Nasr gets GP2 chance with DAMS

GP2
DAMS have confirmed the second half of their team today, with British F3 champion Felipe Nasr set to partner Davide Valsecchi. After Romain Grosjean’s championship last season, there are high expectations on Nasr and Valsecchi.
Brazilian Nazr, who will be 20 in August, won seven races and took 17 podiums in the British F3 championship despite only taking four pole positions, and finished far ahead of his teammate Kevin Magnussen who was second. It seems likely that he will be the next Brazilian to reach Formula One, and certainly the media has shown interest in this young man. Nasr also came second in last year’s Macau GP, and was on the podium in the Daytona 24 hours.

F1
Videos taken at Silverstone today show the Mercedes W03 on its shakedown before it is launched. Stills suggest the silver car will share the stepped nose that all but McLaren have gone for in 2012.

Mike Gascoyne has been promoted to Caterham CTO, which means he will oversee all of the Caterham programs – not just F1. He will naturally have a reduced role in the F1 team, but has tweeted that he will be present at races as he wants to be there for the first points and the first podium.

Williams have announced that their test driver Valtteri Bottas will be taking a turn in the FW34 at Barcelona. He will be driving on the second day of the test.

Finally, after failing some crash tests, HRT will not be present at the first Barcelona test. Marussia will be there, but with their 2011 car.

Maldonado still in F1

Williams announced today that Pastor Maldonado will continue to drive for them in 2012. The Venezuelan had flashes of brilliance in Monaco and Belgium but otherwise did not impress fans, receiving two penalties in Abu Dhabi for ignoring blue flags and suffering more crashes in practice and the race than can be accounted for by Williams’ unreliability.
Third driver for the team will be GP3 champion Valtteri Bottas. What the Finn will be doing besides his reserve position remains unclear, as ART have already signed up Esteban Gutierrez and James Calado to their GP2 team. A vast number of spaces in GP2 remain open, and he could also take his chances in Formula Renault 3.5.

The question remains over who will take the second Williams seat. Current speculation sees Barrichello losing his seat to Sutil, with Petrov, Bianchi and Senna the other options.

More to come over the next few weeks! The 2012 lineup under the F1 tab reflects the FIA entry list plus De La Rosa and Maldonado.

Young drivers’ test day one

The first day of the F1 young drivers’ test is over. Of the 23 taking part in the three-day test, fourteen were driving today. So far as I’m aware, nothing significant happened and the young drivers generally did well.
In the morning, Jean-Eric Vergne topped the times for Red Bull with Jules Bianchi about two seconds behind in the Ferrari. McLaren ran Oliver Turvey, who was 0.9s behind the French driver. Finn Valtteri Bottas was getting the most out of the Williams and set the fourth-fastest time.
In the afternoon, Charles Pic took over from Adrian Quaife-Hobbs in the Virgin, while Gary Paffett took over in the McLaren. The British team have been using the time to work on 2012 modifications, since Paffett has no race experience despite testing for a long time with them. Vergne was again fastest, with Bianchi around 0.9s slower in the Ferrari. Robert Wickens in the Renault set the third-fastest time. Williams had a few gearbox troubles, but Bottas still managed some good running.

Full times: TSL Timing

Yellow and green

Two champions will be driving the Williams FW33 at the F1 young drivers’ test this year. Mirko Bortolotti will be taking control of the car on day three as his prize for winning the F2 championship, while GP3 champion and Williams tester Valtteri Bottas will be driving for the first two days. So no surprises.

Meanwhile Riad Asmat the Team Lotus/Caterham CEO has announced that the team will be continuing with the green and yellow colour scheme in 2012. It’s a great way for the team to maintain continuity whilst leaving behind the Lotus brand that has caused so much confusion this season. I can’t help but wonder if the ART GP2 and GP3 teams currently sponsored by Group Lotus will be changing their colour scheme in 2012; currently Caterham Team AirAsia uses the same green and yellow as their F1 sister, and will most likely continue to do so in the next season.

GP2 testing day one

Jerez de la Frontera was filled with the sound of GP2 cars today, as they took to the former Grand Prix track for testing. Local team Racing Engineering did themselves proud, with Fabio Leimer topping the timesheets in both the morning and afternoon sessions.
In the morning, he just beat Luca Filippi’s time by nine thousandths of a second. The Italian was driving for Coloni in the morning before handing over to Auto GP under-21 winner (and possibly champion) Kevin Ceccon in the afternoon.
Third in the morning was Britain’s Sam Bird, driving for Rapax, who just beat times from Johnny Cecotto (who caused a red flag late in the morning session) and Fabio Onidi.
In the afternoon, the second-best driver was Dutchman Yelmer Buurman, for AirAsia. Dani Clos was third for Addax, with GP3 champion Valtteri Bottas enjoying the GP2 car as he set the fourth-fastest afternoon time for ART.

Testing isn’t all about times of course. For the teams, it’s a chance to see how well young drivers can do, but it’s also a chance to experiment with different car set-ups that they couldn’t really try during the season. For the young Carlin Racing GP2 team, that was what Max Chilton and Alvaro Parente were up to.

