Spavone signs for Trident

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.

Cassidy joins Fortec in Eurocup

As the second F1 and first GP3 tests get going today, it’s time to talk about the news that’s been released over the last few days.

FR Eurocup
British team Fortect have announced that Nick Cassidy – deserved winner of the Toyota Racing Series – will be driving for them in Eurocup Formula Renault this year. There are a strong team of drivers in this year’s Eurocup, including several FRUK graduates, so it will be a great challenge for Cassidy.

Testing today saw strong performances from Mitch Evans (MW Arden) and Nico Muller (testing for Trident) in Estoril. Other drivers who did well included Antonio Felix da Costa (testing for Carlin), Aaro Vainio (Lotus GP) and Tio Ellinas (Manor). In total 25 drivers took part in the test, with Mucke Motorsport absent, while Tech 1 and Atech only fielded two drivers each.

After a few laps of the Circuit de Catalunya, Romain Grosjean was uncomfortable with the feel of the E20 chassis that had been upgraded from the one used in Jerez. Lotus believe this to be an issue with the chassis, and have pulled out of this week’s test.
Fastest today was Sebastian Vettel, but Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was close behind. Times, of course, mean nothing, but Nico has been making positive noises about the car. Caterham had a problem with a broken track rod that left the CT-01 stranded on the final corner, but got just under an hour of running at the end of the test with Heikki Kovalainen. Daniel Ricciardo also caused a red flag in the STR7.
The new Mercedes was put through its paces by Michael Schumacher, whilst Charles Pic put in 121 laps as he got used to driving an F1 car. Marussia are still using the MVR02. Lewis Hamilton also put in over 100 laps, coming third-fastest in the McLaren.

Williams have hired former F1 and current WEC driver Alex Wurz as a driver coach for their team. They have a young duo in terms of races, as well as the inexperienced Valtteri Bottas as reserve driver. It is not common for teams to hire driver coaches, but hopefully this will have a positive effect on Maldonado and Senna.

Trulli out, Petrov in at Caterham

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.

i1 Supercar Series tests in Abu Dhabi

Unlike footballers and musicians, racing drivers don’t usually have their private lives on display to the public. So it was a surprise today when Fernando Alonso revealed that he would be divorcing his wife, Spanish singer Raquel del Rosario.

In happier news, Columbian Julian Leal will be driving alongside Stephane Richelmi at Trident in the 2012 GP2 season. Leal drove with Trident at the GP2 final after a difficult debut season with Rapax, and will be hoping to pick up some points! He won Italian F3000 in 2008 despite not winning a single race.

The i1 Supercar Series was testing in Abu Dhabi today. There is an interesting mix of drivers, with F1 stars from the past including Jacques Villeneuve and Jean Alesi alongside up-and-coming international drivers such as Armaan Ebrahim and Matthias Lauda, and future Indian stars. The fastest of all in today’s test was Parthiva Sureshwaren, but one group of international drivers was particularly speedy. There will also be two female drivers taking part – Pippa Mann and Cyndie Allemann. Pippa is an Indycar driver from Britain, while Cyndie is a Swiss driver who has tried out a number of disciplines.
There are 27 drivers, and in each round of two races eighteen of them will be chosen – two for each of the nine teams. India is clearly determined to get passionate about motor racing. It will never match cricket, but I think the country will do a good job. Hopefully the work of passionate Indians will make sure the country will host Formula One for many years to come.
The first race will be at Sepang on January 21st.

Trident take over Addax in GP3

GP2 team Trident Racing announced today that they will be entering the GP3 series in place of Addax, with whom they have made an agreement. The Italian team have had a successful GP2 career, and are hoping to expand themselves into the category’s junior series. Meanwhile Addax will be focusing on GP2, having become team champions this season.

Trident began participating in GP2 in 2006. Their seasons have been up-and-down, picking up four wins before they got any other podium finishes, but never with any consistency. This is never more dramatically shown than in the Monaco sprint of 2008, when Mike Conway and Ho-Pin Tung scored a Trident 1-2. It was Ho-Pin Tung’s second and last points score of the season – the first coming in the feature race where he finished seventh. Conway also had only a handful of points finishes.
This year, Trident racing have been Rodolfo Gonzalez and GP3 graduate Stefano Coletti. And the Monegasque driver did them proud, picking up points throughout the season. This included two sprint race wins, coming back from 21st in Hungary due to clever tactics. Unfortunately his teammate has failed to score points, and Coletti was injured at Spa. He was replaced by compatriot Stephane Richelmi at Monza, but should return next season.

Addax’s GP2 success has been phenomenal. Founded in 2005 as Campos Racing, their first two seasons were not impressive. But in 2007 they finished third in the driver’s championship with Vitaly Petrov and Giorgio Pantano. The name change came in 2008, and since then the team has been champion twice and runner-up twice. They have successfully brought two GP2 runner-ups into F1 (Petrov and Perez) and also did a good job with Grosjean in 2009 before he joined Renault.
This season, both Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde have had strong seasons for Addax, and both would have deserved to be runner-up or third-placed. Despite being beaten by Bianchi and Filippi in the final rounds, they still won the team their championship.
In GP3, they haven’t had the same success, finishing eighth both years. They had a couple of podiums in 2010, and two more this year with Dean Smith.

I hope the switchover goes well, and that Trident have a successful time in GP3. As for Addax, expect another strong GP2 season for 2012.

