Category Archives: GP2 & GP3

The Belgian Superstar – Stoffel Vandoorne

Before 2013, hardly anyone had heard of the young Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne, but after a marvellous year in the Formula Renault 3.5 series where he won four races and finished second in the championship, and has a place in the McLaren junior programme, everyone is talking of him as one to watch for the future.  He will go into 2014 as a championship favourite, whether he races for a second season in Formula Renault 3.5 or if he moves into the GP2 series as McLaren would prefer him to do.

Vandoorne 1

Stoffel Vandoorne only made his single seater debut in 2010, driving in the F4 Eurocup 1.6 series, driving for the Autosport Academy team.  He won the championship with a race meeting to spare, ahead of Frenchman Norman Nato.  Vandoorne won only his second ever race in the series at Motorland Aragon, then did the double at the following event at Spa-Francorchamps.  He won three times more, once at Magny Cours in France and then both races at Hockenheim in Germany, and only finished outside of the top four on one occasion, a 16th placed finish in Hungary.  He took five pole positions en-route to finishing the championship with 159 points.

For the 2011 season, Vandoorne moved up to 2.0 litre cars, driving in both the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series, and the Formula Renault 2.0 North European Cup (NEC), both with the KTR team.  Neither championship brought the Belgian a win, though he had eight podium finishes in NEC which left him third in the standings behind Carlos Sainz Jr and Daniil Kvyat.  One podium in Eurocup saw him finish fifth in the championship, behind Sainz Jr and Kvyat again, Will Stevens and series champion Robin Frijns.

2012 was a completely different story however for the Belgian.  He concentrated most of his efforts on the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series, but also raced in the NEC series sparingly.  Four wins in 14 races in the Eurocup saw him win the championship driving for Josef Kaufmann Racing, narrowly defeating Daniil Kvyat to the crown.  He won both races at the Nurburgring, plus once each at the Hungaroring and at Paul Ricard.  He also had five runner-up places, plus two more thirds, finishing ten points clear of Kvyat on 244 points to 234.  In the NEC championship, he only competed in seven events, yet won five of them.  Ninth in the championship despite missing over half the season was mightily impressive.


Just prior to the 2013 season, he was signed up by McLaren to join their young driver programme.  He moved to Fortec Motorsports for his racing, joining the Formula Renault 3.5 series, replacing outgoing champion Robin Frijns within the team.  He became the first rookie to win his first ever 3.5 race, doing so in Monza.  He won race two in his home weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, then dominated the Moscow event, taking two pole positions, two fastest laps and two wins.  He finished second on five occasions, and third three times.  He finished second in the championship behind fellow McLaren junior driver Kevin Magnussen, scoring 214 points.

So what does the future hold for Stoffel Vandoorne?

Vandoorne revealed he had an offer from Toro Rosso in Formula 1 to replace Red Bull bound Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo, but he declined it.

“The proposition of Red Bull would have been only for one season, and we are looking into the long term. After some talks with my management, they have advised me to stay with McLaren. I am convinced that this will be my best option to eventually get into Formula One”.


He recently participated in the recent GP2 series tests in Abu Dhabi, driving for two days with the ART Grand Prix outfit, then the final day with the DAMS team, ending the final day on top of the timing charts.  GP2 is a serious option for Vandoorne for 2014, but he also admits he could return to Formula Renault 3.5 if a GP2 drive does not materialise.

“McLaren is trying to put a programme together for me so we are creating some opportunities and then looking at what is best for next year,” he said.

“I want to race. I only have one year of experience in big cars so I think another year would benefit me. Whether that is going to be in GP2 or World Series again, I don’t know yet.

“It’s better for me to race, and a second year in a high-level class like World Series or GP2 would definitely be good for my future.

“McLaren will decide, so I don’t know where I will be. But we will keep the doors open for everything.”

Vandoorne 3

Whatever happens, the future is bright for the Belgian.  He is one of the quickest young drivers around, and should have a long and prosperous career in motorsport.  McLaren have taken a superstar under their wings.

GP3’s Championship Contenders

The GP3 series rolls into Abu Dhabi this weekend for the season finale, with the championship far from decided.  ART Grand Prix driver Facu Regalia currently heads the field, with 2014 Toro Rosso F1 driver Daniil Kvyat of the MW Arden team breathing down his neck, a mere seven points behind.

Four other drivers are still in with a mathematical chance of the championship, though they will need Regalia and Kvyat to struggle this weekend.  Koiranen GP driver Kevin Korjus, Marussia Manor Racing driver Tio Ellinas, and the other two ART Grand Prix drivers Conor Daly and Jack Harvey all hope that this is indeed the case.



Feature Poles

Fastest Laps


Facu Regalia






Daniil Kvyat






Kevin Korjus












Jack Harvey












The Six Championship Contenders

Facu Regalia was not even thought of as a contender pre-season, but he has shown he can be quick and consistent in 2013.  The Argentine driver won race one in Germany, and has finished on the podium a further five times to warrant sitting at the head of the standings.


Russian driver Daniil Kvyat already has a 2014 F1 seat in his pocket, but will want to go out as the GP3 Champion.  Two wins, in Spa-Francorchamps and Monza, has seen him catapult up the order and go into Abu Dhabi with some momentum and confidence.  He sits seven points behind Regalia going into the finale.

