British GP Silverstone 2010

British GP Silverstone 2010
Hamilton gets pushed to the second row ready to start the British GP

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

2010 GP2 Season Preview

As if any extra incentive was required for the field of GP2 hopefuls getting ready to start their campaign’s in Barcelona this weekend, one statistic will that will be at the forefront of each of their minds is that all of the five rookie Formula 1 drivers this season are former GP2 race winners, as were two of the mid season replacements in last year’s championship. Added incentive or added pressure? Both, probably.
The new season is the last of the current GP2 car which has been in service since 2008 and will be decommissioned later in the year ready for the new 2011 charger.

It is difficult to see a clear favourite for the new season, although reigning F3 Euroseries champion Jules Bianchi must be right up there. The Frenchman tested for Ferrari over the winter and his place at the ART team who have won three of the five GP2 titles to date, including last year with Williams new boy Nico Hulkenberg, and previously with Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, should ensure he is there or thereabouts come Abu Dhabi in November. Bianchi dominated Euroseries last year, but found GP2 a harder nut to crack, scoring one points finish from six races in the Asia series this winter.

Someone who did impress in the Asia series was Davide Valsecchi, the Italian claimed three wins and three second places from the series eight races to comfortably win the title, he stays with iSport for the main series and although GP2 Asia form doesn’t always translate into the main series (ask Kamui Kobayashi), Valsecchi will be expected to challenge. Another man who will carry the weight of expectation on his shoulders will be 2008 World Series by Renault champion Giedo van der Garde of Holland, piloting a Barwa Addax car and already a race winner at this level.

Further challengers can be split into two groups, first of all there are the series veterans, the men who will probably not get another crack at F1 should they not perform this term (and may not anyway). Falling into this bracket would be Pastor Maldonado, the well backed Venezualan was linked to a drive in F1 over the close season, but was pipped to drives at Sauber and HRT and will have to convert his rapid pre season form into regular victories to kick start his stagnating career. Joining him in what could be the last chance saloon is Rapax team-mate Luiz Razia, involved at Virgin Racing, but still no closer to a regular Grand Prix seat.

Then you have a group of GP2 rookies who need to hit the ground running in order to make the grade in the highly competitive feeder series, two of the most fancied of this group are German Christian Vietoris, a winner in the Asia series at Abu Dhabi, who moves to Racing Engineering for the main series and will challenge for podiums if he can keep the car on the track, and Frenchman Charles Pic, who was hugely impressive for his Arden squad in Asia.

Britain will have three drivers in the championship who will all hope to be running at the front, Sam Bird (ART) and Oliver Turvey (iSport) will both be hoping to upstage their more illustrious team-mates but could both fight for victories, and with luck, the title. Meanwhile, Ocean’s Max Chilton was lightening fast in F3 qualifying last season but will need to improve his race starts in order to chase regular points and keep pace with the sister car of Fabio Leimer, who makes a big step up having dominated the International Formula Master series last year.

Elsewhere DPR and their drivers, Michael Herck and Giacomo Ricci, will look to build on their unexpected GP2 Asia pace; only a no score at the first round stopped Ricci from claiming the series runner up spot, while Adrian Zaugg, Sergio Perez and Marcus Ericsson have all shown enough in their early careers to suggest that they could figure in the shake up. Add to that the DAMS entry being rebranded the Renault F1 Junior Team and running F1 testers Jerome D’Ambrosio and Ho Pin Tung and we are well set for a competition where the prize of the championship is only secondary to the benefits that should follow.

For those having trouble making sense of the last sentence, here are the final 2009 GP2 standings: 1st Hulkenberg, 2nd Petrov, 3rd Di Grassi, 4th Grosjean, and some of the winners since the series began: 2005 Rosberg, 2006 Hamilton and 2007 Glock. There is a pattern developing here.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Christian’s Autograph Book: Part 3

As promised, after our weekend adventure, here is another instalment of Christian’s autograph book, the section of the blog which tracks which drivers and other people of note that we have met on our travels around the circuits of the UK. This update comes after our visit to the revised Silverstone Grand Prix circuit to watch the first ever running of the FIA GT1 World Championship on British soil.
Autographs 1-12 can be found on earlier posts.

