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The second season of the FIA Formula Two Championship got underway at Silverstone this weekend, but the standard of drivers on its entry list is threatening the series' growth.

Last year, the series had names like Soucek, Wickens, Aleshin, Jousse, Bortolotti and Pavlovic. This year though, you'll struggle to find any such names. Champion Soucek has become a tester for Virgin Racing, Aleshin has returned to Formula Renault 3.5, while Wickens and Bortolotti have moved to GP3.

Two of the favourites for 2010 are second year drivers Kazim Vasiliauskas and Philipp Eng, who finished last year in 7th and 8th respectively. Other second year drivers are Nicola de Marco and Armaan Ebrahim. Expect them to remain around the midfield this year. Three Brits return from last year; Jolyon Palmer, Jack Clarke and Tom Gladdis. Between them they only managed to score a handful of points after their graduation from Formula Palmer Audi and, in Gladdis' case, Star Mazda. However, this year they look set to be regulars at the front.

Its the newcomers that really lack the quality. Euroseries 3000 Will Bratt will be up there, as will Formula Master frontrunner Sergey Afanasyev. The lack of quality is shown best though by the fact that Johan Jokinen, who failed to score in 2009's F3 Euroseries, and Dean Stoneman, who finished fourth in Formula Renault UK, are amongst the F2 frontrunners. Arriving from the back of the Formula Renault 3.5 field, Mihai Marinescu will be found in the midfield, as will Formula Renault 2.0's Benjamin Lariche and Formula Renault 1.6 champion Benjamin Bailly. Ivan Samarin comes from the Russian Formula Three Championship, but who knows who good that is?

Further at the back are FPA graduate Paul Rees, Formula Master backmarker Kelvin Snoeks, ex-A1GP driver Parthiva Sureshwaren, Polish female Natalia Kowalska and oil-funded Ricardo Texeira. Bringing up the very rear are the inexperienced 37-year-old Bulgarian Plamen Kralev and 38-year-old Indian actor Ajith Kumar.

In terms of driver quality, F2 has dropped below Formula Renault 3.5, F3 Euroseries and has been further displaced in the single-seater pecking order by GP3. Even the revised Auto GP series can boast Giorgio Pantano and other names in its original A1 GP cars. F2 really needs to sort itself out if it is to hold its own.
 
 
The 2010 Formula Three Euroseries kicks off this weekend with a round at Paul Ricard in support of the Le Mans Series. The size of its grid though has become a concern, with only 13 Dallaras taking part.

The 13 drivers are spread between just five teams, taking either two or three drivers each. Each of the teams was supposed to have five cars, but Mucke and Prema both failed to find drivers for their third cars.

One reason for this, away from the usual financial issues, is the birth of the GP3 Series. Successful F3 teams Manor and Carlin have both moved to the new series, lured by the promise of a series that is as successful as its parent, GP2, with both teams also looking to take the empty 13th slot in the Formula 1 feeder series.

GP3 is positioning itself at exactly the same level as the F3 Euroseries, but it has the draw of being a support series for F1, giving drivers a better chance to impress team bosses. The return of Formula Two last year has also contributed to the grid size issue for F3.

However, as title contender Alexander Sims has pointed out, the Euroseries line-up for 2010 has still got its quality, even if it has lost quantity. Sims lines up with teammate and Williams tester Valterri Bottas as the dominant ART, but Edoardo Mortara has stepped down from GP2 to the improving Signature team, and will hope to maintain the form that saw him win the Macau Grand Prix in Novemeber.

The question is, if the Euroseries continues to struggle, what can it do? It was formed with a merger of the French and German national championships in 2003. The German championship was replaced by the ATS F3 Cup, but there is now no F3 series in France. One option would be to merge with the German Cup and run as a German-only series. Another option would be to also have a separate series for France, but interest would probably be limited.

The Spanish F3 Championship has grown in recent years, and recently was renamed the European F3 Open. Could the Euroseries merge with this developing series? Another potential option would be to join up with Stephane Ratel's British F3 Championship.