Kvyat 55

Kevin Korjus has had a very consistent year, but has not won a race.  The Estonian driver has finished second twice, and third twice more, and sits 31 points behind Regalia with 48 points remaining to be won.


American Conor Daly is the second ART Grand Prix driver in contention for the championship.  He won the opening race in Valencia, and grabbed podium finishes on four other occasions, including a double second place in Spa-Francorchamps.  He sits 34 points behind his team-mate.


Jack Harvey is the third ART Grand Prix championship contender for the 2013 GP3 series.  He won twice, once at his home race at Silverstone, the other last time out in Monza.  One additional podium in Germany sees him sit 42 points behind in the championship.


The final contender for the title is Cypriot Tio Ellinas.  He started the season superbly, but much like Stefano Coletti in the GP2 series, ended the season very poorly.  He has only scored four points since the halfway point of the season, and sits 43 points behind in the standings, but with only 48 points available, he will need a miracle to win.


So Who Will Win?

The advantage in the championship lies with Facu Regalia and Daniil Kvyat.  Regalia’s ART Grand Prix have obviously shown they can set up their cars superbly all season with all three drivers still in contention, while Kvyat’s MW Arden have likewise, with the Russian’s team-mate Robert Visoiu winning twice, and Carlos Sainz Jr finishing on the podium twice.

For Kevin Korjus, Conor Daly, Jack Harvey and Tio Ellinas, all they and their teams can do is have a perfect weekend and hope Regalia and Kvyat fail to score.

With 25 points available for a win in the first race of the weekend (plus four points for pole position and two points for fastest lap), plus 15 points for a win in the second race (plus two more points for fastest lap), that leaves 48 points available.  No driver has won both races in a weekend this year; in fact it is very rare to see a driver score a double podium.  That does not bode well for the four outsiders for the championship.

So will it be Regalia, or will it be Kvyat, or can one of the outsiders defy the odds?  Let the GP3 battle of Abu Dhabi commence!

GP2’s Championship Contenders!

It’s a good probability that either Racing Engineering driver Fabio Leimer or Russian Time driver Sam Bird will be the 2013 GP2 Series champion.  Seven points separate the Swiss driver from the Brit, with just the season finale in Abu Dhabi to come.

There are three other drivers with an outside bet of the championship, however they all would require perfect weekends and would also need Leimer and Bird to have nightmare ones.  Carlin driver Felipe Nasr, Rapax driver Stefano Coletti and ART Grand Prix driver James Calado all are within the 48 points available in Abu Dhabi.




Feature Poles

Fastest Laps


Fabio Leimer






Sam Bird






Felipe Nasr






Stefano Coletti






James Calado






The Five Championship Contenders

Fabio Leimer leads the championship going into the season finale, having won the season opening race in Malaysia, the feature race in Bahrain, and again in the feature race at Monza.  Since Germany, he has scored points in every race, all by finishing in the top six including three podiums, and leads the championship on merit. 


Sam Bird did not have a drive a few weeks before the beginning of the season before joining Russian Time.  He has won five times this season, including races in Monaco, Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps.  He has only failed to score points on four occasions, and sits only seven points behind going into Abu Dhabi.

Bird 5

It is a big surprise that Felipe Nasr has yet to win a GP2 series race.  He came close to victory in Singapore but was beaten by team-mate Jolyon Palmer.  He has finished second four times, and third twice more.  He sits 31 points behind the championship leader.


Of all of the championship contenders, Stefano Coletti had the best start to the season, winning three of the first eight races, and scoring points in all of them.  Since his win in his home race in Monaco however (Round 8), he has only scored points once, a podium finish in Germany.  The Monegasque driver sits 44 points behind Leimer.


James Calado started the season with a podium finish in Malaysia, but did not see the podium again until round ten at Silverstone.  Since then he has finished three more times on the podium and won the sprint race in Spa-Francorchamps.  He is the outsider for the championship, 45 points behind with only 48 available.


So Who Will Win?

The odds are in favour of the 2013 GP2 series championship going to Fabio Leimer or Sam Bird.  Both Racing Engineering and Russian Time have shown they can provide their drivers with good cars all season long.  Even their team-mates, Julian Leal and Tom Dillmann have visited the podium this season. 

For Felipe Nasr, Stefano Coletti and James Calado, all they and their teams can do is have a perfect weekend and hope Leimer and Bird fail to score. 

With 25 points available for a win in the feature race (plus four points for pole position and two points for fastest lap), plus 15 points for a win in the sprint race (plus two more points for fastest lap), that leaves 48 points available.  No driver has won both races in a weekend this year; in fact it is very rare to see a driver score a double podium.  That does not bode well for the three outsiders for the championship.

So will it be Leimer, or will it be Bird?  Let the battle of Abu Dhabi commence!

Mitch Evans – The Protege Rising

It has been a fair while since the Island nation of New Zealand have seen someone compete in the highest form of motorsport that is Formula 1.  In fact you have to go back to the 1984 Season to find the last Kiwi driver in the form of Mike Thackwell, who raced once for RAM and failed to qualify once for Tyrrell that year.  New Zealand has one World Champion from the past in Denny Hulme, while history will always remember fellow Kiwi’s Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren, the former regarded as the best driver never to have won a Grand Prix, while the latter formed the legendary McLaren team, which still races in F1 this very day.

