F2 – Max Snegirev switches from F3 to Formula Two

Formula Two Images

Russia’s Max Snegirev is the latest addition to the 2011 FIA Formula Two Championship line-up after his place on the grid was confirmed today.

Snegirev moves up to F2 after competing in F3 in 2010. Max took part in all four days of the F2 winter testing at the end of 2010 and acclimatised very well, being regularly in the top ten on the time sheets. He was particularly impressive at Portimão, where he challenged for fastest time alongside experienced F2 drivers Jack Clarke, Alex Brundle and Benjamin Lariche. Read more of this post

F2 – Increased TV coverage for FIA Formula Two on Motors TV

The FIA Formula Two Championship will benefit from a significantly enhanced TV package for the 2011 season, with more than 130 hours of broadcast time as a flagship championship for the Motors TV network.

Available in 39 countries across the world but predominantly in Europe, Motors TV will show each of the 16 races live as part of a one hour program which will include a qualifying review, pre-race build up and podium and post-race interviews – placing a far heavier focus on F2 drivers than ever before.

Each event will receive major exposure and promotion across all Motors TV platforms, including their website, while each race will be shown without interruption or adverts. All races will also receive at least six full repeat screenings.

In addition, Motors TV will produce a four hour end-of-season review show, which will be screened at least six times – offering more than 130 hours of broadcast time in total, compared with just over 74 hours in 2010.

Another upgrade to F2 in 2011 is the introduction of fixed times for all races, as in Formula One, which means that the F2 races will be broadcast at regular times throughout the season, while Motors TV and Formula Two will jointly appoint a knowledgeable and permanent commentator and presenter for the 2011 season.

To supplement its coverage on Motors TV, Formula Two is working with the Performance Communications Group (PCG), an established television rights distributor, to secure wider distribution of race footage to achieve a huge global reach in key areas such as all of Europe, the Americas, India, Australia, Japan and China. PCG will produce a one hour highlights show of each F2 weekend within 72 hours of its completion.

As part of its commitment to enable F2 races to be viewed live throughout the world, every race will be broadcast live and free to air across the world on the official Formula Two website with better coverage than ever.

F2 will also be prominently featured in the weekly Motorsports Mundial program, which is delivered to 546 million households around the world.

For the first time, Formula Two will retain all rights and ownership of its footage from 2011, and is committed to providing each of its drivers with television coverage in their local area – offering compelling exposure for drivers and their sponsors.

F2 Chief Executive Jonathan Palmer said: “This is an exciting time for F2. We are delighted F2 will be one of the leading motor racing championships broadcast on Motors TV in 2011 and that the extended coverage can make F2 much closer to F1 in style of program. Motors TV is internationally acclaimed for its motorsport coverage, also broadcasting the FIA World Rally Championship, LMES and Australian V8 Supercars. For the first time F2 will have direct control on extending coverage to other countries and by also directing our own F2 program we can guarantee exposure for drivers’ sponsors, which has not previously been possible.  Finally with every race screened live on-line at www.formulatwo.com coverage will be available for all.”

F2 – Jack Clarke finishes on top at Barcelona

Jack Clarke put the seal on a fantastic F2 winter testing campaign by finishing fastest on the final day of the second test at Barcelona.

With prime conditions in the first hour of the day, Clarke made a decisive call to switch to new rubber early in the first hour of the day and it paid dividends as he stormed to a 1:37.121s. Several drivers mirrored the move and also set their best times in the first hour, although others were able to make a slight improvement when the overboost function was enabled for the final evening session.

Clarke though set the standard and finished more than half a second clear of the rest of the field, continuing his remarkable trend of finishing inside the top three in every session during the four days of winter testing at Portimão and Barcelona.

“Testing has been fantastic really,” Clarke enthused. “I feel like I have finally found the consistency and speed on new tyres, and it’s been a real confidence booster to finish inside the top three in every session. I did my time nice and early today when the track was especially good, but it was also a very good lap. The tests have certainly made F2 a very strong option for us, and if I can carry this form and intensity into a 2011 championship campaign I believe it will mark me out as an early favourite.”

