Climbing the ladder to Formula One

Welcome to this week's newsletter from Brits on Pole.

The start of the European Formula One season means that a whole clutch of young racers will now be in action at almost every meeting until Monza in September.

Not only is the European season of GP2 about to start, featuring a decent crop of Brits for the first time in ages, but we're also about to see the launch of a brand-new support series at Grand Prix weekends.

GP3 is competing with the existing F3 Euro Series, Formula Two, Formula Renault 3.5 and Auto GP in what is becoming a very crowded marketplace. And this at a period when many drivers are extremely strapped for cash, raising questions about which of these series will turn out to have a strong future.

By contrast, some better-funded drivers are actually running in more than one, presumably in a bid to sort out which actually has the best potential to further their careers.

As the newest of these series, GP3 boasts big-name teams and has managed to fill 30 grid slots - a diametrically opposite approach to Formula Two, which aims to keep costs fixed by banishing teams and operating the cars itself.

Of course the big selling point of GP3 is its potential to act as a rung of a ladder that stretches up through GP2 and all the way to Formula One itself.

So, who might be climbing that ladder who is worth keeping an eye on?

In GP3 we'd counsel following the progress of the 2009 McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver award winner Dean Smith who has a promising drive with the high-profile Carlin squad.

In an interesting position are James Jakes and Adrian Quaife-Hobbes, both driving with Manor Racing, the team that is acting as the driver development outfit for Virgin F1. There is the promise of a F1 test for its best driver.

Also in GP3 will be Oli Oakes, who ran in British F3 last year and lines up for Atech.

In GP2 Oliver Turvey and Sam Bird, partnering Jules Bianchi at front-running squad ART, should both provide plenty of interest for British fans. Turvey's team iSport won the GP2 Asia team title earlier this year while Bird's ART Grand Prix is the defending champion in the main series, so both will have every opportunity to race at the front. Max Chilton will also be working to make an impression at Ocean Racing.

(In a side note, we've been busy for the last couple of weeks getting Sam's website up to speed for the 2010 season and you can see the results here. Do pop along and take a look.)

Of course, these are just the Brits but there's plenty of promising international talent too. And the past couple of years suggests that among them all are a few names that you will be seeing on the Formula One grid in the future.

But we hope we've convinced you to spare more than a quick glance for the support series during this season's European race weekends. It's not just about Formula One, after all. They should offer some pretty entertaining racing in their own right.

Competition news

Fancy a VIP day at the British Grand Prix courtesy of McLaren? Of course you do. The team is promoting its merchandising tie-in with Marks & Spencer by offering fans entry into a prize draw for one adult's and one child's ticket to the British Grand Prix. The prize includes paddock access and a tour of the pit lane as well as an opportunity to meet Lewis Hamilton. Full details and a link to the competition page are on the team website here.

And here's another for American readers. Wired Autopia is offering you the chance to take the Chevrolet Volt for an advance drive at Milford Proving Grounds in Detroit. To enter you need to shoot a two-minute video explaining how you're using technology to minimize your carbon footprint and post it on YouTube by May 15. If that sounds like your kind of thing, visit the blog to get full details and competition rules.

The week in cars and racing

  • Last week we reported on Adam Carroll's move to America to drive for Andretti Austosport in IndyCar. This week he's had a long chat with The Belfast Telegraph explaining how it came about. He will probably drive his first race at either Watkins Glen on July 4 or a fortnight later in Toronto and says the team wants to launch his campaign on a road course or street circuit rather than a less-familiar oval. He says of his recent F1 chances: "Even the new teams... this year were looking for a minimum of € five million for a seat and although we had people talking to us, calling meetings, expressing interest, when it came to making commitments they didn't come through. Maybe, on reflection, it was a good thing. None of the new teams are looking like being competitive any time soon and running round at the back of the field in a slow car, no matter how good a driver you are, doesn't do anything for your career."
  • This week the three-wheel city car designed by the man behind the McLaren F1 supercar broke cover. The T25, Gordon Murray's latest project, is so narrow that it fits two abreast in a motorway lane. And, to get access to the inside, you hinge the whole front of the car upwards. The driver sits in the middle with two passengers on either side and slightly to the rear - the main thing it has in common with the McLaren supercar. It is (and we had a good snigger at this) reviewed for The Mirror by the vertically-challenged Richard Hammond - just follow the link to read it.
  • BP is claiming it can cut your fuel bills by around £800 annually by changing your driving style. This article in The Guardian is dripping with so much worthiness that it's hard to get through the first few paragraphs and on to the meat of the story - but, there again, £800 is a considerable incentive to persevere. Things you are probably doing wrong include over-revving before changing gear, accelerating and decelerating too sharply, going at speed bumps with too much aggression and - inevitably - driving too fast. Of course, you could just buy an electric car... Grit your teeth and read on here.
  • Force India has given us an insight into the life and times of a F1 motorhome this week. We learnt how the team was looking forward to the comfort of its refurbished bolthole after roughing it during the flyaway races and how "this year, from the Turkish Grand Prix onwards, the team will be using an impressive three-storey structure at all European rounds." This piece on the team website tells us that the motorhome's framework is the same steel and glass construction used during 2008 and 2009 but completely re-done internally and externally. It says: "Owing to the huge task of rekitting this 350-square metre facility, this structure will only debut in Istanbul so the renovations can be fitted to the team's, and Dr Mallya's, exacting standards. Additionally the first, critical, time-consuming build can be completed without the added pressure of a double header of Spain and Monaco." Now, if only we could all get a first-hand look...
  • It looked for a bit this week like A1GP had found a buyer - but, sadly for those fans who are hoping to see the series rise like a phoenix from the ashes of Tony Teixeira's business empire, it proved to be a false hope. All its assets and intellectual property are on sale as a job lot from auctioneers GoIndustry DoveBid who are keen to sell it as a going concern in order to maximise the funds available to creditors. The sale was listed for a while on the company's website as closed - but has now reopened until the end of May. If it cannot be sold together the individual items will be sold off separately - and that stage has not yet been reached. If you've ever dreamed of owning your own series and giving rides to all your favourite drivers, dream a little harder by following this link - you can also use it to keep up with the A1GP state of play.
  • What's it like to be a team principal, setting up and running your own racing squad? You can get an insight into what it takes to source your racing budget, sell yourself to supporters and get commercial parters on board thanks to an interview carried out by with boss Hannah James. Speaking at the recent Rockingham BTCC round (at which the YRC car was carrying some sponsorship) Hannah tells the website: "We want to offer people a full experience, hopefully the action on track will be fantastic but it's important that people enjoy the weekend as a whole - it can be the best race in the world but if you've been travelling all morning, brought the family who said they would have preferred a theme park and been stuck in queues to get in you're not going to be in the best mood - we want to get them out of that mindset as quickly as possible, the first impression you give has to be the best and that's what we aim to do." Read the first part of the interview here - part two is flagged up as coming soon.

More links in brief

That's it for this week. Don't forget to brake and accelerate smoothly, and certainly don't drive at speedbumps. The Guardian says you mustn't, after all!

The Brits on Pole team.


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