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.

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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.

Summer day 27 – Valteri Bottas

Valtteri Bottas – 1
You can’t say that Finn Valtteri Bottas will win the GP3 championship this year, but he has a good chance. The first driver to win two races, he also has three other podiums. He also managed to pick up the fastest lap in the Barcelona feature, finishing tenth overall. With four podiums in the last four races, he’s also got Williams’ support behind him. Chance of winning? Good. But it’s still wide open. He starts 2nd today.

Points: 40
Best qualifying: 1
Worst qualifing: 11
Best finish: 1 (Nurburgring sprint, Hungaroring feature)
Worst finish: 15 (Silverstone feature)
Retirements: 0

Friday morning practices

First up today, GP3, who have only one practice session this weekend. Instead of two 30 minute sessions, they had one 45 minute session. It was dry and wet, but the session was topped by championship leader Valtteri Bottas. Second was currently-struggling Mitch Evans, with James Calado in third. Most surprising are Simon Trummer 8th and Ivan Lukashevich 10th. Neither driver has yet scored points this season.
Matias Laine was 11th, which is also a surprise. However, the Manor driver went out from the pits after they had closed at the end of the session and did a lap of the track. He will receive a 15-place grid penalty for the race tomorrow.

In F2, we’ve got a slightly bigger field than Brands Hatch. Jordan King of course is not racing in the series for the rest of the season, and Jose Luis Abadin is also unable to drive this weekend. However, Luciano Bacheta and Rene Binder add to the numbers, as does the return of Johannes and Julian Theobald.
It was a good debut for Bacheta, who took eighth in the practice session. Championship leader Mirko Bortolotti came first, with Zanella second. Miki Monras didn’t make the top ten. But Julian Theobald (that’s right, Julian!) made tenth. Julian has usually been behind his brother this season.

F1 practice began dry, and the Mercedes drivers (perhaps doing some laps to celebrate 20 years of Michael Schumacher in F1) were doing multiple installation laps. Thus they had the two fastest times just before it started to rain. It was bad enough that for a long while there was no running on the track. The rain died down a bit, and the teams began to test the track again. First Vettel on inters, and then some others. As the track began to dry, the drivers were giving it a bit more. Bruno Senna lost control of his Renault and hit the back end into the wall, writing off the rest of his session. Later, while Bruno’s car was on the way back to the pits, Paul di Resta managed to put his car off at the same spot. The damage wasn’t so bad for the Force India. However, due to the crane being busy, they had to red flag the session as they couldn’t retrieve the car. Nobody could go faster than Schumacher on the drying track, but really the time was meaningless.

The rain affected the GP2 session towards the end. No surprise for Grosjean being fastest, but a big surprise for Romainian Michael Herck taking second just a thousandth ahead of Marcus Ericsson. Jolyon Palmer, who caused a red flag just as the session was starting, didn’t set a time and came last. Fortunately this is only practice.

Saturday summary

The winner in the race for pole in F1 today was Sebastian Vettel, but he was barely one tenth faster than Lewis Hamilton. In third was Jenson Button. Fourth, and qualifying for the first time ahead of his teammate by 0.015s was Felipe Massa. A disappointing session for Mark Webber put him sixth, over half a second off Vettel.
Rosberg made it into seventh for Mercedes, and was followed by Adrian Sutil, qualifying eighth for Force India for the second race in a row. Behind him came Michael Schumacher. The final driver in Q3 was Sergio Perez, though he did not set a time to save tyres.
Force India’s Paul di Resta barely missed out on Q3, and qualified 11th. Behind him was the faster of the two Renaults, belonging to Vitaly Petrov. Then Kobayashi, Heidfeld, Barrichello, Alguersuari and Maldonado – the Venezuelan failed to set any time in Q2.
In Q1, Sebastian Buemi was the fall guy, qualifying 18th but dropping to 23rd after his five-place penalty for the Heidfeld incident in Germany. Heikki Kovalainen was struggling against Jarno Trulli, but a last minute push on option tyres saw him beat the Italian by a narrow margin. Over a second slower than the Lotuses was Timo Glock. Tonio Liuzzi was three hundredths behind the Virgin, and Ricciardo was just over a tenth and a half slower. Jerome d’Ambrosio was only a few hundredths slower than the second HRT. The two back teams are incredibly close.