Spain’s Ramón Piñeiro enjoyed an impressive showing at the Catalan circuit and ended the day second fastest after also setting his best time in the first hour of running. 2010 Italian Formula 3 Champion César Ramos meanwhile ended the day in style by topping the evening session – bettering his best time from the morning to end third fastest overall.

Behind Ramos, yesterday’s pacesetter Alex Brundle again looked strong on his return to F2 and finished fourth fastest overall despite having his best time discounted as red flags were issued moments before he crossed the line. Brundle also topped the afternoon session, and matched Ramos in setting his best time in the evening after running on old rubber during the morning.

Having joined winter testing at Barcelona, Switzerland’s Christopher Zanella impressed throughout the two days – finishing inside the top eight in every session and ending the day fifth fastest overall. Experienced F2 pilots Mihai Marinescu and Benjamin Lariche were separated by just one thousandth of a second in sixth and seventh, with 2010 Formula Palmer Audi Champion making strides in the final 30 minutes of the day to round out the top eight.

British Formula Ford racewinner Daniel Cammish finished the day ninth fastest ahead of 2010 F2 pilot Kelvin Snoeks, who only contested the morning session. Max Snegirev meanwhile edged out Thiemo Storz to finish 12th fastest, Storz bringing about the first of two red flag periods at the close of the day as he went off into the gravel on the outside of turn three.

Dominik Kraihamer was 13th fastest ahead of the day’s two new drivers, China’s Martin Qing Hua and Finland’s Jukka Honkavuori, who improved steadily throughout the day to end 14th and 15th respectively. Plamen Kralev rounded out the runners in 16th.

FIA Formula Two Championship – Barcelona – Day Two:

1. Jack Clarke, 1.37.121s
2. Ramón Piñeiro, +0.537s
3. César Ramos, +0.722s
4. Alex Brundle, +0.833s
5. Christopher Zanella, +0.847s
6. Mihai Marinescu, +0.983s
7. Benjamin Lariche, +0.984s
8. Nigel Moore, +1.182s
9. Daniel Cammish, +1.459s
10. Kelvin Snoeks, +1.591s
11. Max Snegirev, +1.751s
12. Thiemo Storz, +1.864s
13. Dominik Kraihamer, +1.927s
14. Martin Qing Hua, +1.955s
15. Jukka Honkavuori, +2.386s
16. Plamen Kralev, +3.952s

F2 – Alex Brundle storms to top at close of day one

Alex Brundle stormed to the top of the timesheets to finish as overall fastest on the opening day of winter testing at Barcelona. 

The Briton, fourth and second in the day’s earlier sessions, set his overall best with 12 minutes of the session remaining, meaning he faced an anxious wait as several drivers took turns trying to better his time.

Jack Clarke ensured a dramatic finish as he set his fastest time in the final 30 seconds of the session, going purple in sector two but ultimately falling just over a tenth of a second shy of Brundle. It was an impressive rally from the Briton, who had to be towed to the pits earlier in the session after stopping on the inside of turn ten.

Brundle however held on to end the session – and the day – fastest, marking an impressive return to F2 following a season competing in British Formula 3.

Clarke’s stoppage brought about the second red flag period of the session, after Plamen Kralev beached his car in the gravel at the exit of turn five. Both incidents came in quick succession, slightly disrupting the momentum of the session as several drivers were forced to abandon flying laps on fresh rubber.

Ramón Piñeiro was one of those caught out as the Spaniard set his best time, which would have been enough for third, moments after the red flags came out for the first time.

With Piñeiro’s time discounted, third place was claimed by the impressive Christopher Zanella on his first ever appearance in Formula Two. Zanella had actually been top of the timesheets with 18 minutes of the session remaining, and his third place finish comes after steady improvements throughout the day.

Behind Zanella, Italian Formula 3 Champion César Ramos also impressed on his F2 debut by sealing fourth spot. The Brazilian finishes the opening day of testing at Barcelona having finished inside the top six in all three sessions.

Behind Ramos, France’s Maxime Jousse continued his own good form by ending the day fifth fastest, having set the pace in the early part of the final session. 2010 pilots Mihai Marinescu – fastest in the morning session – Kelvin Snoeks and Benjamin Lariche were next, claiming sixth to eighth respectively.

