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