Power does what it says on the tin

IndyCar
After last week’s opening round of the 2012 IndyCar series season, I didn’t have high hopes for today’s race. But what a race it was! It seems all Indy needs for a decent race is a proper track and fewer caution periods. Surprisingly, there were only two in the whole race!
Strategy was still important, but Will Power capitalised on a pit stop error from Scott Dixon’s team to take the lead after the second restart. With only a few laps to go, he pulled slowly away for his first win of the season. Behind, polesitter Helio Castroneves was third after a tussle between himself, Graham Rahal and brilliant rookie Simon Pagenaud in the final laps.
Sixth was James Hinchcliffe, while Mike Conway capitalised on the restart and a struggling Andretti to take seventh. Barrichello was challenging Conway in those final laps, having gained several places on the restart, but lost distance to the Brit while trying to overtake Andretti. The Brazilian finally managed it and finished eighth. This left Sebastien Bourdais sandwiched between Andretti and Dario Franchitti. Bourdais in the Lotus-engined car did brilliantly, and took ninth. In a race to the line, reigning champion Franchitti just beat Andretti to tenth.

Auto GP
At Valencia it was chamionship leader Adrian Quaife-Hobbs who shone. The Super Nova driver, still in his 2011 Marussia Manor overalls, got up to third by the end of the first lap but made an early pit call to get fresh tyres that saw him in the lead after everyone had pitted. Meanwhile Facu Regalia took second, holding off Sergey Sirotkin. Daniel de Jong managed fourth for Manor, while Victor Guerin was able to finally have a good race and finished fifth. Rounding off the points were Max Snegirev, Chris van der Drift and Pal Varhaug.
Quaife-Hobbs now leads the championship by 21 points from Pal Varhaug, while Sirotkin is only 5 behind the Norwegian driver. Both Manor drivers are on 37 points, with Facu Regalia 2 behind them.
In the teams’ championship, Super Nova have overtaken Manor and lead by 11 points. Euronova are third, with Virtuosi UK sinking to fourth. Campos Racing, who have scored points with at least two of their three drivers in every race, are fifth.

Other
The Superstars series saw some brilliant racing from former HRT driver Tonio Liuzzi. Starting from the back row in the first race he finished third. This left him sixth in the reversed grid second race, where he dominated and won the race. The Italian is definitely going to be one of the title favourites, though he is currently second in the championship as Max Pigoli – who won the first race – came second in the second race.

In the first BTCC weekend, there was some incredible racing. A seven-car pile-up in the final race caused a red flag, and experienced racer Jason Plato was fourth just after the restart. As the cars ahead faded, Andrew Jordan and Jason Plato fought through and Plato keep pushing the Honda driver. Finding a gap, Plato got into the lead with five laps to go and won the first race for his new team despite their not testing until a week ago. The other races were won by Rob Collard and Matt Neal. Plato now leads the championship ahead of Neal and Jordan.

The WTCC races were won by Yvan Muller and Alain Menu respectively.

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Silverstone is on for FR 3.5!

FR 3.5
For a long time, there have been questions about the presence of Silverstone in the World Series by Renault calendar this year. A round had been declared for 25th-26th August, but with no location given. Was the track to be left off the calendar? It seemed even more likely with the WEC’s 6 Hours of Silverstone set for that weekend.
However, today it was revealed that Formula Renault 3.5 will be supporting the WEC event that weekend, which is great news for British fans who can go and see Sam Bird, Nick Yelloly and other great drivers. It remains to be seen whether the series will be able to offer free tickets as they have done in the past, but I hope so!

Eurocup
Formula Renault Eurocup, which will not be present at Silverstone, is testing for two days at Paul Ricard. There’s a huge number of drivers who are going to be there, and you can follow the progress on the WSR Twitter account @WSR_Live.

F2
According to F2 commentator Jack Nicholls, drivers are set to be announced over the next few weeks. He said, “Some interesting drivers are set to be announced for #F2 in the coming weeks. It’s going to be a very competitive season.” (@Jack_Nicholls) The first test is coming up at Silverstone on March 26th.