Despite having his best time discounted Ramón Piñeiro finished within one second of Brundle’s benchmark in ninth, while 2010 Formula Palmer Audi Champion Nigel Moore completed the top ten, little more than one tenth of a second down the road.

FIA Formula Two Championship – Barcelona – Day One, Evening Session:

1. Alex Brundle, 1:37.722s
2 Jack Clarke, +0.180s
3 Christopher Zanella, +0.397s
4 César Ramos, +0.567s
5 Maxime Jousse, +0.658s
6 Mihai Marinescu, +0.791s
7 Kelvin Snoeks, +0.923s
8 Benjamin Lariche, +0.926s
9 Ramón Piñeiro, +0.945s
10 Nigel Moore, +1.048s
11 Thiemo Storz, +1.071s
12 Dominik Kraihamer, +1.807s
13 Max Snegirev, +1.902s
14 Daniel Cammish, +2.007s
15 Plamen Kralev, +2.874s

F2 – Clarke comes to the fore in afternoon session

Britain’s Jack Clarke returned to the top of the timesheets after a strong run in the closing stages of today’s afternoon session in Barcelona.

The Briton, who topped four of the six sessions in F2’s previous test at Portimão, rose to the fore on his 21st tour of the Catalunya circuit, recording a 1:38.247s effort which proved too good for the rest of the field.

Alex Brundle was Clarke’s closest challenger as the session drew to a close, as the Briton continued his own fine testing form to close just shy of a tenth behind Clarke in second.

Brundle’s effort demoted Benjamin Lariche into third, the Frenchman finishing little more than one hundredth of a second behind Brundle in third. 

César Ramos continues to improve during his first experience of the Williams JPH1B F2 car, and the 2010 Italian F3 Champion put in his best lap so far today to rise to fourth fastest at the session’s close. 

Ramos was the first in a gaggle of cars separated by less than three tenths of a second, as Christopher Zanella narrowly edged out this morning’s pacesetter Mihai Marinescu and fellow newcomer Daniel Cammish to claim fifth spot.

Marinescu ad Cammish were sixth and seventh respectively, while Nigel Moore and Maxime Jousse renewed their rivalry as they finished less than three hundredths of a second apart.

Moore and Jousse finished as champion and runner-up respectively in the 2010 Formula Palmer Audi Championship, and Moore retained his advantage over the Frenchman with a last gasp effort to seal eighth and demote Jousse to ninth. Dutchman Kelvin Snoeks was also in the mix, finishing one thousandth of a second behind Jousse in tenth.

While the track had completely dried during the lunchbreak, mild temperatures ensured that conditions remained tricky. César Ramos enjoyed a trip across the gravel on his opening lap, while Plamen Kralev was beached in the gravel on the outside of turn seven which brought a temporary halt to the session.

Thiemo Storz meanwhile was remarkably able to return to the running order in the closing minutes of the session, after sustaining heavy damage following a crash into the barriers in the morning.

Drivers will return to the circuit at 15:45 for a final 45 minute overboost-enabled session.

FIA Formula Two Championship – Barcelona – Day One, Afternoon Session:

1 CLARKE, Jack 1:38.247s
2 BRUNDLE, Alex +0.107s
3 LARICHE, Benjamin +0.123s
4 RAMOS, César +0.575s
5 ZANELLA, Christopher +0.911s
6 MARINESCU, Mihai +1.019s
7 CAMMISH, Daniel +1.029s
8 MOORE, Nigel +1.114s
9 JOUSSE, Maxime +1.139s
10 SNOEKS, Kelvin +1.140s
11 PIÑEIRO, Ramón +1.379s
12 SNEGIREV, Max +1.456s
13 KRAIHAMER, Dominik +1.917s
14 KRALEV, Plamen +2.529s
15 STORZ, Thiemo +3.162s

F2 – Marinescu sets the early pace in Barcelona

Mihai Marinescu edged out Jack Clarke by just eight thousandths of a second to top the timesheets after a truncated morning session in Barcelona.

