The show goes on…
I’ve just updated the 2009 Standings page. This year has seen a few interesting battles developing:
– Runaway GP2 leader Romain Grosjean has had his advantage eliminated by Addax team mate Vitaly Petrov and ART’s Nico Hulkenberg. The French team is enjoying a bit of a resurgence – after a bit of a barren spell on the wins front, both Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado have 2 wins each, but predictably the 2008 F3 Euroseries champ and Williams tester is the more consistent. He now leads, and will be zooming onto the radars of F1 teams up and down the pit lane. Who’d bet against him replacing his namesake Rosberg?
– British F3 has seen a similar scenario, as Daniel Ricciardo has been pegged by Walter Grubmuller. The unfancied Austrian, in his 3rd year in the championship, has closed on the Aussie, with the help of team mate Renger van der Zande, who is now up to 3rd place himself. He has partly inherited this after Nick Tandy quit the championship to move to the Kolles & Heinz Union team in the Euroseries – a strange decision considering he was in championship contention in Britain and has now moved to a backmarker team in Europe with little chance of any good results. Money talks…
– In the Euroseries, another ART driver is on a role. 3 of the last 4 races have been won by Jules Bianchi. The Frenchman finished 3rd last year, the same place reigning champion Hulkenberg finished in his debut year. It seems as if Bianchi will mirror the German a year on. Definitely a name to watch. Behind him in the standings is Mucke’s Christian Vietoris, another highly rated German, but he has quite a gap to bridge over the next 12 races. The chasing pack just behind includes the likes of Jean-Karl Vernay (Fra – Signature), Sam Bird (GB – Mucke) and Roberto Merhi (Esp – Manor), although early leader Stefano Coletti (Mon – Prema) has dropped back, along with last year’s sensation Mika Maki (Fin – Signature).
– The World Series by Renault also saw an early runaway leader in the form of former GP2 driver Marcos Martinez, but he too has been caught and now passed by Belgium’s Bertrand Baguette. The tide swung at the most recent round at Le Mans’ Bugatti circuit, where Baguette took a double win and Martinez failed to score in both races. Britain’s James Walker has now closed in on the Spaniard, with another Briton, Oliver Turvey, into 4th and so far outclassing team mate and former BF3 title rival Jaime Alguersuari. The new Toro Rosso driver says he will continue in the series – an interesting decision in light of his predecessor’s failed attempt to try and mix F1 with a bit of sportscar racing.
– Former GP2 ace Andy Soucek has eased into the F2 championship lead. My tip for the title at the start of the season (I can say that now…) has taken 2 wins including one at Brands Hatch to build a 7 point lead over early leader Robert Wickens. Former Formula BMW World Final winner Philipp Eng also won at Brands and has moved into 3rd, ahead of fellow race winners Tobias Hegewald and Mirko Bortolotti. Still all to play for, although their minds are surely on other things right now…
– On the other side of the Atlantic, it looks set to be a battle to the finish between the 2 Ganassi team mates, with Dario Franchitti leading Scott Dixon by a scant margin of 2 points after the Scot’s win in Toronto. 2 of the “superteams” lock out the top 4 places, with Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves 3rd and 4th for Penske. Andretti Green have struggled this year, with a current wins tally of 0. Danica Patrick leads their attack in 5th, with Marco Andretti 7th, Tony Kanaan 8th and Hideki Mutoh 11th. 6th is Dan Wheldon in the lone Panther car, whilst Justin Wilson is now 9th after his tremendous win for the minnows at Dale Coyne Racing at Watkins Glen.
– Tony Stewart still leads the Sprint Cup charge as the Chase draws ever nearer. The series took a break this weekend ahead of next weekend’s Brickyard 400 at Indy, a track where Indiana native Stewart has won at a couple of times before. The inevitable names are also looking good to make the Chase, with Jeff Gordon 2nd, Jimmie Johnson 3rd, Kurt Busch 4th, Denny Hamlin 5th and Carl Edwards 6th, although the latter 2 are still awaiting their first win. The points themselves don’t matter a great deal – you’ve just got to get in to the Chase to stand a chance of winning the title, and currently just a few points separate making it in and missing out. One name on the cusp is Juan Pablo Montoya, who has excelled for the Earnhardt Ganassi team this season, but the 2 men directly behind him, Kyle Busch and Mark Martin, have 7 wins between them. Elsewhere, the slide of Dale Earnhardt Jr continues. The most popular driver in NASCAR is now outside the top 20, even behind Australian Marcos Ambrose, who is having a terrific season.
– In touring cars, the 2 major series, the WTCC and DTM, have recently been overshadowed by team orders, such is the way with series dominated by manufacturers (take note FOTA supporters). SEAT are backing championship leader Yvan Muller, and BMW are now backing Augusto Farfus. Both have 4 wins to their name, but Gabriele Tarquini, who has won just twice, is currently in between. There is then a gap to the rest, including Rydell, Huff, Jorg Muller, Priaulx and the rest of the usual faces.
– In the DTM, Gary Paffett is the leader after 4 races, after taking his 2nd win of the season at Zandvoort, but rivals Audi have found themselves in hot water over team orders at the end of the race, and have had 4 of their drivers disqualified, either for taking too long for coming round to be weighed after the race, for not having enough fuel onboard, and for not turning up to be weight at all. Things like this vindicate my decision to not bother watching the series.
– However, in Britain, things are much simpler (now that SEAT’s gone). WSR’s Colin Turkington leads the championship and is on a role, but chasing him are 3 former champions – Matt Neal, Fabrizio Giovanardi and Jason Plato. There have been a number of comings-and-goings on the driver front, with Johnny Herbert possibly in line to join Team Dynamics when James Thompson is in Australia doing the V8 Supercar enduros.
– The WRC has also seen a bit of controversy with team orders, although partly thanks to the ridiculous (soon to be abolished) SupeRally rules. Sebastien Loeb, to all intents and purposes, had crashed out of Rally Poland, but got back in through SupeRally. He then easily charged through the field to lie just outside the points, at which point the Citroen Junior Team drivers kindly pulled over for long enough for him to pass, getting him into the points. Jari-Matti Latvala’s nth accident of the season, this time in the Superspecial of all stages, gave him another point to celebrate, but Mikko Hirvonen has now taken the lead. Surely it would be a miracle for him to stay there, though.
– And finally, the bikes have been good lately. I caught the end of another thriller at the Sachsenring on Sunday, with bike superstar, part-time rally ace and all round good guy Valentino Rossi holding off Jorge Lorenzo for another Yamaha 1-2. The race at Catalunya and the final lap dice has been the highlight of a classic season of MotoGP. I’m not normally a fan but I’m trying to catch the races when I can – they’ve been that good so far. I am particularly impressed by Lorenzo, in only his 2nd season of MotoGP taking the fight to Rossi (something he did in his 1st year as well). I think he’ll be a future champion if the luck falls the right way.