Costa Wins the Race, Wickens Takes the Championship

October 12, 2011 by  
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Canadian Robert Wickens may not have finished the race in Barcelona on Sunday, but he nevertheless won the Formula Renault 3.5 Championship on points. Starting the last race of the season with a nine-point lead over Jean Eric Vergne of France, it initially appeared that Wickens may have lost the title due to an accident on the first lap with his Carlin Motorsports teammate. Vergne had tried to pass Wickens on the inside of the track, but his car’s front left wheel made contact with Wickens’ side pod. This incident was followed up at the next corner with the right front of Wickens’ car hitting the left rear of Vergne, breaking Wickens’ steering and putting him out of the race as he collided with Nathanel Berthon.

Vergne tried to continue, but damage to his car’s steering and rear suspension, along with contact by Mofaz racer Fairuz Fauzy, eventually put him out of the race. Vergne would have had to finish fifth or higher in order to take the Formula Renault 3.5 Championship from Wickens, but with both drivers out of the race, the victory went to Wickens.

In an interview following the race, Wickens noted that while it was not how he had wanted to end the day, nor how he expected to be crowned champion, but was nevertheless pleased with the result. He pointed out that he and Vergne had enjoyed being teammates, they had raced hard and fair all year and it was a pity the last race of the season ended with contact at the first corner. He also thanked the Carlin team, describing them as being flawless all year, and thanked Marussia for making his championship win possible.

One of the rewards for winning the Formula Renault 3.5 championship is a half-day of test-driving a Lotus Renault on a full F1 track in Abu Dhabi next month, which Wickens describes as a “fantastic” prize. Having finished second in the 2009 F2 series and second in the GP3 series in 2010, and now claiming the Renault 3.5 championship, as well as being named Marussia Virgin F1 team reserve driver this year, Wickens appears to be well on his way to fulfilling his hopes of becoming the first Canadian driver to achieve in auto racing’s top series since Jacques Villeneuve – the 1997 F1 World Champion.

While the championship results may have outshone the actual victory of the day, it should not be overlooked that Albert Costa of Epic Racing took the checkered flag in Barcelona, having started in pole position, with Wickens second on the grid and Vergne starting from fifth.

Vitaly Petrov

March 23, 2010 by  
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Born in Vyborg, Russia, on 8 September 1984, Vitaly Aleksandrovich Petrov made his first appearance in Formula One at the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix. He did not have the opportunity to take part in karting, as many top F1 drivers have done. In 2001 he started competing in the Russian Lada Cup. He did the same in 2002, this time earning the maximum number of points (500) by winning all the rounds, thus gaining the title.

Vitaly Petrov made a move to Formula Renault racing in 2003. Racing for Euronova Racing in the Italian Championship, he finished in 19th position overall. That same year he made it to fourth position in the British Formula Renault Winter Series. In 2004 he returned to Russia for the Russian Lada Revolution Championship, where he finished in runner-up position. He also took part in the Formula Renault 2000 Italia and Eurocup, as well as the F3000 Euro series. Petrov won the Lada Revolution Championship in 2005, and also became the Formula 1600 Russia champion.

In 2006, Petrov took third position overall in the F3000 Italy series and Euroseries 3000. That same year he debuted in the GP2 series, competing for David Price Racing. During 2007 Vitaly Petrov took 13th position in the GP2 series and also participated in the Le Mans Series and Formula Master Series. He also enjoyed success in 2008, coming in third in the GP2 Asia and seventh in the main GP2 series. In 2009 he made runner-up in the GP2 Series, after two wins and seven podiums. He also got fifth in the GP2 Asia standings.

On 31 January 2010 it was announced that Vitaly Petrov would be racing in the Formula One Championship for the Renault team. He thus made his debut at the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Heikki Kovalainen

March 23, 2010 by  
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Heikki Johannes Kovalainen was born in Suomussalmi, Finland, on 19 October 1981. The talented driver began his career in auto racing with kart racing from 1991. In 1999 Kovalainen took the runner-up position in the Finnish Karting Formula A championship. Then in 2000 he was named Finnish Kart Driver of the Year after winning the Nordic championship, the Paris-Bercy Elf Masters and various other achievements.

2001 saw Heikki Kovalainen beginning his single-seater racing career. During the year he took 4th place in the Formula Renault British Championship, 8th in the Macau Formula Three Grand Prix and was named Rookie of the Year by the Finnish Automobile Sports Federation. 2002 was another successful year, with Kovalainen coming in third overall in the British Formula Three Series with Fortec Motorsport. His five wins, three fastest laps and three pole positions meant he was once again Rookie of the Year. He also placed second at the Macau Grand Prix and fourth in the Zandvoort Marlboro Masters.

Kovalainen began competing in the World Series by Nissan in 2003, where he came in second in the standings. That same year he test drove for Renault R23 and Minardi F1 Team. He moved to Pons Racing for the 2004 World Series by Nissan and won the championship with six wins, ten fastest laps and nine poles. Renault F1 also appointed him their second test driver in 2004. Heikki Kovalainen’s success continued into 2005 as he finished the GP2 Series championship in runner-up position, as well as becoming an official Renault F1 test driver.