The day had started with full wet conditions following overnight run, but after the first hour of running a clear dry line had emerged which prompted a move onto slicks. The track however remained treacherous, with damp patches – particularly on the kerbs and astro turf – threatening to catch drivers out.

In such tricky conditions the fight for top spot was a straight shoot out between Marinescu and Britain’s Jack Clarke, who has been extremely strong in winter testing thus far having topped four of the six sessions in the opening test at Portimão.

Ultimately Marinescu’s best time – a 1:38.647s set with seven minutes of the session remaining – was enough to seal top spot, with Clarke’s best effort an agonising eight thousandths of a second short.

Ramón Piñeiro continued his good testing form to finish third fastest, although the Spaniard – who scored a point in his debut F2 race at Valencia in September – had been top of the timesheets with ten minutes of the session remaining.

Behind him Alex Brundle was similarly impressive as he clinched fourth overall. The Briton finished inside the top six in all but one session at Portimão, and he backed up a strong run in the wet with another assured performance in the second half of the session to finish within one second of Marinescu’s benchmark.

2010 competitor Kelvin Snoeks was the last driver to dip below the 1m40s mark as he finished fifth fastest, ahead of Italian F3 Champion César Ramos – the Brazilian impressing by running inside the top five for much of the session.

France’s Maxime Jousse meanwhile enjoyed a strong opening to his prize F2 test by finishing seventh fastest, having been second after the wet first hour. Fellow newcomers Christopher Zanella, Daniel Cammish and Dominik Kraihamer looked assured throughout the morning session and rounded out the top ten.

The second hour of the session was interrupted by two incidents on track as Thiemo Storz and then Benjamin Lariche fell foul of the difficult conditions. Storz crashed heavily into the wall and will likely miss the afternoon session, while Lariche became beached in the gravel after an off at turn 11. Both drivers missed much of the dry running and finished down the order as a consequence.

FIA Formula Two Championship – Barcelona – Day One, Morning Session:

1. Mihai Marinescu, 1:36.647s
2. Jack Clarke, +0.008s
3. Ramón Piñeiro, +0.454s
4. Alex Brundle, +0.942s
5. Kelvin Snoeks, +1.177s
6. César Ramos, +1.467s
7. Maxime Jousse, +1.532s
8. Christopher Zanella, +1.570s
9. Daniel Cammish, +1.781s
10. Dominik Kraihamer, +1.842s
11. Nigel Moore, +2.235s
12. Plamen Kralev, +2.437s
13. Max Snegirev, +2.466s
14. Benjamin Lariche, +6.294s
15. Thiemo Storz, +18.007s

F2 – Lariche elated to finish fastest

France’s Benjamin Lariche insists his surge to the top of the timesheets in the final session in Portugal has left him full of confidence ahead of the series’ next test at Barcelona in less than a week.

Lariche finished inside the top four in every session at Portimão, but timed his final run to perfection as he displaced long-term pacesetter Jack Clarke to finish fastest after two days of testing.

“It’s good for the confidence to feel fastest,” Lariche admitted afterward. “After one year I feel comfortable in the F2 car, but the test helps because it gives you more time to analyse the data and try things on the car.

“The overall time wasn’t that important from today, because it was quite cold by the end and it was the first time some drivers had been in the car. To be fastest is the most important thing though and after two days I set the fastest time against guys like (Antonio Felix) da Costa and (Jolyon) Palmer, so I feel good.

“Hopefully now I can do the same at Barcelona – I know the track because I raced there in Formula Renault Eurocup, so I hope to get another good result there!”

F2 – Lariche storms to F2 record in the Algarve

Benjamin Lariche stormed to the top of the timesheets in the final test session in Portimão, setting a record pace despite cooling conditions around the 4.6km circuit.

Lariche’s best effort, a scintillating 1:34.619s effort, came in the final ten minutes of the session as Lariche, Alex Brundle and Jack Clarke battled for overall honours. Despite falling temperatures Benjamin finished more than five tenths faster than the overall best set in qualifying when F2 visited the track in July this year.