Evans 1

Nineteen-year-old Mitch Evans is the brightest star shining at present from New Zealand with F1 aspirations, and heralds from Auckland.  He has been mentored since sixteen by none other than Australian Formula 1 driver Mark Webber, and has shone speed in every car and series he has driven in.  Back in 2010, Red Bull Racing driver Webber praised Evans and said:

“I met Mitch for the first time at last year’s Australian Grand Prix and was amazed at how switched on he was at the age of just fourteen.

“At this very early stage he is displaying all the right ingredients and characteristics to be successful at the highest level and he has some great people behind him who I’m certain will do everything to ensure he fulfils his dream.

“It’s really important that he chooses his next steps carefully and I’m looking forward to playing my part by using my own personal experiences and contacts to make the move as seamless as possible, and helping his development on and off the track”

Evans 4

Mitch Evans’ single seater career began back in 2007 with three races in the New Zealand Formula First Championship, taking 9th in the Championship.  In 2008 he progressed on to the Formula Ford Manfeild Winter series, winning 7 times out of 12 races and the Championship in the process.  Through the 2008/09 season of the New Zealand Formula Ford Championship, he won 6 races, only being pipped to the championship by fellow Kiwi Richie Stanaway.

He moved to Australia for the 2009 season, racing primarily in the Australian Formula Ford Championship, winning 6 races and finishing second in the championship to Nick Percat, now a big name in Australian V8 Supercars.  Evans was also drafted in by Team BRM to race in the final race weekend of the Australian Drivers’ Championship to try and assist main driver Joey Foster’s championship campaign.  A fourth place in race 1 was followed by a win in race 2, while Foster was also successful in his fight for the championship.

2010 saw Mitch run a full year in the Australian Drivers’ Championship with Team BRM, finishing second in the championship, one point behind champion Ben Barker, despite missing a round early in the season.  However he went one better when he raced in the Toyota Racing Series back in his native land, winning the championship with the Giles Motorsport team.  It was during this campaign where Mark Webber picked him up.  He returned to the series in 2011 and dominated, winning 7 of 15 rounds and the championship.

Evans 2

Under Webber’s guidance, Evans was brought over to Europe for the first time in 2011, joining Webber’s own MW Arden team, a team the Aussie runs with Red Bull boss Christian Horner, in the GP3 Series.  He won Race 1 at the Circuit de Catalunya having started from pole position, while he also finished on the podium in Valencia, finishing 9th in the overall standings.  He also had 3 races in British Formula 3 for the Double R Racing outfit.

He remained in the GP3 Series with MW Arden in 2012, and won the championship, defeating German driver Daniel Abt by 2 points.  He won races in Catalunya, Valencia and the Hockenheimring, whilst also finishing on the podium at Silverstone, Budapest and Spa-Francorchamps.  He also raced a few times back in his native New Zealand in the Toyota Racing series, winning twice on his return.

2013 saw the Kiwi driver promoted to the full Arden International outfit in the GP2 series, and Evans has continued his impressive career to date, finishing on the podium in the opening weekend of the season in Malaysia despite suffering from food poisoning, and thus became the youngest driver ever to stand on a GP2 podium!  Three other podiums in his debut GP2 season (Both races in Monaco and the second race in Hungary) is something to be very proud of indeed, even if bad luck took him out of contention on more than one occasion.  He could and should be sitting higher than the 14th he current holds in the championship with one round to go.

Evans 3

So what next for Mitch Evans, and just how good is he?

Well I cannot help but think another year in the GP2 series with Arden International is on the cards, and if he does indeed return, he’ll be one of the favourites for the championship, especially with the confidence of the years experience and the podium finishes of 2013.  Big things can be expected of this young man, still a teenager, and it would not surprise me to see him plying his trade in Formula One in the not too distant future.  He is a superstar in the making, and when he drives, he drives fast but also with maturity.  One to watch without a doubt.

An Interview With… Patric Niederhauser

Patric Niederhauser is a young Swiss GP3 Series and European Le Mans Series driver in 2013.  Whilst his seasons haven’t exactly gone to plan, its obvious that there is talent there, and it is with great joy that Patric took some time out to answer some questions for me.

GP3 series Budapest, Hungary 27-29 July 2012

Paul Hensby: How do you feel your GP3 Series season has gone?

Patric Niederhauser: Not good at all. I clearly had the goal to win this championship and I’m currently not even in the top 10.

PH: You began the season as one of the championship favourites, but it hasn’t exactly panned out that way.  Can you pinpoint what’s gone wrong for you?

PN: We started very well in Barcelona and somehow after that it went worse and worse. The general issue was the qualy. We have never qualified in the top ten anymore. Our race speed was always very good but with this car it’s really difficult to overtake. And then I was also many times unlucky. Everything just went wrong somehow.

PH: You’ve had the support of the Jenzer Motorsport since 2010, what benefits do you feel you’ve had sticking with the same outfit for such of a length of time?