I believe that one option could be to join all these series together to maintain a European series, but the calendar could continue to have a certain amount, say 4, races in each participating country. This would allow for the national championships to remain as, for example, smaller British teams that did not want to compete in the European events could continue to compete for a British title. This would help to keep grid numbers up, but there would still be a core of frontrunners from teams such as ART, Carlin and Signature.

For now though, the F3 Euroseries is still going, and 2010 looks set to be a good fight between Sims, Bottas and Mortara, with maybe a few others getting involved too. It does seem though, that GP3 could be one junior formula too many.
 
 
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It appears that double British Touring Car Champion Fabrizio Giovanardi could line up on the grid at Thruxton this weekend. According to Italiaracing.net, the Italian will drive the second Triple Eight Vauxhall Vectra, despite the team losing its official Vauxhall backing at the end of last season.

Giovanardi, who won the title in 2007 and 2008 for the Triple Eight-run, Vauxhall backed VX Racing squad, has been left without a drive after the manufacturer withdrew its support for Triple Eight. He had been rumoured with a switch to GM sister-brand Chevrolet and its WTCC team, but this did not come about. He was also linked with a move to the increasingly popular Superstars Series, based in Italy.

It was looking increasingly likely that Giovanardi would have to sit on the sidelines for 2010, due to the economic climate reducing the number of paid drives available. However, having announced Clio Cup champion Phil Glew last week, Triple Eight look set to announce Giovanardi in the #888 entry tomorrow. This speculation was heightened further when the offical BTCC twitter, @DunlopBTCC, announced this evening "....no news from 888 re its 'top name' driver. All should be revealed tomorrow...".

If Giovanardi does line-up with Triple Eight on Sunday, it'll provide another big name driver capable of stopping Chevrolet's Jason Plato from taking the title, following the news that reigning champion Colin Turkington would miss the beginning of the season due to a lack of funds.

Stay tuned to @Frontofthegrid for the latest.

Photo Credit: Phillip Roberts
 
 
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The 2010 British Touring Car Championship gets underway at Hampshire's Thruxton Circuit on April 4. Despite the absence of 2009 champion Colin Turkington, there is still an exciting lineup of teams and drivers. This season preview takes you through the runners and riders.

Silverline Chevrolet - Chevrolet Cruze
Chevrolet enters the BTCC as a full manufacturer entry, with Cruzes built and run by RML for the world championship. 2001 champion Jason Plato remains with the team, while teenager Alex MacDowall joins from the Clio Cup. Plato begins as the title favourite, while MacDowall will be a regular in the top eight or so.

Team Honda - Honda Civic
Honda UK puts its weight behind Team Dynamics, with major modifications made to the Civic. Matt Neal returns to his family team, while Gordon Shedden returns having been dropped after the first round of 2009. Neal will push Plato for the title, while Shedden will take race victories in support.

Airwaves BMW - BMW 320si E90
Motorbase aim for the title after taking their first wins last year. Mat Jackson, who finished runner-up in his own privately-run BMW in 2008, moves to the team, and is joined by the returning Steven Kane, who beat teammate Rob Collard in his first year in touring cars in 2008. Jackson will lead BMW attack, while Kane will also win races.

WSR - BMW 320si E90
Due to having no title sponsor, there is no Colin Turkington, for now, and team could lose inter-BMW fight with Airwaves, despite taking their team leader Rob Collard. Andy Neate, a director of team sponsor Ceravision, moves to the series after recovery from life-threatening injury. Collard will win regularly, while Neate will score regular points.

Team Aon - Ford Focus ST LPG
Team made great strides forward at the end of last season, and LPG power could help them to the front. Team has a race-winning lineup in Tom Chilton and Tom Onslow-Cole. Chilton will be looking for race wins and maybe a title challenge, while Onslow-Cole has showed potential for WSR and Vauxhall.

Special Tuning UK - SEAT Leon
After running in the WTCC in association with Sunred, Tom Boardman's team moves to the BTCC as sole SEAT entry. Boardman will be looking to regularly mix it with the bigger teams and be the best of the family-run teams.