FIA Formula Two Championship – Portimão – Day Two, Evening Session:

1. Lariche, Benjamin 1:34.619s
2. Brundle, Alex +0.103s
3. Clarke, Jack +0.166s
4. Piñeiro, Ramón +0.395s
5. Palmer, Jolyon +0.497s
6. Snegirev, Max +1.023s
7. Mac, Mikkel +1.080s
8. Mendez, Bruno +1.146s
9. Storz, Thiemo +1.476s
10. Alonso Liste, Jose +1.483s
11. Negrão, André +1.611s
12. Kralev, Plamen +1.819s

F2 – Day two Clarke maintains advantage in Portugal

A rampant Jack Clarke topped the timesheets for the third consecutive session in Portugal, although the Briton had to see off scintillating challenges from Alex Brundle and Benjamin Lariche, both of whom finished within six hundredths of a second of his ultimate benchmark.

The pattern of the session was established early on as Clarke was the first driver to dip under the 1m35s bracket, with Alex Brundle proving his main competition in the early stages.

While the track conditions for once remained relatively constant, the advent of fresh rubber brought a new surge in laptimes and Benjamin Lariche profited as he dropped to a 1:35.219s effort on just his 12th tour of the track – the Frenchman’s sector one time remaining the best of any driver during the session.

Clarke was not to be denied however and responded to move just over five hundredths of a second clear of Lariche, while Brundle also mounted a late charge but fell agonisingly short of top spot – instead separating Clarke and Lariche, just 0.016s off the top.

Despite not using overboost during the session, remarkably both Clarke and Brundle’s times are faster than the ultimate best set by Jolyon Palmer in second qualifying when the series visited the circuit in July.

FIA Formula Two Championship – Portimão – Day Two, Afternoon Session:

1. Clarke, Jack 1:35.164s
2. Brundle, Alex +0.016s
3. Lariche, Benjamin +0.055s
4. Snegirev, Max +0.478s
5. Palmer, Jolyon +0.524s
6. Piñeiro, Ramón +0.719s
7. Storz, Thiemo +0.931s
8. Mendez, Bruno +0.996s
9. Kowalska, Natalia +1.341s
10. Mac, Mikkel +1.372s
11. Alonso Liste, Jose +1.444s
12. Negrão, André +1.677s
13. Kralev, Plamen +2.096s

F2 – Day two and Clarke marches on in Portimão

Jack Clarke topped the timesheets for the third time in four session following day two’s morning session at the Algarve circuit in Portugal.

Clarke, who recorded his maiden F2 podium at the track during his 2010 championship campaign, was in imperious form during yesterday’s running and carried his momentum on to make the perfect start to the final day of testing in Portugal.

He was pushed incredibly hard by Benjamin Lariche however, with the Frenchman eventually finishing just one hundredth of a second behind Clarke in second. Lariche too has previous form at the circuit, having qualified fifth here – his second best performance of the season.

The margin between the lead pair could have been even closer, only for Clarke to extend his advanateg by the narrowest of margins on his final tour of the track, which turned out to also be the last lap of the session.

Ramón Piñeiro was in impressive form in the early session, and sat at the top of the timesheets at the halfway stage of the session. He dropped down the order slightly as the session progressed and the track yielded increasing performance, but a late surge in the final minutes helped him to finish third fastest, little more than one tenth of a second behind Clarke.

Piñeiro’s late effort demoted Jolyon Palmer into fourth, the Briton having run inside the top three for the majority of the session. His best effort was within a quarter of a second of Clarke’s benchmark.

Thiemo Storz opted to only complete 18 laps in the morning, the least of any driver, but the German was again impressive as he recorded the fifth fastest time of the morning.

Behind him, Alex Brundle was sixth fastest as he reacclimatises to the Williams JPH1B F2 car following a campaign in the series in 2009. Brundle had been second fastest at the halfway stage of the session, but like Piñeiro dropped back a little as the track improved toward the end of the morning’s running.

André Negrão meanwhile built upon a steady opening day by claiming the seventh fastest time, the Brazilian finishing within one second of Clarke’s ultimate best. Impressively, his time was faster than his final efforts in yesterday’s overboost-enabled session.