The first GP2 race began with a safety car as Fairuz Fauzy crashed out. It ran to time rather than distance. Luiz Razia began badly by spinning his tyres off the line, and moved into second. Grosjean went third. Luca Filippi also had a strong start.
The pit stops began, and leader Marcus Ericsson went in at the same time as Razia. But iSport bungled their release and let Ericsson into the AirAsia driver’s path. It was close. While the Swede had come out in the lead, Razia was behind Grosjean, Filippi and Pic.
Ericsson was given a drive-through penalty, which allowed Grosjean into the lead. Meanwhile, Filippi’s tyres faded and he was overtaken – finishing the race in sixth though he set the fastest lap. Pic and Razia completed the podium. Behind them came Giedo van der Garde, Ericsson, Filippi, Bianchi and Vietoris.

In GP3, it was a quiet race. Mitch Evans created the only retirement, pushing into James Calado on the first lap. The ART driver continued but finished at the back, while Evans was forced to retire. Valtteri Bottas had taken pole earlier, and managed to maintain his lead over Michael Christensen, though it was a close thing. He became the first driver to win two GP3 races this season. Alex Sims finished 3rd having managed an impressive start, and has improved his lead in the championship over second-placed Lewis Williamson.

Debut pole for Razia and AirAsia

Celebrations today for Caterham Team AirAsia as they took pole by 0.140s ahead of Luca Filippi – admittedly, they were helped by a spin from Adam Carroll in the middle sector which caused yellow flags to be waved, and Filippi had to abandon his hot lap. However, Luiz Razia had been fast all session and you take the chances where you can. He completely deserves to have pole.
This is Luiz’s first ever GP2 pole position, though he has previously been a race winner in 2009 with Scuderia Coloni in Italy. It is also the team’s first pole, coming hot on the heels of their win at Monaco when polesitter Sam Bird stalled off the line. Seize the day. AirAsia’s form has been up and down this season, with the team sometimes finishing in the points and sometimes barely finishing at all. But Monaco shares similar characteristics with Hungary so the team should do well on both tracks.
On the second row behind Razia and Filippi are Marcus Ericsson and Charles Pic, with the two French drivers Romain Grosjean and Jules Bianchi on row three. However, Bianchi is in trouble for an incident with Julian Leal, and may end up losing some grid positions. Davide Valsecchi has been penalised 5 grid places from the German GP, and starts 19th.

Meanwhile, in Formula One the fastest lap each session was taken by Lewis Hamilton as the Red Bulls continue to fall back into the main field. They’ve lost their edge over everyone else. For once, Jarno Trulli was enjoying his power steering, and went faster than his teammate in the second session. Webber clipped the astroturf at turn 9 during the first session, bashing off his front wing for a marshall’s souvienir, immitating GP3’s Luciano Bacheta, who had rolled severely at the same place in their first practice session. Webber was faster than Vettel in the second session, but still only finished fourth. Vettel was fifth. Button and Alonso were both faster than the Red Bulls.

In GP3 practice, aside from Bacheta’s roll it was fairly standard. The amazing guys at Mucke Motorsport managed to get a new car built up for the young Brit for practice two. He didn’t quite have the pace, but seems confident for qualifying tomorrow morning. Fastest in P2 was last week’s race winner Valtteri Bottas, with James Calado, Tom Dillmann, Mitch Evans, Antonio Felix da Costa, Rio Haryanto, Nico Muller and many other drivers close behind. Surprisingly, Ivan Lukashevich got himself 13th fastest, buoyed by the support from the Russian fans who had travelled to the circuit. But there’s all to play for tomorrow morning in qualifying.