The second weekend of the championship is coming up this weekend at Valencia, and there are some changes to the drivers. Brazilian Yann Cunha, who won F3 Sudamericana in 2010, came second in the Brazilian F3 open last season, and won one race in the European F3 Open, joins Ombra Racing. He will also be driving for Pons in the Formula Renault 3.5 series this year. He will be replacing Adderly Fong, who took a seventh place at Monza.
Former FR 3.5 driver Sten Pentus will also be joining Auto GP as part of the Virtuosi UK team. Virtuosi had a great first weekend with Pal Varhaug, and will be hoping to continue their success. Estonian Pentus has had a reasonably successful career in the FR 3.5 series, his best year being 2010 when he won two races and overall finished fourth with Fortec.
It’s just a few weeks now until Formula Two gets back into racing action, and testing was underway today in glorious sunshine. While one driver dominated proceedings, others were also doing well including Britain’s Luciano Bacheta, and Romanian Mihai Marinescu. Dean Stoneman was also doing well on his return to the series. In session three, Alex Fontana was the only driver to come out on top apart from the German who had led the other sessions.
Present at the test were all the signings for 2012, including last year’s runner-up Christopher Zanella. Naturally, the Swiss driver will be looking for the championship this year, but I think Marinescu, Bacheta and the other driver will be giving him a run for his money.
Dino Zamparelli, winner of the 2011 FR BARC championship and runner-up in the McLaren Autosport BDRC award, was also present at the test. He had been hoping to drive in Formula Renault UK this year, though his hopes have been dashed, and has set a future target of driving in F2. The way he has driven today, hopefully that will not be far off.
Formula Pilota China champion Matheo Tuscher was also at the test, setting reasonable times, as was 2011 F2 driver James Cole. Axcil Jefferies, a Zimbabwean driver, and Kourosh Kahni of Iran (another BARC graduate) were also present and setting reasonable times. 2011 part-timer Jose Luis Abadin was also back to try out the new F2 car.
I hope we will be able to get a full field of 24 drivers for the first round at Silverstone, but there’s a reasonably strong field signed up already so there should be some good racing.
While Dino Zamparelli was driving around Silverstone, Dan Wells – another who had hoped to drive in FR UK this year – was making announcements about his future. He will be heading east to take part in Formula Pilota China 2012. Good luck Dan!
The second race of the weekend got underway with a great race from winner Pal Varhaug. Virtuosi UK made a great pit stop to get him into the lead from his start in seventh. It was a close race throughout until lap 10, with 0.3s between van der Drift, Spavone, Campana and Guerin. Guerin took polesitter Campana out as he locked his brakes into the first chicane. With Spavone taking the escape road, it was all the opportunity Adrian Quaife-Hobbs needed to take third. Van der Drift finished 3.5s behind Varhaug, and 1s ahead of yesterday’s race winner. Sergey Sirotkin barely lost out to Quaife-Hobbs, the Russian making a magnificent comeback after his stall from race 1 left him at the back on the grid and taking fastest lap once again.
Adrian and Pal are tied for points at the top of the championship, though in the under-21 championship it is the Brit who leads as van der Drift is over 21. The Kiwi sits in third ahead of his Manor MP teammate de Jong, who retired from race 2. Fifth is Facu Regalia, and Sirotkin is sixth. In the team’s championship, Manor MP are leading due to the consistency of their drivers – both Super Nova and Virtuosi UK have only score points from one driver.
There is a two-day GP3 test in Barcelona starting tomorrow, and as well as the signed drivers the teams are testing a number of potentials. At Lotus GP, Carlos Sainz Jr [taking part in British F3 this year]; at Status, Kotaro Sakurai [British F3 National class champion] and Tom Blomqvist [FRUK 2010 champion]; Maxim Zimin will be at Jenzer; Antonio Spavone and Kevin Ceccon [Auto GP champion] at Trident; Antonio Felix da Costa and Will Buller [Fourth in British F3] at Carlin; and Tamas Pal Kiss and John Wartique at Atech CRS.
The first race of the season began with 16-year-old Sergey Sirotkin stalling on the grid. Adrian Quaife-Hobbs maintained his lead, but was closely folowed by Sergio Campana. Despite being held up by the delayed Sirotkin after his pit stop, Quaife-Hobbs was still able to hold position over Campana to take a close win. Behind them, Pal Varhaug found himself in third where the Norwegian maintained a decent gap between himself and those on either side. Chris van der Drift began well for Manor MP, but a mistake coming out of Parabolica saw him lose places. Though he fought back, taking as late a pit stop as possible, he was only able to finish sixth. His teammate Daniel de Jong gained several positions to finish fourth on the road.
However, the MLR71 team were discovered after the race to have changed the front tyres instead of the rear tyres. All teams had been instructed to change the rear tyres at Monza. This meant Campana and Michele La Rosa both received 1-minute penalties, promoting Varhaug to second and de Jong to third. Campana was demoted to tenth.
Sirotkin took the point for fastest lap, which doesn’t really make up for his stall but it’s forgivable with the Russian’s limited experience. Quaife-Hobbs leads the championship with 26 points – 25 for his win, and one for pole. While we don’t know if he will be driving in the next round, it seems highly likely considering his brilliant performance today. Incredibly, the Brit had never done a standing start in the car before today, and it was also his first ever pit stop.
The second race is at 10:45 GMT tomorrow, where Antonio Spavone starts from pole having finished eighth after Campana’s penalty. Former F2 driver Max Snegirev starts next to him.
Ocean Racing Technology announced their first GP3 drivers today. Spanish driver Carmen Jorda, who participated in some of the 2010 Indy Lights series and has taken podiums in the F3 Open Copa F306/300, will join Irish driver Robert Cregan. Cregan was driving in V8 supercars last year, and he came second in the UAE GT Championship for the GTC classification. He last drove in single-seaters back in 2006 for the FFord 1600 Walter Hayes Trophy.
Giovanni Venturini will take the final space on the grid in the series, partnering Nicolay Martsenko. Initially Daniel Zampieri had been suggsted at the team. Venturini comes from Auto GP, where he finished ninth with two wins and one pole position.