Natalia Kowalska finished fractionally more than one second off Clarke’s best in eighth, ahead of fellow 2010 championship contender Plamen Kralev – the Bulgarian finding almost eight tenths of a second on his final tour of the track to jump into ninth. Max Snegirev was demoted to tenth as a result, finishing less than three hundredths of a second down the road.

Mikkel Mac and Jose Alonso Liste both joined the test for today, and it was Mac who eventually emerged fastest of the pair as he claimed 11th spot, 11 thousandths of a second ahead of the Spaniard. Mac had one early spin to contend with, while Alonso Liste had been third fastest at the session’s halfway stage.

Bruno Mendez rounded out the day’s runners in 13th, after Nigel Moore and Adriano Buzaid were unable to attend due to adverse weather conditions. The Spaniard will have been pleased to have completed 41 laps during the morning – the most of any driver.

FIA Formula Two Championship – Portimão – Day Two, Morning Session:

1. Jack Clarke, 1:35.698s
2.Benjamin Lariche, +0.010s
3. Ramón Piñeiro, +0.177s
4. Jolyon Palmer, +0.243s
5. Thiemo Storz, +0.533s
6. Alex Brundle, +0.796s
7. André Negrão, +0.983s
8. Natalia Kowalska, +1.032s
9. Plamen Kralev, +1.246s
10. Max Snegirev, +1.273s
11. Mikkel Mac, +1.427s
12. Jose Alonso Liste, +1.438s
13. Bruno Mendez, +2.123s

F2 – Mikkel Mac and Jose Alonso Liste join day two at Portimão

Mikkel Mac and Jose Alonso Liste will add two new faces to F2’s winter testing line-up, with the pair joining for the final day of testing at the Portimão circuit in Portugal.

17-year-old Mac will take part in today’s test as part of his prize for finishing runner-up in the 2010 Formula Renault 2.0 NEC Championship, while Spain’s Jose Alonso Liste similarly receives half of his day as a prize for finishing fifth in the 2010 Formula Palmer Audi Championship.

“I just can’t wait to get behind the wheel,” Mac enthused. “I have followed the series from the start, and the car looks very fast. I am sure it will be a blast to try the car for a whole day at Portimão, and a big thank you goes out to both the NEC Cup and the Formula Two organisers in helping make my dreams come true.

“I think that (F2) is a good way to promote young drivers like myself, and I am very proud to be involved in the test. After my second place in the Formula Renault Northern European Cup in 2010, this is a fantastic prize to celebrate!”

Mac and Alonso Liste will gain their first experience of the Williams JPH1B F2 car when the first session commences at 09:20 today (3 December). The morning running will end at 12:00 local time, before the afternoon session commences at 14:00 and a final overboost-enabled run starts at 16:20. The official website will bring you full reports and times from each session.

F2 – Jack Clarke delighted by opening day pace

Jack Clarke admits he has been delighted by his pace on the opening day of testing at Portimão, after the Briton topped the timesheets in both the opening and closing sessions of the day.

Clarke, who finished his 2010 F2 campaign in style by sealing second in the final race of the season at Valencia, was fast from the outset in Portugal, opting for slicks far earlier than any other driver in tricky morning conditions – a nove which paid dividends as he finished more than three seconds clear of nay other driver.

He followed that up by finishing third fastest in the afternoon session, before returning to the top in the day’s final overboost-enabled session.

“Fastest in the morning, fastest in the afternoon, fastest overall – I can’t ask for more really!,” Clarke explained. “I’ve been right up there all day, and hopefully I can do the same tomorrow as well!

“It’s a good feeling, and its the result of hard work all winter – I’ve been working on simulators and trying to test as much as possible and preparing quite a lot for these four days so its nice to see the result of my hard work.”

Although Clarke’s pace was impressive in last year’s championship, he insists he wants to start anew if he returns to the championship in 2011.

“My pace was good last year, but I want to put that behind me really. I’m not here to finish eighth, I want to be a lot higher than that. I felt like I sussed it and was really comfortable in the car at the end, and I’ve taken that momentum and carried it into testing – the proof of which was today I think.

“F2 is definitely a strong option for me – as per usual I haven’t got a huge budget but I’ve got a lot of people helping me and I’d certainly like to do this!”