GP2
The teams get back to work tomorrow with three days at the Circuit de Catalunya. Many of the drivers were already out at the track, either with F1 teams or just to watch testing before they have their own turn. Giancarlo Serenelli (winner of the (South American) Latam Challenge Series and third in the SEAT Leon Super Cup Mexico) will be with Lazarus, Jon Lancaster – who had a brief spell in F2 last year – will be with Ocean, Sergio Canamasas and former Caterham test driver Ricardo Teixeira will be with Rapax.

F1
Marussia launched their smooth-nosed MR01 today at Silverstone. The car is not yet ready to race, still with crash tests to pass despite the first race being 13 days away! HRT also launched at Barcelona, with Narain Karthikeyan driving the few laps allowed. Pedro de la Rosa was also there, of course, as was former HRT driver Tonio Liuzzi. The HRT’s livery is fantastic – white, gold and maroon. In the end, livery doesn’t get you points, but the fact that their car is ready before FP1 is a real step up for the Spanish outfit despite a troubled winter.

Narain’s in, but is Karun?

HRT confirmed their driver lineup for the Indian Grand Prix today. Narain Karthikeyan will be partnered by Daniel Ricciardo, the driver who replaced him from Silverstone. Tonio Liuzzi, therefore, will be on the sidelines.

There is no word yet from Team Lotus on whether their Indian reserve driver, Karun Chandhok, will be replacing Jarno Trulli for the race. If this happens, this will be the first race since the 2005 US Grand Prix that no Italians have taken part. Before that race (which was in exceptional circumstances), we need to go back to the 1996 Japanese Grand Prix (for which Giovanni Lavaggi – the only Italian entrant – failed to qualify) to find a race where no Italians took part.

The Indian Grand Prix will be Felipe Massa’s 150th Grand Prix. If Jarno Trulli takes part, it will be his 250th. Several drivers have anniversaries coming up at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, including Mark Webber (175th) and Bruno Senna (25th).

Summer day 11 – Liuzzi, Trulli, De La Rosa, Barrichello

Sorry for the delay. My laptop wanted to get friendly with some water but the relationship didn’t work out.

Tonio Liuzzi – 20
Throughout the winter, Tonio Liuzzi was sure that despite Paul di Resta winning the DTM championship, he had a safe seat at Force India. But Mercedes – who provide Force India’s engines – backed Paul, and with Nico Hulkenberg taking the reserve seat Tonio was left teamless. Pretty swiftly, however, the Italian driver was snapped up by Hispania Racing. Despite being unable to provide any funding, he was able to provide them with help in developing the car.
The start of the season was dismal. Neither HRT driver qualified in Australia after getting hardly any time on track, and coming nowhere near the pace in the qualifying session. But Malaysia was an improvement as both HRTs squeaked under the 107% time along with the Virgins. As the car has improved, Tonio has been able to scrap for position with the Virgins in qualifying, and even started 20th in Istanbul.
But his greatest race came in Canada. The wet/dry conditions somehow played into HRT’s hands, and while nobody was paying attention he finished ahead of his teammate, both Virgins, and the sole remaining Lotus of Jarno Trulli. His thirteenth-place finish has allowed him to slot in behind Trulli in the championship, and brought his team back to 11th where they finished the championship last year. HRT have had a lot of luck to be ahead of Virgin in 2010 and 2011, but in this game luck is a big part of it. And when your next rivals have an incredibly unreliable car, you can see why HRT have hopes of getting that elusive 12th-place finish that will get them 10th in the championship.

Worst qualifying: 23
Best qualifying: 20
Worst finish: 23 (Valencia)
Best finish: 13 (Canada)
Average difference: 2.3
Laps completed: 531/681 (78%)
Average race position: 10.82 (Best: 18.9 Canada; Worst: 22.9 China)

Jarno Trulli – 19
Having been hit by most of Team Lotus’s reliability problems in 2010, Jarno seems to have the more reliable car this year. Though to be honest, three is still a huge amount. Finishing 13th in the very first race of the season has sealed Jarno’s place at 19th in the championship, and he matched that finish in Monaco when he came in ahead of Kovalainen.
For the first half of the season, however, the Italian has been having trouble with the team’s power steering, which did not meet the sensitivity he required to be able to drive the way he prefers. This has been part of the reason why he has been half a second off his teammate in most sessions, as proven in Hungary when only a last-gasp effort got Kovalainen ahead on the grid.
We can expect much closer racing between the two Team Lotus drivers in the future, which will make life a lot more interesting for them. Let’s hope they can stay out of each others’ way and keep the retirements mechanical.