Silverstone, May 2nd 2010-05-04

13. Karl Wendlinger, FIA GT1, ex-F1. (About 20 years on from the day when I asked for his autograph twice in one day and he reminded me on the second occasion that I’d already had it)
14. Henri Moser, FIA GT1. (Wendlinger’s team-mate)
15. Oliver Gavin, FIA GT1.
16. Romain Grosjean, FIA GT1, ex-F1. (Trying to reinvent himself after a difficult time in part season for Renault last season, nearest thing Christian has had to an autograph from an F1 driver)
17. Tomas Enge, FIA GT1, ex-F1.
18. Darren Turner, FIA GT1. (Popular works AMR driver was in his element giving away lots of Young Driver AMR freebies)

Pretty decent haul made possible by buying £10 pit lane walk ticket – a good investment.

Next instalment will come after next month’s trip to Oulton Park for the British Touring Car Championship.

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Sunday at Silverstone: FIA GT1 World Championship

Regular readers of the blog will know that it is traditional that my racing companion, Christian, 7, and I always stop at McDonalds for breakfast on the way to get our fix of motorsport and the plan on Sunday was no different. We had got up extra early, 5.45am no less, due to the extended run to Silverstone, as opposed to our leisurely 6.30 for the usual run to Oulton Park. I wanted to break the back of the journey before we stopped and remembered from my childhood trips to Silverstone that my dad had always stopped at Keel services on the M6, due to it being exactly half way (and if my dad said that then it was EXACTLY half way, coming from the man who used to boast that it only took him 64 and a quarter breaths to blow up a double airbed), so nostalgia won the day and we plodded along until we reached said services.
I had already noted the lack of any golden arches on the slip road and my fears were confirmed as we entered the building, we did find somewhere that was serving breakfast and I had to make do with a bacon, sausage, hash brown and mushroom roll, oh the deprivation. Two men sat next to us in overalls and were chatting about why the bridge over the M6 was closed, the conversation went along the lines of the travelling Everton fans who had been through the night before trashing KFC and jamming the fire alarms in the on position (and that was after a goalless draw), it reminded me why, even though I enjoy football as much as the next person, I take Christian to watch motor racing, they’re a much more civilised bunch.
We carried on our journey, Christian playing on his DS and me remembering making the trip so many times as a boy, all the old landmarks still there; Spaghetti Junction, Villa Park, RAC Centre and the icon that is Fort Dunlop – I always knew we were close when I saw that. Soon after, Jane, the SatNav, had led us as far as she could and the circuit’s signage took over. We were led into a huge car park, where we could see the GT1 cars on circuit for their warm up, and could tell instantly that everything, from the approach road to the car park to the stewarding was hugely more functional and professional than the last time I was there, although the last time I was there Michael Schumacher slammed his Ferrari into the barriers at Stowe (to huge cheers from the faithful, maybe we’re not so civilised after all), breaking his leg and bringing his 1999 season to a premature end.
We entered the track on foot over the bridge at…..well at Bridge, where the operators have been careful to ensure that there is no viewing capacity to avoid bottlenecking of cars and pedestrians on the bridge which was out of bounds to spectators prior to the revisions. We were passed on the bridge by a host of exotic cars on their way to the various owners club areas, Christian spotted three Dodge Vipers line astern drive past us as we crossed the second road bridge which now brings you out at the back of the paddock, adjacent to the short straight between Copse and Becketts, an area where I am certain will be restricted when Bernie comes to town in July.
Aside from my initial observations about the recent changes and the changes that had taken place over the ten years since I was last there, one thing really stood out; it was absolutely bleeding freezing. I tried to work out from the direction of the wind, which of the completed grandstands would offer the best protection from the weather, I decided Copse would be the best place and we made our way there in time to watch a master class in wet driving by ART’s British hope Alex Sims, including a fantastic ‘wall of death’ move around the outside of Gabriel Dias at Copse, which it looked like the Brazilian had bottled and backed out of, although I’m sure he would call it ceding the place to an ‘Invitational class’ driver, whom he was not directly competing with. Sims duly drove off into the sunset to claim victory in his first ever weekend of British F3. After the F3 had finished, and still freezing, I decided to seek warmth within the confines of the paddock; I didn’t find it, what I did find was a very reasonably priced programme (£5), and while I was marvelling at the fact that it cost only the same as a programme at Oulton, I was stung for £10 to go on the pit walk, which people were already queuing for.