PN: We know each other now very well. The workshop is very close to where I live so, I spent quite some time there before and after the races.

PH: You also made your debut in the Le Mans 24 Hour race this year with Race Performance, how did you find the race?

PN: Le Mans is awesome. It’s an absolutely great experience. Driving in the dark is crazy! – and something of the best I’ve ever done in my life.

niederhauser 4

PH: How quickly did you manage to learn the circuit, especially with all the rain and stoppages during practice?

PN: It took me quite a while. I was still learning some tricks during the race. Specially the Porsche corners are fantastic!

PH: How easy is it to drive with four different classes in the same race? As an LMP2 driver you had to contend with LMP1 drivers overtaking you while you had to overtake the GT Pro & AM cars.  How tricky is it to keep your concentration and go for the class win?

PN: Well, it’s not easy at all. Specially during the last part of the qualy. It was like a war out there because between Audi and Toyota was a big fight for the “prestige” Pole. During the race was very difficult to see everything. Some of the GTs were very slow and all over sudden there were flashing lights from behind and an Audi passed me like a lightning. You needed to be very concentrated.

PH: You’re also been racing in the European Le Mans Series this year alongside Michel Frey, how do you feel you’re learning driving Prototypes, and how do they differ from the GP3 cars?

PN: I was learning until the end and still don’t know this car so well. It’s a lot different than any single seater. But our speed was good so I just need some more confidence and this comes with more driving.

PH: You started the ELMS season with a podium finish at Silverstone, how did that feel, and how is the atmosphere like within the team?

PN: It was great for them as they didn’t finish on the podium for a while. The atmosphere within the team was always very good – also in bad times.


PH: What race of your career stands out for you so far?

PN: I think specially some races I’ve had last year in difficult conditions like Silverstone, Budapest and Hockenheim. But also during this years 24h of Le Mans I did a pretty good job I have to say.

PH: What’s the best track you’ve ever raced on?  And what tracks would you like to race on that you haven’t had the opportunity to so far?

PN: I think it’s the Circuit de la Sarthe. Of course, Spa is absolutely beautiful to drive as many others but in Le Mans you are most of the time on the public road and the walls are really close there so, no place for any mistakes. And this makes it special.

PH: Who do you rate as your toughest teammate to date in your career?  Also, who has been your fiercest rival on track?

PN: I think this was Sergey Sirotkin during my time in the Formula Abarth. I fought for the title with him.

PH: What made you want to be a racing driver? Do you remember the moment that you decided this was the career for you?

PN: It actually was a dream since my childhood.


PH: Are there any drivers from the past you looked up to growing up?

PN: I think there was specially one: Michael Schumacher.

PH: Your webpage says ‘On his way to Formula 1’, and I for one believe you’ve got the talent to get there.  In an ideal world, which team would you like to race for within F1?

PN: For one of the top teams for sure! Red Bull or Ferrari.

PH: You’ve got the first race for GP3 series outside of Europe coming up in Abu Dhabi, what do you feel you can do there?

PN: I have a good feeling as this is a new track for everybody. I need some good results to the end of this year. Really hope to go for a podium there.

PH: Do you know where you’d like to be for the 2014 season?  Another year in GP3 or could you go to GP2 or Formula Renault, or somewhere else?

PN: GP2 and World Series are pretty unrealistic as the budget is insane. Most probably I’ll drive one more year GP3 but if we don’t find the budget I’ll have to look for something different. Endurance for example.

niederhauser 5

PH: Thank you for taking the time to read and reply to these questions! I believe you’ve got the talent to reach your goal of Formula 1, even with this year not going to plan.  Good luck for the remaining races of your season in GP3 & ELMS.

PN: Thank you!

Patric Niederhauser races the #11 Jenzer Motorsport car in the GP3 Series in 2013, and the #34 Race Performance Oreca 03 Judd in the European Le Mans Series.  I wish him luck in the remaining races of the season, in Abu Dhabi (GP3) and Paul Ricard (ELMS).  Follow him on twitter at @P_Niederhauser.

Facu Regalia – Argentina’s Best Chance?

The last few drivers from Argentina to have made it to the dizzy heights of Formula One haven’t exactly set the world alight.  Names like Oscar Larrauri, who drove for Eurobrun in 1988/89, Norberto Fontana who briefly raced for Sauber in 1997; Esteban Tuero who raced for one season for Minardi in 1998, and the last Argentine to make a Grand Prix start Gaston Mazzacane for Minardi & Prost in 2000/01, never troubled the scorers and will only be a footnote in Formula One history.  Jose Maria Lopez almost made it with the USF1 team back in 2010, but the team folded before he ever got a chance of a race.

Its a sorry state for a country that provided the sport with one of the biggest names and best drivers ever to have raced in F1 in Juan Manuel Fangio! The five time World Champion (for four different teams no less!) is a true great of the sport.  Another great of the sport from Argentina was Jose Froilan Gonzalez, who took Ferrari’s first Grand Prix victory in the 1951 British Grand Prix.

Regalia 1

So who’s the best driver coming through the ranks?  In my opinion its a driver currently plying his trade in the GP3 series for the ART Grand Prix team, from Buenos Aires, Facu Regalia.  The 21 year old currently leads the GP3 championship with one final round to go, in Abu Dhabi at the beginning of November.