Worst qualifying: 21
Best qualifying: 18
Worst finish: 20 (Valencia)
Best finish: 13 (Australia, Monaco)
Average difference: 1
Laps completed: 490/611 (79%)
Average race position: 17.73 (Best: 15.9 Monaco; Worst: 20.4 Britain)

Pedro de la Rosa – 18
Stepping in for Sergio Perez at the Canadian Grand Prix, Pedro did a reasonable job considering he’d not been in the 2011 Sauber before. He finished on the leading lap thanks to the red flag and safety cars. Nothing else to say, really.

Qualifying: 17
Finish: 12
Average race position: 13.54

Rubens Barrichello – 17
After a good 2010, this season was looking even better for Rubens Barrichello. Winter testing showed promise, and the ‘tight rear end’ was the talk of the press. Then came Australia, and the first of two consecutive double DNFs for the team. Since then, Rubens has been pushing the team to improve. Already reluctantly putting aside this season, the Renault deal should make things better for 2012. But will the Brazilian be there? Rumours abound, questioning whether he will be replaced or remain. As the most experienced driver in F1, he can retire without shame, but he is still a good driver.
Despite not making it into Q3 at all, the high attrition in Monaco and Canada was enough for Rubens to snatch a couple of ninth-place finishes and four points. Aside from that, the Williams’ best finish was 12th at Valencia. Aside from the two DNFs at the start, Rubens’ FW33 has also had a problem in Germany. Bring on 2012.

Worst qualifying: 19
Best qualifying: 11
Worst finish: 17 (Spain)
Best finish: 9 (Monaco, Canada)
Average difference: -0.09
Laps completed: 585/681 (86%)
Average race position: 13.76 (Best: 10.2 Monaco; Worst: 22.0 Malaysia)

F1 Birthdays: 6/8/2011

Italian racing driver Vitantonio “Tonio” Liuzzi celebrates his 30th birthday today. Having formerly driven for Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Force India, he currently drives for Hispania racing. He also writes a column for ESPN.

He began karting aged nine, and in 1993 won the Italian Karting Championship. In 1995 he came second in the Karting World Championship, but only fifth in the European Championship. In 2001, aged 20, he won the Karting World Championship. He made a late move to German Formula Renault that year – most people start younger – and finished second, so he moved on the German Formula Three for 2002 when he finished 9th.
In 2003, he became a Red Bull driver and competed in International Formula 3000. He finished fourth. The next year he continued in the series, driving for Arden International. He won that year, taking seven wins in ten races, and all-but-one pole. The move to F1 was secure.
Red Bull took over Jaguar and brought in Christian Horner from Arden to manage the team. Christian Klien and David Coulthard were the main drivers, but Christian put Tonio in the car for a few races mid-season. Tonio finished 8th in his first race, scoring points on his debut.
The next year, he drove for the new Toro Rosso team and again scored a single point. The next year he picked up three points. But then he left the team, dropped in place of Sebastien Bourdais. So he became a Force India test driver for 2009, and meanwhile took part in a couple of A1GP races and the Speedcar Series in which he came third behind Johnny Herbert but ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Jean Alesi, Thomas Biagi, Jaques Villeneuve and others.
His 2009 season began with him as a Force India test driver. But after Felipe Massa’s accident at Hungary, main Force India driver Giancarlo Fisichella moved over to Ferrari and Tonio got another chance. He didn’t score any points at the end of that season.
In 2010, Tonio had his best F1 season so far. He finished 15th scoring 21 points. On the other hand, he wasn’t able to provide much of a challenge to teammate Adrian Sutil. With Paul di Resta’s DTM championship win, Tonio didn’t really stand a chance although he held on for as long as he could.
When the opportunity came up at Hispania, Tonio wasn’t going to say no. He has helped to develop the car, and his 13th-place finish in Canada means the team will probably finish 11th again. Plus he is only just behind Jarno Trulli in the championship. Recently, he’s gained Daniel Ricciardo as a teammate. This should hopefully provide him with a good challenge.
Also on the cards, Tonio will be taking part in the Australian V8 championship at their Surfers Paradise round where the regulars drive with international drivers. I don’t think a current F1 driver has ever done this before, although quite a few IndyCar drivers will be taking part.

