras was fastest in the first session, and German Tobias Hegewald was fastest in the second. Parthiva Sureshwaren set a top-ten time in FP2, perhaps inspired by the Grand Prix in his home country. Champion Mirko Bortolotti remained consistent, setting the second-fastest time in both sessions, but there is going to be an almighty scrap for second and third in the championship over the next two days.

Summer day 24 – Tobias Hegewald, Will Bratt

#Tobias Hegewald – 5
Tobias has had a great 2011 F2 season so far, only missing out on the points twice and taking two podiums as well. He’s been helped by Will Bratt’s absence at Brands Hatch, and is now only one point behind the Brit. It was at Brands Hatch that he took pole position for the first race, though a cunning move by Jack Clarke at the start saw him fall to third. His best finish came at Magny-Cours when he came second in the first race.
Qualifying-wise, he only missed out on the top ten at the Nurburgring. He should continue to do well in the rest of the season, and although he’s very unlikely to win, he could secure third or fourth at a pinch.

Points: 91
Best qualifying: 1
Worst qualifing: 11
Best finish: 2 (Magny-Cours race 1)
Worst finish: 12 (Nurburgring race 1)
Retirements: 1

Will Bratt – 4
Despite being fourth in the championship with a win, four podiums and a pole under his belt, Will Bratt had to miss his second home race of the season due to a lack of funding. He was disqualified from the second race at Silverstone having failed to obey a drive-through penalty and being black flagged – he had finished second. Magny-Cours was a bit quieter, but Spa saw a return to form as he took the win in the first race then pole and third in the second. The first race at the Nurburgring could have been better, but he still took some points and then second in the second race.
Apart from his disqualification, Will has finished in the points in every race. And if he’d been able to compete at Brands Hatch, he would have undoubtedly done well there as well. Watch out for Will in the rest of the season.

Points: 92
Best qualifying: 1
Worst qualifing: 8
Best finish: 1 (Spa race 1)
Worst finish: 8 (Magny-Cours race 1)
Retirements: 0

GP2, F2 Birthdays: 3/8/2011

The two racing drivers who celebrate their birthdays today are the same age. Jules Bianchi and Tobias Hegewald are both 22 today.

French GP2 driver Jules Bianchi is the grand-nephew of Belgian F1 driver Lucien Bianchi, who was born Luciano in Milan. Lucien’s best finish was third in Monaco in 1968 driving for Cooper. He shared the podium with Graham Hill and Richard Attwood in a race where only 5 drivers finished of 16, and the last retirement was on lap 16 – a long way before the end.
Anyway back to Jules, who began driving in French Formula Renault in 2007. He won the series with 5 wins, 5 poles and 10 fastest laps. In 2008 he came third in F3 Euroseries despite only 2 wins. The winner that year was Nico Hulkenberg.
In 2009, he won the F3 Euroseries title taking 9 wins, and moved into GP2 for the next season. Immediately he prospered, coming third overall. He seems to have a great ability to adapt to new cars quickly. In the four-race GP2 Asia series this year he finished second.
Though Jules was tipped to take the GP2 title this season, he has has a lot of bad luck. After a good start, he had a lot of non-points finishes which dropped him down the table. But a recent resurgence has pushed him back up to fourth and he is likely to finish in the top three or four.
Jules is a Ferrari test driver, and one that the Scuderia have their eye on for the future. But as long as Sauber are watching Esteban Gutierrez and have Kobayashi and Perez as their main drivers, Ferrari are going to struggle to get him into F1.

Tobias Hegewald began racing in 2005, taking part in German Formula BMW. He finished 20th in his first season. The next year he finished 13th. He also took place in some FBMW USA races.
In 2007, he began driving in FR2.0 Eurocup and the Northern European Cup. He did well in the NEC and finished 2nd with 3 wins and 297 points. He continued in both series for 2008, as well as competing in the Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Trophy. He finished 5th in Eurocup FR, 3rd in the NEC and 7th in the FPA trophy.
For 2009 he participated in his first Formula Two season, and also drove two races in FR 3.5. He finished 6th overall in F2, and decided to move to GP3 for its inaugural season in 2010. He drove for Mucke Motorsport, scoring 6 points for them and finishing 22nd – that’s not too bad in a field of 30 or more drivers.
This year, Tobias has moved back to F2 and is currently 5th with 91 points. He achieved his first pole position of the season in the first Brands Hatch race. He’s unlikely to catch up with Mirko Bortolotti, but his future looks good.

F2 Magny-Cours Race 1

It was wet in Magny-Cours for the race this afternoon. Alex Brundle had taken pole, and shot off into the lead before being reeled back later by Christopher Zanella – who won – and Tobias Hegewald – who came second. But compared to his Silverstone experience, it was a great weekend for the young Brit who shoots from 24th to 8th in the F2 championship.
The conditions caused plenty of drivers to spin off, and James Cole slumped to finish 18th. Mihai Marinescu spun out very early on and was unable to continue, with the same happening to Plamen Kralev. Jon Lancaster, however, improved to finish 7th and take home 6 points. With no pit stops in the championship, it was down to the drivers to keep their wet tyres going on a track that wasn’t quite where it could be, and with slow lap times all the way through it was no surprise that the race was cut short: 40 minutes instead of 24 laps because each lap was just under the 2-minute mark.
So Miki Monras leads the championship on 52 points, having finished fourth in the race, with Mirko Bortolotti second on 51 after finishing sixth. Christopher Zanella’s win jumps him up to third, with 46 points only 6 away from the lead. This one is going to be close. The full standings championship standing as usual has been updated in the link above, but subject to change depending on penalties.