Tomorrow’s lineup can be found on the GP2 website.

GP2 is back! Sort of…

The big news today is that the GP2 2012 lineup is already being filled up. 2010 GP3 champion Esteban Gutierrez had a great season with Lotus ART this year, and will be continuing with the team for the next season.

Aside from that, it’s the GP2 tests tomorrow and Thursday at Jerez. The lineups in full can be found here. Notably, the following GP3 drivers are taking part:
Champion Valtteri Bottas with Lotus ART. Race winners James Calado, Nico Muller, Rio Haryanto, Nigel Melker and Antonio Felix da Costa. Simon Trummer.
Several past and present GP2 drivers are taking part, including Javier Villa, Adam Carroll, Sam Bird and Max Chilton. The remaining drivers mainly come from Formula Renault, including Daniel Ricciardo’s teammate Nathanael Berthon.

Raikkonen to Williams – opinion

Kimi Raikkonen has had an interesting year. Being removed from the WRC championship for not competing in the two required overseas rounds, and having a rather troubled attempt at NASCAR, perhaps he’s regretting his move away from F1.
Interest in the championship-winning Finn has been shown from Williams, who also had Adrian Sutil looking around. But will Kimi race his whole heart in F1? And is it right to bring a veteran back into the sport when there are so many youngsters looking for a seat?
Williams could take a look at Sauber, whose drivers have both done spectacular jobs in the first half of the season though the car’s poor development – and gearbox problems – have lost them points more recently. Though Kobayashi and Perez have limited time in F1, they can drive well. Could Williams go with two junior drivers?
It is unlikely. After their disasterous 2011, they’ll want an experienced driver to help with the car’s development (though Barrichello should have been able to do that). And having a champion on their side could give another boost. But Adrian Sutil is an experienced driver too. He has spent all his career at the same team – albeit with a name change – and could do with a new team although he says he is happy at Force India. Well I would be too – sixth in the championship! But I am biased and want to see Nico Hulkenberg return to F1, which a Sutil move would do.

I think Barrichello retiring would be good for F1 after 19 seasons of the Brazilian in the series. Once you have been around for such a long time, even if you love driving, it’s time to give youngsters a chance. As it is, it is hard to see anywhere for even GP2 champion Romain Grosjean to fit in. Therefore I do not think it is right for ex-drivers to return, no matter how prematurely they left the sport.
So if you want my thoughts, it would be Sutil to Williams, Hulkenberg up to second driver at Force India. Valtteri Bottas will remain Williams test driver with a hope of coming to F1 in a season or two, and meanwhile make Max Chilton or Luca Filippi the Force India tester.

GP3 race report and season summary

We haven’t had the Formula One yet, but I am almost certain that the prize for the most exciting race of the day goes to GP3. The championship leader and runner-up were causing most of the havoc, with Valtteri Bottas taking out two drivers almost straight away. First to go was Conor Daly, running in third, who was spun off the track by the Finn. As Bottas returned to the track he caused Alex Sims to move out the way, and the Status driver hit the car in front of him. The ART driver couldn’t have his championship taken away, but he did receive a drive-through penalty.
Meanwhile, James Calado was running with the leaders including Antonio Felix da Costa, Nico Muller, Mitch Evans, Simon Trummer, Rio Haryanto, Adrian Quaife-Hobbs and – incredibly – Callum MacLeod of Carlin. At the first chicane, Calado was being squeezed off the track by the other runners and as he tried to stay on he went into Mitch Evans. The Arden driver had to retire, but it was a drive-throgh penalty for Calado who was running in second. Calado ended up with a time penalty due to the lateness of the punishment. Portuguese da Costa won, with Muller second and Haryanto third. Trummer came home fourth, while MacLeod was fifth and Quaife-Hobbs sixth. MacLeod was the only remaining Carlin runner after Leo Cordeiro spun and stalled, and he also took the point for fastest lap.
Despite not finishing the race after a self-caused accident, Nigel Melker finished third in the championship with 38 points. Fourth was Nico Muller, who had a great comeback at the end of the second. He and fifth-placed Adrian Quaife-Hobbs both finish with 36 points. Behind them, Alex Sims came sixth with 34 points after a horrendous end to his season and no points since Germany. Behind him, Rio Haryanto came seventh with 31 points – his two wins edge him ahead of Arden’s Lewis Williamson. Incredibly, a lot of these well-placed drivers have gone through some rough races. Nobody has been particularly consistent.
Ninth in the championship is Mitch Evans, who has done terribly since he led the championship early on through no fault of his own – usually in fact due to James Calado! In tenth is Andrea Caldarelli, with his 20 points picked up in the first four races enough for that position.
Teams Champion Lotus ART finished with 124 points – well ahead of second place MW Arden with 69 points. Just behind Arden is Marussia Manor Racing on 67 points, and last year’s losers RSC Mucke got 61. Status were fourth with 50 points, followed by Tech 1 with 43, Jenzer with 37, Addax with 33, Carlin with 21 and CRS with a lowly seven.

