This weekend the F2 championship kicks off its 2010 season with two rounds at Silverstone and a grid of 22 drivers including Brits Will Bratt, Dean Stoneman, Paul Rees, Jack Clarke, Tom Gladdis and Jolyon Palmer.
The series enjoyed a broadly successful first season that saw champion Andy Soucek testing with the Williams F1 team before moving on to a reserve driver role with Virgin F1.
It is back for its second season this year with some strong contenders lining up to race and a practically full grid at a time when series at this level are having to compete strongly for financially-challenged entrants.
We’re here on the spot to bring you the sights and sounds of a brand-new season of motor racing at Silverstone. We’ll update this post throughout the day with pictures, reports and anything else interesting that happens, so do check back.
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“Obviously, missing the test on Monday really put me on the back foot. It’s been more about learning the car and learning the aero. We also had problems yesterday with gearbox issues, so first qualifying was really second practice for me, having only had 13 laps yesterday.
“I was pleased with my performance in first qualifying, but in second I damaged a bargeboard and decided to sacrifice position to save my tyres. I hope to come through in the race. Watch out for me, because I’ll be there. It might take a few races, but I’ll be there.”
“It went as well as testing had gone. I made a really good start in testing and I was hoping to carry that on to the weekend. I couldn’t really have hoped for much more. I’ll just put my head down – the most important thing is the start, if I can get a good one I won’t have to worry about overtaking or do any defending.
“Winter testing helped – I had two good days in Valencia and two in Portimao in December. That really helped learn the car and gave me confidence to push it harder. It’s coming naturally now, all the things I was told to do last year.”
“Qualifying didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. I never really liked Silverstone in the past. I am new to the championship and I haven’t quite got that confident feel in the car yet.
“This F2 car has got its own characteristics – it’s been a bit like driving in Formula Renault again, engaging my brain to drive that sort of car again. The most fun car was the [Euroseries] 3000 – smooth car, big engine. The [GP2] Asia car has quite a small cockpit so I was quite squashed in it. ”
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Philipp Eng has claimed pole for tomorrow’s Formula Two Race 2, with Palmer, Stoneman and Clarke set to line up behind him.
A very close second qualifying session, in which the top eight were separated by little more than half a second, promised an eventful race tomorrow with little to choose between the top drivers.
In the closing stages Stoneman looked to be Eng’s biggest threat, but he lost time in the final sector and could only manage third. As in the first session Palmer managed a late surge, but this time it wasn’t enough for pole and he took second, slightly more than two hundredths behind Eng.
With five minutes remaining Jack Clarke had led from Johan Jokinen and Tom Gladdis, but as other drivers began to outpace them it appeared they had made the switch to fresh tyres too early in the session.
In the end they finished fourth, fifth and sixth, ahead of a disappointed Will Bratt, then Sergey Afanasiev, Kazim Vasiliauskas and Mihai Marinescu..
Provisional Qualifying 2 times
- Phillipp Eng (AUT) 1:39.992
- Jolyon Palmer (GBR) +0.020
- Dean Stoneman (GBR) +0.104
- Jack Clarke (GBR) +0.205
- Johan Jokinen (DEN) +0.250
- Tom Gladdis (GBR) +0.428
- Will Bratt (GBR) +0.447
- Sergey Afanasiev (RUS) +0.594
- Kazim Vasiliauskas (LIT) +0.782
- Mihai Marinescu (ROM) 0.897
- Benjamin Lariche (FRA) +0.918
- Armaan Ebrahim (IND) +0.967
- Nicola Demarco (ITA) +1.145
- Ricardo Teixeira (ANG) +1.271
- Benjamin Bailly (BEL) +1.427
- Ivan Samarin (RUS) +1.546
- Kelvin Snoeks (NED) +1.739
- Natalia Kowalska (POL) +1.892
- Paul Rees (GBR) +1.930
- Parthiva Sureshwaren (IND) +2.893
- Plamen Kralev (BUL) +3.397
- Ajith Kumar (IND) +4.604
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Today’s programme doesn’t just include the headlining F2 event – also notable are the GT Cup Championship, designed for drivers who are not paid professionals and who mostly own or have hired their vehicle, the Trofeo Abarth 500 Championship and the Lotus Elise Trophy.
The GT Cup track outings are most enjoyable for the lovely array of vehicles taking to the track – marques from Porsche, Lotus, Ferrari and BMW to TVR, Ginetta and Corvette and many others are represented – even a couple of KTM X-Bows.
The Lotus event, as the track radio points out, does exactly what it says on the tin: “Lotuses as far as the eye can see.” What more could you ask for on a sunny Saturday afternoon, we wonder?