Regalia made his single seater debut in the 2008 Formula BMW Europe series for the EuroInternational team, but with minimal success, scoring a best finish of 6th in Valencia and finishing 16th in the standings, but third in the rookie class.  He switched to the Josef Kaufmann Racing outfit for 2009, taking a handful of fourth places but still only finishing 8th in the championship, behind the likes of Jack Harvey, Felipe Nasr, Daniel Juncadella and Robin Frijns.

He returned to EuroInternational in the 2009 Formula BMW Pacific season, winning twice in three races, but was only there as a guest driver so wasn’t eligible for points.  A third season in Formula BMW Europe followed in 2010 and for another new team in Eifelland Racing, and he finally broke his podium duck with a second place finish in Zandvoort.  Another 8th place finish was his end of season reward.

Regalia 2

For 2011, Regalia switched to the Italian Formula Three Championship with the Arco Motorsport team, taking 1 pole position (in Mugello) and two podium finishes (third in Imola, second in Vallelunga), before finishing tenth in the championship.  He also made a guest appearance in the season finale of the Formula 3 Euro Series with the Mucke Motorsport outfit, finishing 10th twice at Hockenheim, though again he wasn’t illegible to score points.

2012 saw him run a dual campaign for the Campos Racing team in both the Auto GP World Series and the European F3 Open Championship.  A second place in Valencia and a third place in Hungary saw Regalia finish P7 in Auto GP, but three wins, 1 in Hungary and a double win in Spain saw him finish fourth in the F3 Open championship, his best finish to date.  He also made his GP3 Series debut, racing in two events, one with Jenzer Motorsport, the other with Atech CRS Grand Prix.  His best result was 12th at Silverstone.

So onto 2013.  When you saw who Regalia was teamed up with at ART Grand Prix, you’d have imagined he’d be the third driver behind highly rated American Conor Daly and reigning British Formula 3 Champion Jack Harvey, however things have turned out massively different to what everyone would have thought would happen.  A double non-points finish in Spain has been the exception to a season that just gets better and better for the Argentine driver.

Regalia 3

A win in the first race at the Nurburgring, and five other podium finishes in the 14 rounds of the championship so far sees him sit at the top of the standings, 7 points clear of second placed Daniil Kvyat in his MW Arden car.  He has shown the skills to be up there fighting for big points, and will be favourite for the title going into Abu Dhabi in November.

So what’s changed in the past couple of years to make Facu Regalia a genuine championship contender?  He seems to be one of those drivers that as the cars get bigger and faster, then he gets better.  If this is indeed the case, then it bodes well for Regalia for the next stage of his career.  A move up to the GP2 series or across to the Formula Renault 3.5 series isn’t out of the question, and Regalia should be competitive in either.  Whether he wins the GP3 championship this year or not, he’s proved himself to be a good racer.  Whether its enough to see him reach Formula 1 is another question though.  Can he continue to develop as a driver?  I wonder if any of the teams in the F1 paddock have noticed his performances.  Only time will tell if he’s F1 bound.

An Interview With… Robert Visoiu

Robert Visoiu is still only 17, yet is racing competitively in the GP3 and Auto GP World Series in 2013, all that whilst still being at school.  He took some time out of his extremely busy schedule to answer some of my questions!

Visoiu 1

Paul Hensby: You’ve been racing in both the GP3 and Auto GP series’ this year. How different are the two cars to drive, and what do you have to do differently in each?

Robert Visoiu: The two cars are really different: from the position of the driver to the aerodynamics and the engine power. More, the tires are from different parts of the Universe also, so driving the two cars is really exciting and demanding. Adapting to each track with the two cars is really something which keeps me focused at all times. It’s really fun!

PH: Romania has never had a driver race in Formula 1 before, Is F1 your ultimate aim / goal?

RV: I think every kid in karting dreams of becoming a Formula 1 star, so yes… it’s really the ultimate aim for me also. As time goes by and you come closer to F1 by racing in the support series’, you really get to smell the success and you want to be part of it. This is what drives me and what gives me strength, because it’s a difficult path and I know I have to work very hard to get there.

PH: What made you want to be a racing driver, especially at such a young age?  Do you remember the time when you made the conscious decision to race cars fast?

RV: I’ve been racing karts since I was only 4, so I really can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a racing driver. I grew up with the dream and when I made the switch to single-seaters I was really determined to be as fast as possible and today I have the same determination.

PH: What was it like to break your GP3 duck and win in Valencia, and then follow it up a few races later with the Hungary win?

RV: I was so close last year when I finished second in Barcelona that I said to myself that this must be the season to start winning and I’m very glad I was right, especially since the new GP3 is a huge step up compared to the old car: you have more power and very, very experienced and fast drivers to compete with. It felt amazing!

PH: You’ve got two Red Bull backed drivers alongside you in GP3 in MW Arden in the form of Carlos Sainz Jr & Daniil Kvyat, how does it feel to have won twice and be competitive this year alongside two highly rated drivers?