Boulevard Team Racing - Vauxhall Astra Coupe
Martin Johnson continues in the 2001 Asta Coupe, and will be looking to add to the two top 10 results he acheived in 2009, but will run near the back most of the time.

sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Motorsport - Honda Integra
Team returns for another season with ex-Dynamics Honda Integras. Fan favourite Paul O'Neill remains with the team, while Cornish mobile phone entrepreneur John George replaces Martyn Bell, having previsouly raced his own Integra for TH Motorsport. O'Neill will mix it with the bigger teams, but George will continue to run nearer the back of the field.

Forster Motorsport - BMW 320si E90
Team steps up from racing Minis, buying two ex-Andy Priaulx WTCC-winning BMWs from Mat Jackson. Martin Depper and Arthur Forster will be looking to beat the series's usual backmarkers.

Central Group Racing - Honda Integra
New BTCC team has run driver Lea Wood in club racing as well as the Clio Cup in 2008. Like Forster drivers, Wood will be looking to beat some of the series regulars.

Pinkney Motorsport - Vauxhall Vectra
Having disappointed with Team Dynamics last year, David Pinkney races an ex-works Vauxhall Vectra for his own team. He should beat his finishing position of 17th overall from last season.

Pirtek Racing - Vauxhall Vectra
Mike Jordan returns to the BTCC as a team owner only to facilitate his son Andrew Jordan, who showed promise driving for VX Racing last year. He will be looking to score regular points and be the best of the family-run drivers.

Triple Eight Race Engineering - Vauxhall Vectra
They may have lost manufacturer backing, but Triple Eight continue in the series. Dominant 2009 Clio Cup champion Phil Glew makes his series debut for the team. The team has yet to announce a second driver, but Formula Renault champion Dean Smith tested with Glew for the team two weeks ago.

TH Motorsport - Honda Civic Type-R
Matt Hamilton returns for a full-season after making his debut at the end of 2009. He will be looking for occasional points finishes as he continues to learn touring cars in an older-style Civic.

AmD Milltek Racing.com - Volkswagen Golf Mk5
Essex-based tuning company returns Volkswagen to the BTCC having modified a Golf from the Baltic championship to BTCC rules. Company boss Shaun Hollamby's previous experience comes mainly from VW Cup racing, and will be towards the back of the field in his first year.

Predicted Order:
1. Jason Plato
2. Mat Jackson
3. Matt Neal
4. Gordon Shedden
5. Tom Chilton
6. Rob Collard
7. Steven Kane
8. Tom Onslow-Cole
9. Alex MacDowall
10. Andrew Jordan
11. Tom Boardman
12. Andy Neate
13. David Pinkney
14. Paul O'Neill
15. Phil Glew
16. Matt Hamilton
17. Martin Depper
18. John George
19. Arthur Forster
20. Lea Wood
21. Martin Johnson
22. Shaun Hollamby

Calendar
1. Thruxton - April 4
2. Rockingham - April 25
3. Brands Hatch GP - May 2
4. Oulton Park - June 6
5. Croft - June 20
6. Snetterton - August 8
7. Silverstone - August 22
8. Knockhill - September 5
9. Donington Park - September 19
10. Brands Hatch Indy - October 10

Photo Credit: Pete Mainey
 
 
2009 BTCC champion Colin Turkington (Pete Mainey)
Colin Turkington has said that he will not be able to return to the British Touring Car Championship this year and attempt to retain the title he won in 2009.

Turkington has said that he does not have the necessary funding in place to secure a drive with a team for this season, which begins at Thruxton on April 4. RAC ended their sponsorship of Colin's team West Surrey Racing at the end of 2009, and the team have failed to find a replacement. They have signed Rob Collard to drive alongside Andy Neate, Chief Technology Officer of team sponsor Ceravision. WSR boss Dick Bennetts has said he has a third BMW 320si ready for Colin, should he find the money to pay for it.