Saturday qualifying and race report

F1
It’s ‘as you were’ in today’s qualifying session dominated by the Red Bulls. Pole for Vettel gave him his tenth of the season, and fourteenth consecutive for Red Bull who haven’t lost a single one since Brazil 2010. Vettel has taken at least ten pole positions in multiple seasons, making him the first driver to achieve this since Ayrton Senna – Senna achieved this in three seasons, so Vettel still has something to aim for!
The two McLarens took second and third, with Alonso in fourth. Vettel’s teammate took fifth with Massa – who had given Alonso a ‘tow’ around the track – in sixth. The two Renaults surrounded a Mercedes sandwich – Petrov starts seventh with Schumacher ahead of Rosberg for the second time this season. Bruno Senna did not attempt a time after squeaking into Q3 by six thousandths of a second.
It was Paul di Resta whom Senna narrowly beat, and next to the Scot on row six is his teammate Adrian Sutil. Both Williams share row seven, with Barrichello ahead of Maldonado. Behind them, Perez in the Sauber is next to Buemi in the Toro Rosso, and Kobayashi in his Sauber is seventeenth. The fall guy was Jaime Alguersuari, who lines up behind his teammate.
No surprises in to the final three rows – Lotus on row ten with Trulli beating Kovalainen for a change. Trulli has always been dominant at Monza qualifying, with only former Renault teammate Alonso ever beating him. Glock narrowly beat out d’Ambrosio, while Ricciardo’s Italian ancestry helped him outqualifying full Italian Tonio Liuzzi.

GP2
Damage and a drive through saw Giedo van der Garde demoted to fifth in the championship, but only three points behind teammate Charles Pic who is in second after coming second in the race. Luca Filippi won and took the fastest lap by a few hundredths from Jules Bianchi, which means he is one point behind Pic. Bianchi’s point is enough for him to be fourth in the championship on equal points with van der Garde and take reversed pole for race two. Reversed pole could be critical, but so could Filippi’s point for fastest lap. Anyone could come second, which would almost guarantee them a place in Formula One in either 2012 or 2013.

GP3
No pole for Valtteri Bottas, but in a hard fought race he took the win from his teammate by 0.3 seconds and claimed the championship. The Finn is the second GP3 champion, and will no doubt be heading to GP2 next season. He is likely to be joined by his afforementioned teammate James Calado, who is guaranteed second. Conor Daly also had a good race, finishing sixth having started seventeenth. His teammates also had good races, finishing 11th for Callum MacLeod and 13th for Leonardo Cordeiro.

Race weekend summary – GP2 and GP3

GP3
It was ART’s weekend as James Calado took pole in the first race. Beaten by championship leader Valtteri Bottas off the start, however, he could only come home second. After his early-season drought, Nigel Melker came third, with Adrian Quaife-Hobbs fourth after they had battled during the race. Fifth went to Carlin’s Conor Daly – his second points finish this year – sixth to Tom Dillmann, seventh to Nico Muller and eight to debutant Richie Stanaway. Alex Sims had been attacking Conor early in the race, but a spin caused his tyres too much wear and he fell backwards rapidly.
Stanaway led the second race from reversed pole for an impressive victory. James Calado took second again – along with the fastest lap – to put the gap between himself and Valtteri at 5 points. Valtteri had an incident during the race which must have shot his tyres as he was 19th by the end. Nico Muller came third for his second podium of 2011, and birthday boy Michael Christensen came fourth. In fifth was Arden’s Simon Trummer – his first points finish of the year and finally beating his teammates (though Lewis Williamson DNSed after mechanical problems, and Mitch Evans also retired). The final point went to Alex Fontana, another debutant.

GP2
The feature race began sanely, with only a couple of incidents – Charles Pic spinning into Luiz Razia and taking them both out – and then the rain came down. Giedo van der Garde went off at the top of Eau Rouge and the safety car came out. Then Max Chilton lost drive, Stefano Coletti went into the back of Mikhail Aleshin, and as the safety car had to slow right down behind Chilton’s stricken Carlin it caused problems for a lot of other drivers whose cars also began breaking. When things finally calmed, ten cars had retired and Brendon Hartley was on course for Ocean Racing’s first points. So was Johnny Cecotto Jr! The safety car went in and they raced for a lap. Johnny Jr sadly lost it on the final corner, allowing Fairuz Fauzy to take the final point behind Josef Kral. Later, the two positions were reversed as it emerged Fauzy had overtaken a very slow Kral under the safety car then given the position back, but it was determined that this shouldn’t have happened.
Christian Vietoris won from pole and also took the fastest lap, second was Jules Bianchi, and third Romain Grosjean, who was happy to be on the podium at the moment his championship win was secured. Luca Filippi came fourth, Hartley fifth, Dani Clos sixth and then Fauzy and Kral.
I wasn’t able to watch the sprint, but Johnny Jr had a great start to get up to second, but was overtaken during the race to finish eighth. So unlucky for the Venezuelan. It was Luca Filippi who won, the Italian driving brilliantly for Coloni, and he also took the fastest lap to go seventh in the championship. Jules Bianchi again came second, with Josef Kral on the podium for the second time this season and glad of some more points. Grosjean was fourth, Sam Bird fifth and Dani Clos sixth.