RV: MW Arden really has a very good line-up this season. I knew before the start of the season that both Daniil and Carlos are very fast drivers and that this season was going to be great! It felt really good to be able to be the first one of the group to win and to do it twice was a huge bonus, but I know I still have lots of things to learn and that both of my colleagues are really, really fast.

PH: What’s the atmosphere like within MW Arden with Sainz & Kvyat? Do you all get along, share information and the like?

RV: We have a great relationship. We immediately understood that it’s important to have a good working relationship and that by pushing each other we could all evolve. It’s really a positive atmosphere and we make the most of it. They are really cool guys also, and we respect each other both on and off track.

GP3 series Barcelona, Spain 10-12 May 2013

PH: At the same time, you were the lone driver for the first few rounds of Auto GP, how much has gaining Kevin Giovesi as a teammate helped you and the team?

RV: Kevin is a really fast driver and he immediately became one of the front runners in Auto GP. His presence is a big plus, as we understand each other very well and the team profits from this. Team Ghinzani Arco is at its first season in Auto GP, but they are real professionals and this makes a huge difference on the long run.

PH: What’s been the highlight of your career to date? 

RV: I think the first thing that comes to mind are the two wins in this season’s GP3 Series, but actually I think the highlight would be the fact that I am always learning and I am always evolving. I’m happy with my learning curve and I think on the long run this is the most important thing for me.

PH: Who’s been your fiercest rival on track so far in your career?  

RV: I’ve had some great battles in karting with really fast drivers like Max Verstappen and Esteban Ocon, but if it comes to cars I will always remember the fights I had in the Formula Abarth with my team mates from Jenzer Motorsport: Patrick Niederhauser and Sergey Sirotkin. It’s been really fun to race against them and to battle it out sometimes, but it’s not really a rivalry as we all respect each other and understand that this is the way to get better and better. We’re all friends when the flag drops.

PH: What’s the best track you’ve ever raced on, and on the flip side, what’s the worst?  

RV: I don’t think I could say if a track is good or bad, but I could say there are tracks which I like more than others. I will always be attached to Valencia and the Hungaroring after wining there, but I also like Barcelona a lot. This season I’ve raced on the Donington Park track and I was really captured by its design and history.

PH: Are there any tracks you’d like to race on one day, maybe Le Mans or the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

RV: Sure, I love the old tracks with a lot of history behind them and Le Mans and Indianapolis are really high on the list. Laguna Seca is also a “must have”, as well as Paul Ricard.

PH: What do you do to relax in between races?  How can you relax with so many races on your schedule?! 

RV: Racing is a way of life, so you don’t really get “time off” from it. To be honest, I don’t really want to escape racing so I am always doing some simulator training or other forms of preparations. I play tennis and I like to swim. When I’m home I try to go out with my friends as often as I can, but between training and school there’s not to much time for anything else.

PH: What would be your ideal plans for 2014?  Would you concentrate on one series or continue in two again?

RV: We have a pretty good idea about what we need to do in 2014. First of all I need to get better in some aspects in which I know I still have to learn. The goal is to always be faster and more constant and for this I think it’s crucial to have a good strategy from start on. I can’t tell you just yet what the plan for 2014 is, but I’d like to have a go in more powerful cars during the winter, to test things out a bit…

PH: Thank you for taking the time to look & respond to my questions! Good luck for the rest of the season and beyond! 

RV: Thank you for your really interesting questions. I wish you good luck with your website!

Visoiu 3

Many thanks for Robert Visoiu for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions.  Also thanks to Horia Totu, his Public Relations specialist for forwarding the questions to Robert and the answers back to me!

Robert Visoiu currently drives for MW Arden in the GP3 Series and for Team Ghinzani Arco in Auto GP World Series.  I wish him luck for the rest of the season, and hope to see his career develop over the next few years!

Daniil Kvyat – The Other Red Bull Star

There has been a lot of attention this year on Red Bull junior driver Carlos Sainz Jr, however another young driver on Red Bull’s books is also quietly having a good year. With the addition of a Russian Grand Prix in 2014, the support of the Russian crowds for a Russian driver would be massive, and the rise of Russian driver Daniil Kvyat might just come at the right time.


Daniil Kvyat is still only 19 years of age, and heralds from Ufa, in the Bashkorostan region of Russia, however he now resides in Italy.  He has only been racing single-seater cars since 2010, and joined the Red Bull Junior Team in the same year whilst competing in the Formula BMW Pacific series as a guest driver. He won twice but wasn’t eligible for points. He did finish 10th that year with a solitary podium finish driving for the EuroInternational outfit in the Formula BMW Europe series, his first as a full-member of the Red Bull family.  He also made some appearances in the Formula Renault UK Winter Series and the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series driving for Koiranen Motorsport.

2011 saw a more confident Daniil Kvyat competing in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series, the Formula Renault 2.0 North European Championship (NEC), and the Formula Renault UK Finals series, all for Koiranen Motorsport.  In the Eurocup, he won twice in 14 rounds, at Spa and the Nurburgring, and finished third in the championship behind Champion Robin Frijns and runner-up Carlos Sainz Jr, but ahead of Will Stevens and Stoffel Vandoorne.  In the NEC Championship, he won 7 times in 20 races, including all three Monza races at the end of the year, but finished P2 in the championship, again behind Sainz Jr.  He finished P3 in the UK Finals series behind Oliver Rowland and Dan Wells.  During the winter he raced in New Zealand in the Toyota Racing Series with Victory Motor Racing, winning once and finishing 5th in the standings after 12 races.

