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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.