F2 – Clarke fastest at close of day one in Portimão

Jack Clarke enjoyed an excellent opening day of winter testing at Portimão by setting the fastest time of the day in the final overboost-enabled session.

Having taken his maiden F2 podium at the circuit in July, Clarke looked in good touch throughout the day and ended at the top of the timesheets in two of the day’s three sessions.

In rapidly cooling conditions at the close of the day, the Briton posted a 1:35.515s to finish more than three tenths clear of the rest of the field and ensure a perfect start to his winter testing campaign.

Behind Clarke, an inspired Alex Brundle finished the day in style by recording the second fastest lap. The Briton, who competed in F2 in 2009 before switching to F3 for this season, gradually eased himself back into the groove. He was sixth fastest in the afternoon, but improved markedly in the final 40 minute run to post the second fastest time.

That demoted this afternoon’s pace setter Benjamin Lariche into third, although the Frenchman finished within one tenth of Brundle. Having achieved his second best qualifying result of 2010 at the Portuguese circuit, Lariche was in good form throughout the day and finished inside the top four in all three sessions.

A tight battle for fourth was eventually claimed by Jolyon Palmer, the Briton edging out Germany’s Kevin Mirocha by less than four hundredths of a second. Antonio Felix da Costa also challenged for the position, but eventually had to settle for sixth fastest, little more than two hundredths of a second down the road. The Portuguese star had earlier impressed by finishing second fastest in both morning and afternoon sessions in what is his maiden experience of the Williams JPH1B F2 car.

Ramón Piñeiro enjoyed a strong final session to finish seventh fastest, little more than seven tenths of a second off Clarke’s ultimate benchmark, while fellow Formula Palmer Audi competitor Max Snegirev rounded out the top eight.

André Negrão continued to acclimatise to the F2 car on the opening day of testing and finished tenth fastest, narrowly behind experienced F2 pilot Plamen Kralev. Behind them Natalia Kowalska finished 11th, with Thiemo Storz – third and fifth fastest in the day’s opening two sessions – slipping slightly to finish the day 12th fastest.

Bruno Mendez rounded out the evening runners in 13th, with Vincent Beltoise 14th fastest overall after contesting the opening half of the day as his prize for finishing isixth in the 2010 Formula Palmer Audi Championship.

FIA Formula Two Championship – Portimão – Day One, Final Session:

1. Jack Clarke, 1:35.515s
2. Alex Brundle, +0.312s
3. Benjamin Lariche, +0.395s
4. Jolyon Palmer, +0.458s
5. Kevin Mirocha, +0.495s
6. Antonio Felix da Costa, +0.517s
7. Ramón Piñeiro, +0.787s
8. Max Snegirev, +1.146s
9. Plamen Kralev, +1.399s
10. André Negrão, +1.853s
11. Natalia Kowalska, +1.887s
12. Thiemo Storz, +2.113s
13. Bruno Mendez, +2.187s

F2 – Lariche edges out Felix da Costa in afternoon session

Benjamin Lariche set the fastest time of the day during this afternoon’s test session at Portimão, the Frenchman’s best effort – a 1:36.200s – coming in the final six minutes of running.

Clear skies and brilliant sunshine meant the circuit had completely dried following a downpour in the morning, and Lariche made the most of the dry conditions to steadily improve throughout the session before putting together a late surge to end the session on top. The Frenchman has previous form on the Algarve track, having qualified fifth for F2’s second race when the series visited in July this year.

Lariche’s late effort demoted long term frontrunner Antonio Felix da Costa into second, with the Portuguese driver eventually finishing just over two tenths shy of Lariche’s ultimate benchmark.

Felix da Costa had been one of the first drivers to dip into the 1m36s bracket during the session, but he was soon joined by the impressive Jack Clarke as the duo held a gap of more than three tenths over the rest of the field. Clarke came extremely close on several occasions to bettering Potruguese driver’s time, but eventually was forced to settle for third, four thousandths of a second behind Felix da Costa.

With ten minutes of the session remaining, Jolyon Palmer made a characteristic late surge to rise up through the order and move into fourth overall. The Briton, who took one win and two pole positions at Portimão, finished just shy of a tenth behind Clarke, and was the last driver within the 1m36s bracket.