Kvyat 2

Kvyat continued with Koiranen Motorsports into 2012, concentrating on the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series and the Formula Renault 2.0 ALPS series, the former Swiss Formula Renault Championship.  He won half of the 14 races in the Eurocup, but was pipped to the title by Stoffel Vandoorne by a mere ten points.  However he also won half of the 14 races in the ALPS series, but this time won the championship by three points from Norman Nato.  A championship well deserved, having won 14 out of 28 races in the calendar year.

So onto 2013.  Under Red Bull guidance, Kvyat, along with Carlos Sainz Jr, have been placed in the GP3 Series at MW Arden, a team run by Mark Webber and Christian Horner, both of F1 Red Bull Racing fame.  His maiden win at Spa was well deserved, just a race weekend behind his first podium in Hungary.  He currently sits fifth in the championship, and remains the championship hunt with two race weekends of the season remaining.  Kvyat has also run a parallel campaign in the European Formula 3 Championship as a guest driver, and has finished on the podium 4 times.  He also got a run in a Scuderia Toro Rosso at the Young Driver’s test at Silverstone.

Kvyat 3

So how good is Daniil Kvyat?  Red Bull obviously think highly of the young Russian, and continue to guide his promising career for a fourth year.  He has proved he has what it takes to win races and to win championships.  However, the Red Bull young driver programme has its risks.  With so many good drivers part of it, and with Kvyat apparently behind both Carlos Sainz Jr and Antonio Felix da Costa in the pecking order, it could mean a long time waiting for a break in Formula 1.  It could be the case that Red Bull allow him to race at another team (like they did with Daniel Ricciardo at HRT in 2011), or it might come down to the Russian driver having to leave the Red Bull family to get his break.  He could be lucky and have a Toro Rosso drive arrive at his feet if Felix da Costa and/or Sainz Jr get into the main Red Bull team in a short amount of time.  The talent is there, he can overtake and defend well as proven in GP3 this season.

The future is bright for Daniil Kvyat, and he could be Russia’s best ever racing driver, certainly in Formula 1.


The Talented Sam Bird!

Question: Which driver has won races on the iconic circuits of Monaco, Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps this season?
Answer: Mercedes junior driver Sam Bird, driving for the Russian Time entry in the GP2 series.

Bird 1

Everyone has known about the talent Sam Bird possesses for a long time now, but why hasn’t he being able to make the final step up to Formula One?  We know he’s good enough.  Its obvious he hasn’t got the financial backing of the likes of Esteban Gutierrez or Max Chilton, but sometimes money isn’t everything.  With Mercedes backing, you’d have hoped they’d help him get into F1, but it hasn’t happened that way.  He still remains on the sidelines in F1, and remains plugging away in the junior categories.

Bird began his single seater career in Formula BMW in 2004 driving for Carlin Motorsport, coming fourteenth overall in his debut season and second overall in the rookie cup. Returning in 2005, this time with Fortec Motorsport, he was runner up, and also came fourth in the Formula BMW world final.  In 2006 he entered the British Formula Renault Championship, again with Fortec, and won four times in finishing 4th in the standings.  His results earned him the 2006 Autosport Club Driver of the Year award!

BIRD, Sam (#5 / Manor Motorsport / Dallara F308 / Mercedes)

2007 saw him enter the British Formula 3 championship, rejoining Carlin in the process.  He won twice, and for the third year in a row finished fourth in the championship standings.  He also raced on the iconic race tracks in Macau & Zolder in the Macau Grand Prix and Masters of F3 events.  2008 saw him move to the Manor Motorsport team in the Formula 3 Euro Series, failing to win a race this time but grabbing two podiums in finishing 11th in the standings.  He improved to 8th in 2009, but still failed to win a race.  He did grab a podium at Macau at the end of the year however for ART Grand Prix.

He joined the GP2-Asia Series for the winter of 2009/10, again with ART, and grabbed one podium finish before finishing seventh after the 8 races.  He continued with ART in the main GP2 Series in 2010, winning the Italian feature race and finishing four other times on the podium and 5th in the championship.   He also earned a call up to the Mercedes F1 set-up and ran in the young drivers test for them.  A switch to iSport in 2011 in both the GP2 Asia & main series yielded only three more podiums however.


In 2012 he switched over to the Formula Renault 3.5 series with ISR Racing, and won twice (in Monaco and Silverstone) and was a contender all year, finally finishing third in the championship standings, behind only Robin Frijns and Jules Bianchi, both highly-regarded in the motorsport world.  In 2013, it looked like Bird would be out of a drive before a last minute deal with new GP2 team Russian Time was signed, and the Brit has looked great all year.  He has won four times, in Bahrain, Monaco, Silverstone and most-recently Spa, and sits 4th in the championship at present and is definitely in championship contention.  He has impressed many up-and-down the paddock with some stunning drives.