There is no doubt that motorsport is an expensive business, but for the champion not to have a drive is insane. No offence to the 'lesser' drivers in the series, but they manage to find the sponsors, so why can't Colin. Sponsoring Colin brings better value for money for brands, with the company name featuring heavily in series promotional material and TV coverage, which includes live raceday coverage of all three races on ITV4 and highlights packages on ITV1. WSR ran a three-car team at the end of last year, so Colin's car should not require any more funding than a one-car independent team nearer the back of the field. Interested firms could have been given the naming rights to Colin's car, meaning he would have been run under a different banner to Collard and Neate, a technique that is often found in other series, such as the DTM and V8 Supercars. Colin's car would continue to be part of the WSR team, and sponsoring his car would offer better value for sponsors, as it has the #1 on the door and is driven by possibly the most popular driver in the series.

Up until now, Colin and his team would have been chasing sponsors by going directly to companies. I anticipate that the media coverage of Colin's plight will show companies that Colin is desperate for backers, and that new companies will be interested in contacting him. It is important that companies are made aware of the benefits of sponsoring Colin.

In order to help generate interest, I have created a Facebook group, which aims to show to companies the interest that there is in Colin being on the 2010 grid. Colin's younger brother has already told me he is impressed with the amount of support it has received from fans. 

Both Jason Plato and Mat Jackson salvaged late sponsorship deals at the beginning of last season, having been left without drives.

Meanwhile, the rest of the BTCC grid is taking shape, ahead of the Media Day next Tuesday. I will publish my 2010 season preview next Friday. Follow @Frontofthegrid for the latest updates.

Photo Credit: Pete Mainey
 
 
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The third and final part of the F1 season preview looks at the three new teams that will make it to the grid in Bahrain.

Lotus Racing
Lotus were the last of the new teams to get an entry, yet thanks to some experienced personnel and strong management they look like they will be the quickest of the new teams.

18. Jarno Trulli
After moving from Toyota, Trulli's experience will be of great help to Lotus, as will his qualifying pace, as they attempt to mix it with the rest of the field. Expect occasional points later in the season. Prediction: 19th

19. Heikki Kovalainen
Heikki joins Lotus from McLaren, where he was in the shadow of Lewis Hamilton. An interesting battle could form between Kovalainen and Trulli while they try to develop the T127. Prediction: 20th

HRT F1 Team
Campos team was saved at the last minute by its majority shareholder and renamed HRT F1. The car won't run until free practice in Bahrain, but it is built by Dallara and has a driver pairing wanting to impress.

20. Karun Chandhok
Has a bit of F1 mileage from a Red Bull test in 2007, but otherwise 2010 will be very much a learning year for the Indian. If he impresses he could be a prospect for a bigger team as F1 goes to India in 2011. Prediction: 24th

21. Bruno Senna
Will want to show he deserves to be in F1 on talent alone, but it will be very difficult to prove himself in a car that will be at the back of the field. He will be pleased just to be on the grid having been racing in sportscars in 2009. Prediction: 23rd

Virgin Racing
The team has had reliability issues in testing, and a lot has been made of its CFD-designed car, but the team has pedigree from Manor Motorsport. They also have a strong driver lineup who will aid development.

24. Timo Glock
He took the decision to move to a new team rather than an established one for 2010, but can do a good job of leading the team as they develop during their first year. Prediction: 21st

25. Lucas di Grassi
He was a regular frontrunner in GP2, despite not winning the series. He has good F1 mileage from his days testing with Renault and has worked with team principal John Booth before in F3. Prediction: 22nd

Stay tuned to the Front of the Grid and its Twitter page throughout the season for news, opinion and analysis.

Photo Credits: LestaBruno Senna and Slitz
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Continuing our season preview, part two takes a look at the five teams set to battle in the midfield in F1 in 2010.

AT&T Williams
Williams made an improvement last year, and will aim to continue this into 2010, with a new engine partner and driver lineup. They should score podium finishes and could challenge for wins later in the year.