Sadly race one is red-flagged after contact out on the circuit and most competitors drive past the chequered flag in the pitlane.
When the little Abarths take to the grid, they sound like a swarm of angry bees.
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Behind the scenes
With first qualifying dealt with, most of the field retired to the hospitality tent where neat signs reserved tables for each driver and their family and support team.
Part fine dining, part works canteen, part sixth form common room, the tent is guarded by a doorman every bit as imposingly wide as he is tall. It is providing sustenance for everyone up to and including series boss Jonathan Palmer himself, who is spotted holding a bowl of fruit salad in one hand and a busy mobile in the other, trying to find attention to spare for both.
The international nature of the series is hammered home by the voices rising from the little groups clustered at each table. At the next table to Brits on Pole were the Bulgarian supporters of Plamen Kralev, while Poland’s Natalia Kowalska sat nearby with her party. Further off was the straw fedora of Johan Jokinen.
Meanwhile the garages were quiet, with only an occasional mechanic running an errand while others sat on discarded tyres in the sun. Soon, however, a loudspeaker announced the next on-track event and people began to drift back.
One really striking feature of F2 compared to other junior formulas is the absence of team trucks and personnel – here, in the name of affordability and a level playing field all the technical expertise is provided by the series.
This means that, instead of a colourful row of trailers displaying familiar team liveries, the paddock instead featured a row of identical F2 trailers, a heap of common tyres and a central stock of replacement body work badged with each driver’s sponsors. It is, perhaps, the most unique feature of this meeting.
This weekend F2 is the headline event at a weekend of club racing, while in future it will accompany the FIA World Touring Car Championship’s European events. That means the atmosphere today is undoubtedly diffferent – but the grassroots ambience of a club racing event, with all kinds of saloons and small sportscars taking part in their own events, is really nice.
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Jolyon Palmer is on pole position for tomorrow’s Race 1 after taking his maiden series pole with a late fast lap. After running among the fastest for the whole session he was able to seize the top grid slot from Denmark’s Johan Jokinen in the final moments.
Denmark’s Johan Jokinen beat Dean Stoneman to the other front-row spot, with Phillip Eng fourth. Will Bratt was sixth and Jack Clarke eighth. Stoneman had led the session at the halfway stage but ended up third at the finish.
Ivan Samarin, Benjamin Lariche, Palmer and Jokinen all led the field during the opening ten minutes. As the majority of cars pitted for new tyres at the halfway stage, Stoneman had a clear run to set the quickest time of the session so far.
Next to put in a fastest lap was Jokinen who set his time with ten minutes remaining, followed by Stoneman, Palmer and series returnee Philipp Eng. The lead then changed hands several times at the climax of the session before Palmer definitively snatched his first F2 pole in the closing seconds.
He said afterwards: “It feels fantastic. This year I feel a lot more confident, I’ve found more pace in the car and I’m really happy with that pole.
“I think the winter testing really helped me. From there I really haven’t looked back. Confidence has grown since then, and now every time I go in the car I’m looking to be right up at the sharp end – it’s completely different to how I started out last year.
“Tomorrow morning, going down to the first corner, will be crazy. I think tomorrow will certainly be hard, there’s a lot of quick guys around me, but hopefully I can keep my head down in front and hold on for the win.”
Will Bratt took a top-six grid slot in his first F2 qualifying and Jack Clarke rounded out the top ten.
The session passed largely without incident although Ajith Kumar endured a brief spin and Tom Gladdis returned to the circuit after a trip through the gravel.
Provisional Qualifying 1 times
- Jolyon Palmer (GBR): 1:36.380
- Johan Jokinen (DEN) +0.151
- Dean Stoneman (GBR) +0.327
- Philipp Eng (AUT) +0.676
- Sergey Afanasiev (RUS) +0.708
- Will Bratt (GBR) +0.874s
- Kazim Vasiliauskas (LIT) +0.947
- Jack Clarke (GBR) +1.117
- Mihai Marinescu (ROM) +1.151
- Benjamin Lariche (FRA) +1.193
- Tom Gladdis (GBR) +1.294
- Ivan Samarin (RUS) +1.306
- Armaan Ebrahim (IND) +1.323
- Nicola Demarco (ITA) +1.468
- Benjamin Bailly (BEL) +1.839
- Raul Rees (GBR) +1.917
- Kelvin Snoeks (NED) +2.045
- Ricardo Teixeira (ANG) +2.110
- Natalia Kowalska (POL) +2.228
- Parthiva Sureshwaren (IND) +2.956
- Plamen Kralev (BUL) +3.685
- Ajith Kumar (IND) +6.285
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