Impressing he might be, but Sam Bird looks ever increasingly likely to miss out all-together on Formula 1.  Mercedes may have him on their books, but with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg already driving for them, he is unlikely to get a drive there.  The other Mercedes-powered outfits aren’t likely to take him on either, each of them with their own drivers to promote.  An outside bet could see him in a Williams-Mercedes next year, especially with the Toto Wolff link to the team, but even there it looks like Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas will remain there next year.

Bird 3

So what next for Sam Bird.  Does he continue to ply his trade in the GP2 or Formula Renault series’, or does he move on to pastures new?  Could it be move to the American IndyCar series, or possibly into the world of GT Racing?  If he does, it’ll be a shame as in my opinion and in the right team, Bird could be a championship contender in Formula One.  It’ll be a massive shame if he doesn’t get into F1, but we all know how harsh motor racing can be.

Lewis Williamson – Out to Prove Red Bull Wrong

Getting into the Red Bull Driver Development Scheme seems to have a double-edged sword – if you don’t prove yourself (and quickly) you are out of there! Just ask Brendon Hartley that, a talented New Zealander who was ditched by Red Bull in 2010 and is now rebuilding his career in GT racing and with the Mercedes F1 team.  Another driver that has seen Red Bull sponsorship come and go is former McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner Lewis Williamson, who was given five (yes, only five) races to prove himself in a brand new team in Formula Renault 3.5 back in 2012.

Autosport International 2012

The 23 Year Old Scot began his single seater career back in 2008 driving for the Highland Arena Ltd team in the British Formula Renault 2.0 Winter Series, scoring two podiums in the four races he competed in, finishing 6th in the final standings.  At the same time, he competed in two races in the Portuguese Formula Renault 2.0 Winter Series for the CR Scuderia team, and claimed one podium finish and 18 points, putting him fourth in the championship.  He also had a couple of races in the Formula Jedi series, winning one of them.

2009 saw him progress to a full-time entry In the British Formula Renault 2.0 series, driving for the CRS Racing outfit.  He grabbed two podium finishes in the 20 races, scoring 229 points and placing 10th in the standings.  2010 saw a much improved effort, now in the Manor Competition team, winning 5 times, finishing on the podium an additional 5 times, and finishing a close second in the standings behind fellow Brit Tom Blomqvist.  The season saw him awarded the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award, which earned him £100,000 and a McLaren F1 test drive.

Williamson 2

After a successful end of season test in a GP3 Series car, Williamson moved to the MW Arden team in 2011, winning race 2 at Silverstone, and grabbing additional podiums, both seconds, in Valencia and the Nurburgring.  He finished 8th in the championship with 31 points.  He also book-ended his season with appearances in the Formula Renault 3.5 series with the ISR Racing team, failing to trouble the scoreboard however.

Then we get to 2012.  Signed up by Red Bull to their Driver Development Scheme, Williamson was given a drive in a newly set-up Formula Renault 3.5 series outfit – Arden Caterham.  Whereas previous Red Bull backed drivers were placed with teams already proven teams, Williamson was put in a team that struggled in pre-season testing to get a grip on the series and the car, both of which were new to them.

Williamson 4

However, despite failing to score points, the race at Spa should be highlighted.  Qualifying fourth and having a stormer of a race, a ill-timed safety car period, just as Williamson was set to hit the pitlane, cost him dearly.  Force to stay out (pit lane was closed), the team told him to use the race as a test session, which he did wonderfully in changeable conditions.  He finished first on the road, but the failure to pit meant a 60 second penalty and relegation to the low teens in classification.  He was a star that day, but he wouldn’t get any more time to show his obvious talent as he was replaced by Portuguese driver Antonio Felix da Costa for the following event.

A spokesman for Red Bull said Williamson “had not had the success everyone expected this year in the Renault 3.5 series that is seen as a direct step into Formula 1”.  Very harsh words, especially after 5 races and only 3 race weekends.  Another driver had been ditched from the Red Bull family, and his career apparently was on the rocks at only 22 years of age.  Now it was up to him to rebuild it.  However offers of drives were not far away.

He took up one of the offers from Status Grand Prix, and returned with them to the GP3 series for the Hockenheim races.  In the following event in Hungary he scored two fifth places, and ended the season with 11 points in 17th place in the standings.  He continues this year in GP3 with the Bamboo Engineering team, and has 22 points so far including two fourth places in Germany.  He has been competitive for most of the year, and has had some dreadful luck and unfortunate crashes throughout, noticeably when Carlos Sainz Jr shunted him out at Silverstone.  He should be higher in the championship standings than 14th.  It also should be pointed out that Bamboo are new to the series, so like in Formula Renault 3.5, the team is learning all the time.  Thankfully this time, Williamson has been given more time to help develop the car and move the team forward.

GP3 series Barcelona, Spain 10-12 May 2013

So how has the Red Bull debacle affected Lewis Williamson?  Whereas he has yet to win a race since 2011, there is no denying the obvious talent the young Brit possesses.  He has kept his head held high and hasn’t spoken out of turn, a sign of a top bloke.  I predict big things for Williamson in the next couple of years, hopefully it’ll see him progress into the GP2 series and then possibly, if all things work out, into Formula 1.  I’d love him to be the one that got away for Red Bull, I really would.