FIA Formula Two Championship – Portimão – Day One, Afternoon Session:

1. Benjamin Lariche, 1:36.200s
2. Antonio Felix da Costa, +0.244s
3. Jack Clarke, +0.248s
4. Jolyon Palmer, +0.353s
5. Thiemo Storz, +0.899s
6. Alex Brundle, +0.948s
7. Bruno Mendez, +1.210s
8. Max Snegirev, +1.237s
9. Ramón Piñeiro, +1.302s
10. Natalia Kowalska, +1.410s
11. Kevin Mirocha, +1.417s
12. André Negrão, +1.909s
13. Plamen Kralev, +2.059s
14. Vincent Beltoise, +3.506s

F2 – Clarke takes command in opening session at Portimão

Britain’s Jack Clarke assumed total command of the opening session of winter testing at Portimão, making a bold early decision to switch to slicks which paid dividends as the circuit dried dramatically in the final few minutes.

F2’s first day of official winter testing had opened with a sudden downpour just before the track opened, which added to the effects of a heavy thunderstorm the previous evening and ensured every driver adopted a full wet set-up.

The track remained wet for almost the entire of the opening session, but a faint dry line began to emerge in the closing stages and Clarke was the first to make the decision to pit for slicks.

After a few laps generating heat in his tyres, the move paid off dramatically as he raced clear of the field – extending his advanatge relentlessly in the final five minutes as he set a succession of fastest laps to eventually finish more than three seconds clear of the rest of the field.

Antonio Felix da Costa followed Clarke’s example by switching to slicks in the final minutes, and while he wasn’t able to get them up to optimum temperature he nevertheless improved upon his previous best to end the morning second fastest.

As Clarke and Felix da Costa found huge gains by switching to slicks in the final minutes, several drivers were also able to find improvements despite remaining on wets – leading to an extremely wide range of times as many who had been running at the front for the opening two hours suddenly found themselves falling down the timesheets.

Germany’s Thiemo Storz was one such example, eventually finishing third fastest despite topping the timesheets at the one and two hour mark on what was a highly impressive debut performance in the Williams JPH1B F2 car. He was however the fastest runner on wet tyres.

Benjamin Lariche was another who dropped down the order, the Frenchman opting to come in with ten minutes remaining and falling from first to fourth as a consequence.

Behind him, Kevin Mirocha narrowly edged out 2010 championship runner-up Jolyon Palmer to seal fifth, although both drivers had enjoyed spells toward the top of the timesheets during the session.

Ramón Piñeiro also finished within one tenth of Mirocha’s ultimate best in seventh, edging out fellow FPA graduate Vincent Beltoise – who completed 39 laps, the most of any driver – by just over three tenths of a second.

Behind them Alex Brundle responded to an early crash which restricted his running by setting the ninth fastest time. The Briton had clipped the barriers at the inside of turn three in the treacherous early conditions, but was able to return to the circuit in the final minutes and duly set a succession of personal bests.

Brundle’s surge left fellow F3 competitor Max Snegirev in tenth, fractions ahead of Poland’s Natalia Kowalska and Bulgaria’s Plamen Kralev. André Negrão enjoyed a solid opening session, although he was another caught out by the circuit’s dramatic late improvement as he ended the session 13th fastest. 2009 European F3 Open Champion Bruno Mendez rounded out the runners, although the Spaniard was only able to complete 11 laps.

FIA Formula Two Championship – Portimão – Day One, Morning Session:

1. Jack Clarke, 1:40.561s
2. Antonio Felix da Costa, +3.567s
3. Thiemo Storz, +4.713s
4. Benjamin Lariche, +5.429s
5. Kevin Mirocha, +6.300s
6. Jolyon Palmer, +6.319s
7. Ramón Piñeiro, +6.371s
8. Vincent Beltoise, +6.708s
9. Alex Brundle, +7.355s
10. Max Snegirev, +7.787s
11. Natalia Kowalska, +7.820s
12. Plamen Kralev, +8.035s
13. André Negrão, +8.200s
14. Bruno Mendez, +14.746s