Sunday, May 6, 2012

Life After F1: Oval Racing + Touring Cars (April 2012)

As usual (which is not very usual, since it's only the second time that I'm doing this thing) we start off our roundup with IndyCar, a series that's chosen by a lot of the F1 refugees to continue their career in. The 3rd race of the season, which took place at Long Beach, California, was heavily affected by a massive wave of 10-place grid penalties received by all teams running Chevy engines due to the engine changes that all of them underwent. Among those affected were Rubens Barrichello and Sebastien Bourdais, who started 22nd and 25th on the grid respectively. The overwhelming amount of penalties lead Justin Wilson and Takuma Sato to start very high up the grid - 3rd in Wilson's case and 6th in Sato. In the race, which was dominated by Australian Will Power, Sato was aiming at a podium finish, when he was pushed off track by Ryan Hunter-Reay during the penultimate lap. As a result, Sato ended up 8th, with Rubens and Justin right behind him. Bourdais only managed 17th, classified 3 laps behind the leader.
The fourth race of the season, which took place in Sao Paolo, Brazil, saw Sato achieve his first podium in IndyCar after a near perfect drive. Sato started from 25th and managed his way up to 3rd, despite a drive through penalty handed to him for speeding in the pit lane, losing out only to Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Justin Wilson started from 26th and retired from the race with nine laps to go due to a mechanical failure. Rubens Barrichello started 16th and ended up 10th. Bourdais, who was 22nd on the grid, finished 18th, one lap behind the leader.
The podium has put Sato into 7th in the standings with 83 points. Rubens occupies 11th with 79, ahead of both his teammates EJ Viso and Tony Kanaan. Wilson is currently 16th with 64 points, Bourdais - 20th with 59.

In Nascar Sprint Cup, Juan Pablo Montoya (who I totally forgot about last time) has managed 21st, 16th and twice 12th in the four races that took place in April, which puts him in 16th with 239 points. In comparison, Ryan Newman, who's rounding up the list of people set to make the Chase for the Cup playoffs right now, has 278 points. Meanwhile, Scott Speed continued his run of being a Nascar backmarker, taking part in three races - he failed to qualify for one of them and was 43rd in the other two, which gives him all of 2 points and the 48th spot in the standings. Scott has also competed in two Nationwide races, finishing 41st and 40th. In Nascar Camping Truck, Nelson Piquet Jr. has managed to score his first pole in the series in the third race of the season. He did not manage to convert that into a win, though, finishing 7th. Completing the next race in 4th gives him 140 points to take 5th in the standings, where he is 23 points behind the leader after four races.

In WTCC, Gabriele Tarquini had his worst weekend of the season to date in Morocco - managing a good qualifying but having his Q2 results erased because of a weight infringement in the car. He started both races in 12th, but failed to score points in either - finishing race one in 11th and pulling into the pits to retire after the formation lap in race two. Tiago Monteiro had a similarly dissapointing weekend - in race one, he only completed 7 laps and retired, while, in race two, which he started from pole, he ended up 9th. Two weeks after that, in Slovakia, Tarquini took third in qualifying with no Chevrolet cars ahead for race one. He finished said race in first, after pulling a fairly questionable move on race leader Norbert Michelisz. It is worth noting that Tarquini's win was also the first 1-2 finish for Lukoil Racing Team as teammate Aleksei Dudukalo finished second. In the second race, Tarquini managed to get up to third and was challenging WTCC champion Yvan Muller for second place. He went a little too far with his attempts, perhaps, and almost ended up spinning Muller out, but received no penalty for his actions, finishing third. Monteiro, who managed the best qualifying of the season so far (which put him on fourth for the race one grid), failed to finish either of the races.
As such, after 4 race weekends, Tarquini is fifth in the standings with 87 points, six points behind his likely main rival Tom Coronel. The Chevy trio, just like last year, seems unreachable for either of them as of now. Monteiro has been having a terrible season so far, mostly due to car reliability than anything else - after eight races, he is only 18th with six points.

In Superstars Series, Vitantonio Liuzzi qualified in fifth for the first Imola race and finished it in sixth. As the top eight finishers of race one are reversed for the race two grid, he started it in third and was holding on to that position until retiring with a gearbox problem. Ex-Minardi and Footwork Arrows driver Christian Fittipaldi, who replaced Mika Salo in Imola, managed to qualify in ninth for race one, and finished the two races in 5th and 4th. Another F1 retiree, Gianni Morbidelli, was fourth in qualifying and was fighting for the win throughout all of race one, but after a last lap contact with race leader Johan Kristoffersson was forced to retire. He fought his way up the field in race two but was given a drive-through penalty for being a tad too aggressive. To add insult to injury, his engine gave up shortly before the end of the race.

April also marked the beginning of the 2012 season in DTM, the German touring car championship. Continuing on in it from last year are ex-F1 drivers Ralf Schumacher and David Coulthard. While Ralf finished last season in 8th with 2 podiums and 21 points, David only managed one point throughout. The trend was looking to continue this year, as David missed out on Q2, qualifying in 18th. Ralf, meanwhile, managed 11th on the grid, missing out on Q3 by 0.005s. In the race, however, Ralf had a terrible beginning stint in which he managed to take out BMW's Dirk Werner as well as DTM veteran Bruno Spengler in two different accidents. Ralf was promptly given a drive-through, but seeing how unlike his competitors, he actually remained in the race, he managed 7th in the end - a fairly decent recovery drive in a race that surely hasn't won him any new fans. It is also worth noting that while 7th is a place in points, Ralf came behind all of his teammates - McLaren's test driver Gary Paffett (1st), DTM veteran Jamie Green (2nd) and GP2 race winner Christian Vietoris (4th). DC came in eighth.

If you happen to know of any ex-F1 guys that I missed, by all means, inform me. It's very likely that I just forgot about them or didn't even know they were in F1.