It was in 2006 that his F1 career really began to take off. That year he was Renault’s 3rd driver, during which he gained extensive experience. Kovalainen made his F1 debut in 2007, gaining his maiden podium with a second place finish in the Japanese Grand Prix. He took seventh place overall that season. For the 2008 F1 season, Kovalainen joined the McLaren team. The season saw him gaining his first fastest lap, first pole position and first win, placing 7th overall with 51 points. 2009 was a more challenging year for this fantastic driver, who managed to finish in 12th position with 22 points.

On 14 December 2009, it was announced that Heikki Kovalainen would join the Lotus Racing team for the 2010 F1 season.

Jarno Trulli

March 22, 2010 by  
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Born in Pescara, in the Abruzzo region of Italy, on 13 July 1974, Jarno Trulli has been competing regularly in F1 racing since 1997, having driven for Minardi, Jordan, Prost, Renault and Toyota. Trulli’s parents were motor sport fans, as is evident by the fact that he was named after Finnis Grand Prix motorcyclist Jarno Saarinen. His father encouraged him to get involved in the sport, which led to him competing in karting from a young age. He proved to be a talented driver, winning Italian and European karting championships before moving on to Formula Three and winning the German championship in 1996.

It was in 1997 that Trulli made his F1 debut driving for Minardi. Seven races into the season he was called upon to replace injured Prost driver Olivier Panis, and made quite an impression right from the beginning as he finished fourth in Germany and looked set to take second place in Austria, but never finished the race due to engine trouble. For the following two seasons Trulli stayed with the Prost team, taking his first podium position at the 1999 European Grand Prix.

In 2000 Trulli signed with Jordan, and despite a series of awesome qualifying displays, he failed claim a podium finish. This gave rise to some suggesting that he was a qualifying specialist, not having what it takes to successfully complete a race. This reputation followed him when, as a member of the Renault team in 2002, he often out-qualified team-mate Jenson Button, but didn’t quite make the grade in races. Nevertheless, Trulli remained with Renault for the 2003 season as team-mate to Fernando Alonso, who had been promoted from test-driver. In Germany, Trulli achieved a podium finish, being his first with the team. In 2004, Trulli made a vast improvement and for at least the first half of the season was the stronger driver in the Renault team, taking a first-place victory at Monaco. Trulli had his sights set on remaining with the Renault team for 2005, but a lack of judgment on the last corner of the French Grand Prix allowed Rubens Barrichello to take first place and set Trulli at odds with the team-boss Briatore. Subsequent lackluster performances resulted in Trulli parting company with Renault with three races of the season to go.

Trulli had, however, already negotiated with Toyota to drive for them in 2005, and replaced Ricardo Zonta for the final two races of the 2004 season. 2005 started out well for Trulli, with excellent qualifying times earning him one pole and thirteen grid-slots in the top five. He took second place in both Malaysia and Bahrain, scoring Toyota’s best results to date, but finished seventh in the final standings. Trulli did not have a good season in 2006, and still driving for Toyota, he finished twelfth in the standings, being two places below team-mate Ralf Schumacher. 2007 saw Trulli clocking up superb qualifying speeds, but his TF207’s performance was not up to scratch and he finished the year thirteenth overall.

Toyota’s performance showed a marked improvement in 2008, and Trulli scored in 10 of the 18 races of the season, with an encouraging third place in France. Trulli finished the 2008 season in ninth position overall, six points ahead of team-mate Timo Glock. Despite the Toyota TF109’s inconsistent performance in 2009, Trulli managed podium finishes in Australia and Bahrain, ending the season with a second-place finish in Japan. With the withdrawal of Toyota from F1 racing, Trulli signed for the new Lotus team for 2010. The first race of the season at Bahrain, saw Trulli retiring from the race after 26 laps due to hydraulics problems. But with a whole season’s racing ahead, auto racing fans are no doubt keen to see if Jarno Trulli can overcome his reputation, and keep up the pace through the race.

Jaime Alguersuari

March 22, 2010 by  
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Born in Barcelona, Spain, on 23 March 1990, Jaime Victor Alguersuari Escudero, etched his name in F1 history by becoming the youngest F1 driver ever to compete in the annual F1 Championships. When he made his debut in the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix he was 19 years and 125 days old at the time. Jaime Alguersuari also remains the only F1 driver to have been born in the 1990s.

This promising young driver’s career started in 2005, and he took first place at the Italian Formula Renault Winter Series of 2006. The following year he completed the main championship as runner-up to Finnish racing driver Mika Mäki. Alguersuari continued to strengthen his position as a talented driver when, in 2008, he moved up to the British Formula Three Championship. Throughout the season it was a close battle for the championship title between Alguersuari and team-mates Brendon Hartley and Oliver Turvey, as well as T-Sport’s Sergio Pérez. However, by winning the final three races of the season, Alguersuari took first place and became the youngest title winner (18 years, 203 days) in the championship’s history.

In 2009, Alguersuari was at eighth position in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series by mid-season when he was called to the position of reserve driver for the Red Bull Racing F1 Team, as well as its sister-team Scuderia Toro Rosso. Following the departure of Sebastien Bourdais from Toro Rosso, Alguersuari took the wheel for the team at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix – a history making event. Alguersuari completed the Formula Renault 3.5 Series that year, ending up at sixth by the end of the season.

While Alguersuari’s F1 debut may have been quite low-key, recognizing the potential of this youngdriver, Toro Rosso has retained him for the 2010 F1 Championship season. Jaime Alguersuari claimed thirteenth place in the first race of the season, the 2010 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix. No doubt F1 fans will be keeping a keen eye on the youngest ever competitor in F1 racing.

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