You know, you take a day off to go play golf and all hell breaks loose in the world of motor racing.
First, David Ostella of Maple is okay but his Jensen Motorsports-owned Indy Lights car is not after a huge crash Friday during testing at the Milwaukee Mile.
Take a look at the video here.
Second, it was finally – finally – confirmed Friday after several months of hints, rumours and speculation that Robert Wickens of Guelph has been officially named reserve driver for the Marussia Virgin Formula One racing team, which doesn’t mean a lot at the moment but could before the end of 2011.
A "reserve driver" is an F1 team’s designate should something happen to prevent one of the regular drivers from competing. Virgin’s drivers in 2011 are Germany’s Timo Glock and Jerome D’Ambrosio of Belgium, neither of whom has exactly set the world on fire.
Of course, the car is nothing to write home about either when compared to Red Bull-Reneault, Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes, Renault and so-on down the line.
In fact, Virgin and its two drivers have scored no points so far in 2011 and on Thursday the team fired technical director Nick Wirth following a review of the team’s progress by former Renault engineer Pat Symonds, who – you will recall – was banned from F1 by the FIA for his role in "Crashgate," in which Nelson Piquet Jr. deliberately drove into a wall at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.
In any event, that the Russian car company, Marussia Motors, owns a significant stake in Virgin and has seen fit to engineer Wickens’s ascension just as the team is apparently being reorganized would seem to bode well for the 22-year-old Canadian’s chances.
While it’s unlikely that Wickens will get into the car at the Grand Prix of Canada in Montreal next weekend (reserve drivers sometimes get to go out in a car during first practice on Grand Prix weekends), it won’t surprise anybody if either Glock or D’Ambrosio is dropped before the end of the season and the Canadian promoted.
Because when Wickens has a fast car, and it holds together, he’s one of the world’s elite racing drivers. A graduate of the Sunoco-Ron Fellows Karting Championship, Wickens won the Formula BMW-Americas championship, finished third in his one year in North American Formula Atlantic and then was runner-up in both Formula 2 and Formula GT3 in Europe.
Currently, he’s in a familar place – second in the World Series by Renault Formula 3.5. Series, although he’s just a point out of first. He’s not a crasher (which means he’s easy on equipment) and he’s as smooth as silk out on the race track.
If Virgin has designs on moving from the bottom in F1 to at least the high middle-of-the-pack in 2012, it would be best to let Wickens get his feet wet in 2011 and be able to hit the ground running next year as a driver with at least some F1 experience.
Otherwise, he’ll be right out of the box and might not be able to deliver the results the Marussia team would be looking for.
Wickens will be conducting a press conference in Montreal next Tuesday and available to Canadian media then and for the rest of the week. Hopefully, we’ll be able to find out a lot more about how he’s feeling about all this and his expectations then.
Meantime, much is being made of the fact that he’s the first Canadian to go to Montreal as part of an F1 team since Jacques Villeneuve made his last F1 appearance there in 2006 while racing for BMW-Sauber.
Now, standing in a pit wearing a set of headphones is not the same as strapping into an F1 car and bombing around the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, so I will wait to make that link.
But when the day comes that he lines up on the grid and waits for the five red lights to go out, Robert Wickens will officially become the 13th Canadian ever to race in F1.
It will be a wonderful day, indeed – when it happens.
Last, the Grand Prix of Bahrain is officially back on the 2011 calendar and will be held Oct. 30. The last race of the season will now be held in India on Dec. 11.
Okay . . .