The ten pounds turned out to be money well spent as after braving the lengthy wait for access, it transpired that everyone of note from the GT1 series was sat at the front of their respective garages meeting the fans, we met Karl Wendlinger (who I met here about 20 years ago), Romain Grosjean, Oliver Gavin and Darren Turner amongst others and were given some pretty nifty free stuff by Young Driver AMR in particular, along with having a chance to see some of the machinery close up.
After our pit walk we had a good walk around the paddock, and then ventured off for a walk up towards the hangar straight where I thought we could get some lunch from a less congested burger van, and watch the GT3 race from a different place. As it turned out we watched the race from many, many different places as we walked to try and find this elusive queue-less food outlet, and as we walked first around the outside of the Maggotts/Becketts complex, and then around Stowe it dawned on me, the place is an absolute tip, nothing more than a building site. The track is finished, but the rest of the place is just mud, both in the spectator areas and trackside, I’m sure it is under control, it has to be, we would be the laughing stock of the entire F1 world if we held a Grand Prix at the venue in its current state, but with only 75 days until free practice, there must be some concerned people within the FIA and the BRDC.
Anyway, we found our food stand, not only was there no people waiting when we got there, I don’t think there had been any people there all day, I paid the usual race meeting £10 for a hot dog and a burger, the burger was like a Frisbee (I was concerned when I saw the vendor drop it into the chip fat when I ordered), and while I was pretty sure the hot dog was dog, it certainly wasn’t hot. The man serving was on the phone while serving us complaining about being left out in such a remote place while the competition had been allocated plots in and around the paddock area, and as such I decided that I wouldn’t voice concerns over our food for fear of ending up hanging upside down in a refrigerated van.
We wandered around the rest of the circuit before we arrived back, still shivering in the Baltic conditions, at the infield, where Christian had a brief go on some quad bikes before being removed for being unable to a) keep his going in a straight line, and b) slow down for the corners, two aspects of quad bike riding that the operator seemed to think were pretty fundamental to the safety of the other children (look out Valentino). We had another loop of the paddock (catching the GT4 race from the Paddock bar), before heading back to Copse to watch the GT1 feature race from almost the same spot that I watched Johnny Herbert win the Grand Prix nearly 15 years ago. The GT1 race was great, as was the spectacle; it has the makings of a great series, perhaps it might fill that gap for drivers who take single seaters as far as they can without making the impression they need in F1 circles (Grosjean being a case in point). The race itself saw the former Frenchman spin out at the first corner into retirement, and further drama was provided by one of the Phoenix Racing Corvettes expiring in a ball of flames on the new loop. Meanwhile the Aston Martin teams fought for the win which was eventually claimed by Darren Turner and Thomas Enge in the Young Driver AMR entry, before later being stripped of it due to a technical infringement, handing the win to British pair Warren Hughes and Jamie Campbell-Walter in their British run Sumo Power Nissan GTR. We stayed until mid distance in the third British F3 race of the weekend at which point the conditions got the better of us and we left for the car in order for our toes to thaw.
A great day, bringing back some great memories, like watching Senna win in driving rain in ’88, the Herbert victory amongst many other home successes; Hill, Mansell, Coulthard. I hope the circuit is in good shape ready for our next visit to Northamptonshire for the Grand Prix in July, and that when everything is finished it still has the character that it had the last time I saw a Grand Prix here, I know that things had to change or we wouldn’t have a Grand Prix to watch, but facilities aren’t everything, all the shiny new pit garages, tarmaced car parks and dual lane bypasses in the world won’t compensate for the loss of the most fundamental facet of this special place, its soul.
Look out for more posts over the coming days, including Christian's autograph book, part 3.
Follow me on twitter: @ifitsgot4wheels or @daimccann.
Photos will be on ifitsgot4wheels Flickr page in the next day or so.