Yep, Jenson definitely won

Overnight, no change. Jenson Button keeps his victory. The collisions between Button and Hamilton, and Button and Alonso were both deemed to be ‘racing incidents’. Phew. It was Jenson’s 100th points finish and 10th race win, on the race after he got McLaren’s 10,000th lap leading the race.
I’m sure Sebastian Vettel is happy as well. He knows he made a mistake on the last lap, and while he might be disappointed with P2 after leading the whole race, nobody likes to be gifted victory when the leader is penalised.
As for Jenson, his race was compromised anyway through collisions and tyre changes and he ended up at the back of the pack at one point, so to come from that to first shows his skill and ability in these conditions. McLaren deserved the win for that. McLaren, scarily, have won three of the last four Canadian Grands Prix, with Coulthard taking the win for Red Bull in 2007. That remains Red Bull’s only win in Canada, though Vettel and Webber are the first Red Bull drivers to get on the podium apart from that race.
Hispania finished 13th with Liuzzi. Though I am a big Team Lotus fan and am disappointed that Kovalainen is now behind Liuzzi and D’Ambrosio in the championship, I am happy for my favourite team of all. They are once again ahead of Virgin. Liuzzi has one thirteenth-place finish and his fellow Italian Trulli has two. It’s a big, hopeful step up for the Spanish team. Maybe they’ll finally get some sponsors!

The 2011 Canadian Grand Prix was the longest race in Formula One history at 4:04:39.537 when Button crossed the line. It was even longer than the 1961 Indy 500, which counted for the championship though a lot of drivers didn’t bother racing in it. It is naturally a long race and lasted 3:36:11.36. That year’s Monaco GP was the longest race under F1 rules, and took 2:53:45.5. Both times blown out of the water. The race also wins the record for the most times a safety car was employed in a single race: six. This beats the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix which had five.

Virgin vs Hispania

Virgin will be updating their car for the last time at the British Grand Prix before focusing on their 2012 car following the change in direction that the team have decided to take. Hispania are beginning to move ahead of their rivals, with Liuzzi outqualifying the Virgins today in Montreal, and they are also slightly more reliable, which should see them take eleventh in the championship by the end of the season, just as they did last year.

Race

H avg qual

V avg qual

H avg finish

V avg finish

H ret

V ret

AUS

23.5

21.5

N/A

14

N/A

0*

MAL

23.5

21.5

16

2

1

CHN

23.5

21.5

22.5

21.5

0

0

TUR

21

22**

21.5

20

0

1

ESP

21.5

21.5

21

19.5

1

0

MON

22.5

20.5

16.5

15

0

1

CAN

22

23

*Glock retired for a short while before coming back out of the pits. He finished but was not classified.
**D’Ambrosio was demoted five places.

Canada is the first time in qualifying that – without any penalties – a Hispania has qualified ahead of a Virgin. Having started off not even being able to qualify, Hispania have come on in leaps and bounds. Continuing to develop their car, Canada has definitely been an improvement for them. Okay they’re still way off Lotus. It remains to be seen whether they will maintain the qualifying performance in the race, or how they will do in other races.
Virgin of course will struggle if they don’t update. They may not be able to meet the 107% rule as other cars continue to develop, and this will cost them. As a bit of a Hispania fan, I hope the Spanish team continue to improve. I don’t see them matching the Lotuses this year, but who knows for 2012?