9. Rubens Barrichello
Rubens showed last year that he can still drive at this level, having been on the brink of leaving the sport. Provides Williams with some experience to help them move forward. Prediction: 9th

10. Nico Hulkenberg
The German gets his break in F1, and no rookie has had as much potential as Hulkenberg since Lewis Hamilton in 2007. He will begin the season learning, but could be outpacing Barrichello near the end. Prediction: 11th

Renault F1
It's all change at Renault with a new ownership structure, team principal and driver lineup, as they attempt to climb back to their former glory after a terrible 2009. There will be no ambitous targets for 2010, as they look to build for the future.

11. Robert Kubica
Kubica moves from BMW to step into the gap vacated by Alonso's departure. He was hot property until BMW lost their way last year, but will struggle to get podium finishes, certainly to begin with. Prediction: 10th

12. Vitaly Petrov
Russian steps up from GP2, where he was runner-up. He must show that he has  talent as well as money, particularly having beaten drivers like Nick Heidfeld to the seat. Prediction: 17th

Force India
The team made huge improvements last year, taking pole position at Spa. They must become more consistent in 2010, and testing has shown promise that they can mix it with the likes of Renault on a regular basis.

14. Adrian Sutil
Sutil moves into his fourth season with the Silverstone-based team, and should score regular points in 2010. He needs to be more consistent, as he is prone to getting caught up in more than his fair share of incidents. Prediction: 12th

15. Vitantonio Liuzzi
Liuzzi was given the chance to return to F1 during 2009. He must show in 2010 that he can match Sutil for speed, with young Scot Paul di Resta snapping at his heels as reserve driver. Prediction: 16th

Toro Rosso
The team must build its own car this year rather than relying on Red Bull. Its young drivers still need to build up some experience before it can challenge. Expect them to beat the new teams, but nobody else.

16. Sebastien Buemi
Buemi showed promise on occasions in 2009, and will hope to perform more regularly in 2010 and become more of a force in the midfield, although much will depend on the car. Prediction: 15th

17. Jaime Alguersuari
Thrown in at the deep end mid-season, Alguersuari proved he can keep up with the rest of the field. With more mileage under his belt he will be expected to up his game in 2010. Prediction: 18th

BMW Sauber
Despite the name, BMW has sold up, leaving Sauber to run as an independent, using BMW's money. Testing has showed that they have a fast car, but a lack of funds could see them lose the development race during the season.

22. Pedro de la Rosa
A surprise signing considering drivers like Heidfeld were available, but de la Rosa will put the team first and use his experience to help them to develop during 2010. He is getting on now though, so it will be interesting to see how quick he is. Prediction: 13th

23. Kamui Kobayashi
Kobayashi burst onto the scene at the end of 2009, showing you can be quick in F1 even if you don't crack GP2. Some of the previous Japanese drivers have been very erratic in the rookie seasons, expect the same from Kobayashi. Prediction: 14th

The third and final part of the season preview looks at the new teams.

Photo Credit: Slitz
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Until very recently, the English Football Premier League has been dominated by 'the big four', Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. It now seems that Formula One, for 2010 at least, will be led by four frontrunning teams. In the first of a three-part season preview, we take a look at the drivers competing for the title.

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
McLaren will be looking to return to their former glory after a difficult 2009 season. It recovered well from a nightmare start. The team has looked more promising in testing, and has brought in world champion Jenson Button to replace Heikki Kovalainen.

1. Jenson Button
In order to retain his crown, Jenson will have to beat his teammate, which won't be easy seeing as he is the newcomer into the team. He will be consistent, but could lack the outright speed to keep his title. Prediction: 4th

2. Lewis Hamilon
Lewis was proud of the way he and the team bounced back from the poor start to 2009 to take two victories before the end of the season, and will have improved as a driver as a result. The fact that Lewis is settled in at McLaren will give him an advantage. Prediction: 1st

Mercedes GP Petronas
Mercedes has bought last year's championship winning team Brawn GP, giving it the much needed investment to proceed. Theoretically there should be no reason why it can't retain its titles, despite a change of drivers, but the competition has raised the bar.