Summer day 18 – Stefano Coletti

Stefano Coletti – 10
In the history of Formula One, Monaco hasn’t turned up many F1 drivers. But Stefano Coletti looks like he could be the next. Young Stefano has usually qualified poorly, but had two good qualifying sessions in Barcelona and on his home turf where he started fourth. Coming into GP2 from GP3 last year when he finished 9th (taking a couple of podiums along the way), he immediately did much better in GP2 Asia, winning the sprint race at Abu Dhabi after starting on pole when he finished 8th in the feature. He also took fifth in the feature at Monza, and came fourth overall.
In the main series, he has done even better. He came fifth in the Istanbul feature before charging to victory in the sprint. How fantastic must it be to win your second main series GP2 race? Since then, he’s had a dip in form though he picked up points at Monaco and Silverstone. Usually, however, he’s finished low. In the Hungarian feature race he finished 21st. His team made a brave decision to start on slicks on a damp track. Well, it paid off big time. Soon near the front, the two safety cars came at the perfect time as he switched to wets in the second half of the race. And then he was in the lead, with Grosjean and Gutierrez scrapping behind him. So the rookie took his second win. Fantastic! He’s tenth though, mainly thanks to his poor finishes in other races. But once he gets better in the GP2 car, he has a good chance to win championships.

Points: 22
Best qualifying: 4
Worst qualifying: 21
Best finish: 1 (Istanbul, Hungaroring sprints)
Worst finish: 22 (Silverstone sprint)
Retirements: 5 (2 classified)

Summer day 4 – Rodolfo Gonzalez

Rodolfo Gonzalez – 24
One of two Venezuelans in GP2, Rodolfo Gonzalez has struggled to score points this year. His Trident teammate Stefano Coletti has recently come into his own to win the wet/dry/wet race at the Hungaroring – the team can do strategy. Indeed, Gonzalez finished 9th in that race, and has also had another 9th place and a 10th place finish. His qualifying has generally been poor, and his results vary wildly through the field. However, he has finished just outside the points on enough occasions that he should be a good contender in the future.

Best qualifying: 13
Worst qualifying: 25
Best finish: 9 (Nurburgring feature, Hungaroring sprint)
Worst finish: 22nd (Istanbul sprint)
Retirements: 4

Rain makes great racing

After two tame races yesterday, GP2 and GP3 needed some added spice today. GP3’s came in the form of a wet race, and GP2’s was in a race with mixed conditions where one strategy proved better – though it was a close thing.

Nigel Melker was given pole for this morning’s earlier-than-usual GP3 race after Sims was excluded from the feature race for technical infringements. It was a wet track and raining lightly; GP3 has been afflicted by wet races this season. Immediately there were spins, and Williamson was taken off in an ambulance though it didn’t appear to be serious. Evans also registered another DNF.
There were spins all over the place, with cars regularly having to cut the chicane. Those who did manage to avoid spinning managed to get good finishes, and particularly Maxim Zimin registering his best-ever finish of 9th.
After a safety car towards the end of the race, Rio Haryanto managed to overtake a struggling Melker, as did the ART cars of Valtteri Bottas and James Calado – Calado in particular impressing as he had started 25th on the grid. Bottas leads the championship with 40 points, but just 12 points behind is seventh place: Antonio Felix da Costa has 28 points, equal with Mitch Evans in 6th. This is still anyone’s to call with two rounds left.

At the start it wasn’t raining but the track was damp. A few drivers started on slicks, including Coletti, Gutierrez and Luca Filippi. Filippi was the strangest choice, as he was starting from near the front of the grid. And immediately he slid down to the back of the field. He ended up having to retire from the race.
Wets seemed the way to go until the track began to dry, and as drivers started to pit for slicks the safety car came out as Max Chilton’s stricken Carlin car needed moving off the track. Coletti, not needing to pit, found himself at the front, and once the safety car came in he was battling against Romain Grosjean.
The DAMS and Trident cars scrapped until the rain began to fall again. Some teams pitted, but Charles Pic stayed out as a second safety car period began. This was not the way to go, with Stefano Coletti, Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez all up at the front on wet tyres. They soon got past Pic, and Gutierrez hounded a more-cautious Grosjean as Coletti zoomed into the lead. The Monagesque driver won, and as they rounded the final corner Grosjean went wide and Gutierrez took second by 0.2s.

A marvellous first GP2 victory for former GP3 driver Stefano Coletti. He’s proven that it’s not just money that’s got him into GP2, but he has talent too. It’s his second Sprint victory, having taken the first at Abu Dhabi in GP2 Asia, and before that he hasn’t had a win since F3 Euroseries’ first race of 2009. Funnily enough, Romain Grosjean won the first race there as well, but it is confusing the GP2 website. He could be a serious challenger for the title.
Davide Rigon was injured in a crash during the race, sustaining multiple fractures to his left foot and ankle. The Italian, who replaced IndyCar-bound James Jakes, might well be out of racing for a while. Esteban Gutierrez went right up from 25th to 11th – a brilliant race for the GP3 champion. Fairuz Fauzy, finishing 5th, took his first ever GP2 main series points.

Alex Sims took a first GP3 victory today, leading the race from pole and also taking the fastest lap. Rio Haryanto had a great race, rising 16 places to finish 10th. Michael Christensen finished 2nd. Dean Smith had a great push to finish P6 for a single point. Nigel Melker, however, retains his lead having finished 3rd.

Brilliant race. Vettel of course stormed it, but in the rest of the field there was so much overtaking it was hard to know where to look next! Rosberg started well then fell back then began another charge up the field. Alonso finally got Ferrari’s first podium, which will delight the team – he was able to meet the pace of Webber without too much trouble. Red Bull are far in advance of the rest of the field. I expect we will see a Schumacher from them this year.
Kobayashi stormed up the field to finish 10th from 24th, and Buemi finished 9th from 16th. Both Renault drivers got points for the first time, putting them equal on points with Heidfeld in the lead. Though Barrichello has overtaken Trulli in the championship, Lotus remain ahead of Williams overall.

I am now updating the tables with the current standings.