3. Michael Schumacher
What do I say? As much as it's nice to see Schumacher back, he will have to work hard to return to his winning ways, with the level of competition having improved considerably since his retirement. Prediction: 5th

4. Nico Rosberg
Rosberg has always been expected to replace Barrichello at Brawn, but wouldn't have expected to be overshadowed by a fellow German. Nonetheless, it is a step up from Williams and has the opportunity to fulfill his potential. Prediction: 8th

Red Bull Racing
The team made great strides last year, being the only team to consistently challenge Brawn. This year, Red Bull will be looking to take the championship crown and cement their position as a leading team. They are the only team with an unchanged driver line-up from this time last year.

5. Sebastian Vettel
The young German showed last year that he is one of the best drivers out there. This year the target from the start will be to win the title. He has gained experience and should be right there at the end of the season. Prediction: 3rd

6. Mark Webber
Webber finally won races last year, but this year he must make a quick start or risk becoming support for his younger teammate. Is he on the same level as the Alonsos, Hamiltons and Massas? Prediction: 7th

Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
Ferrari gave up on 2009 after a poor start, in order to gain an advantage for 2010, and so it must show this on the track and win races from the off. People will be looking to see how the Alonso-Massa pairing will work.

7. Felipe Massa
Felipe showed himself to be faster than his old teammate Raikkonen in 2008 and the start of 2009, before he was taken out of action by his Hungary accident. His primary concern at the start of the season will be getting the better of his new teammate. Prediction: 5th

8. Fernando Alonso
The man considered by many to be the best driver on the grid makes a return to a competitive car after two years spent mostly in the midfield with Renault. It looks like he has already settled well into the team. Prediction: 2nd

Part Two of the season preview will take a look at the midfield battle.

Picture Credit: Slitz
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The new HRT F1 car was presented in Murcia today
The Campos Meta team has been renamed HRT (Hispania Racing Team) following its takeover by Jose Ramon Carabante, and has signed Indian Karun Chandhok to partner Bruno Senna. The pair raced together at iSport in GP2 in 2008.

The team was launched today at an event in Murcia, with the Dallara-built car also being shown for the first time. The first time that the car will run will be in free practice at Bahrain next Friday.

Chandhok, who has spent the last three years in GP2, will be the second Indian to race in F1, after Narain Karthikeyan raced for Jordan in 2005. He had been widely tipped as a future driver for Force India. It is unclear why Chandhok had not been signed by Force India, particulalry as he must bring money in order to be signed by HRT. Having Chandhok as part of the team would give Force India added exposure back home, ahead of the first Indian GP in 2011. Team owner Vijay Mallya had previously said that he did not feel there was an Indian driver ready for F1.

It will be hard to see HRT as being anything other than backmarkers in 2010 due to their lack of testing, but Dallara are an experienced single-seater constructor and team principal Colin Kolles has good experience of running a team at the lower end of the grid.

Photo Credit: Bruno Senna
 
 
The FIA published the final entry list for the 2010 season yesterday, with both failed entrant US F1 Team and aspiring team Stefan GP absent from the list, meaning neither will compete in 2010.

According to team boss Ken Anderson, US F1 was on schedule with the building of its car mid-January, when a sponsor failed with payment. They have applied with the FIA to have its entry deferred to 2011. Gaining an automatic entry for 2011 is an unlikely prospect having broken their promises that they would make it for 2010. They will apply for an entry for 2011, although thinking they will be accepted will be very optimistic, unless there is a major change in their entry.

Stefan had cars ready and would have been ready for Bahrain. However, the FIA was right not to let them race, having dismissed their entry back in June. Allowing them an entry at this late stage would set a nasty precedent, where aspiring teams would build cars and gather a team ready to race, despite not having been accepted an entry. They will no doubt enter for 2011, and will be ready to go with their cars needing only a few modifications. Provided they can secure a tyre supply in the meantime, they can go testing throughout 2010.

Anderson confirmed that US F1 were in talks with Stefan about trying to get to Bahrain. In the short term a merger between the two outfits, the team with an entry and the team with a car, would have been great for both parties, as it would have seen them on the grid, in whatever state, in Bahrain. There would have been conflicts in the future, for example when deciding where to build the 2011 car. Both have now been left without an entry, and in the case of US F1, it looks highly unlikely they will ever get one.