The GP2 championship kicks off at the Circuit de Catalunya this weekend with 26 drivers hoping to follow the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Timo Glock and Nico Rosberg into Formula 1.
But it’s not just the drivers who are looking for places in F1 – several of the teams are eyeing a step up under the 2010 budget capping regulations. Which of these names might we see in F1 next year?
Toyota test driver and recently-crowned GP2 Asia champion. Kobayashi won the GP2 sprint race at Catalunya last year but didn’t make it to the top step of the podium again throughout the year.
With a strong campaign this year he’s got to be favourite to step up to F1 with one of the Toyota-powered teams, potentially as a replacement for struggling countryman Kazuki Nakajima.
Lucas di Grassi
Championship favourite: he was strong in testing, had an excellent part-season in the GP2 last year, and was runner-up in 2007. Di Grassi drives for Racing Engineering, who took Giorgio Pantano to the title last year.
Di Grassi was dropped from Renault’s test team at the end of last year in favour of Romain Grosjean. But with Fernando Alonso tipped to join Ferrari in 2010, and question marks over Nelson Piquet Jnr’s future with the team, there could be room for di Grassi at Renault yet.
Driving for Addax, which as Campos last year won GP2′s teams title, Grosjean is another tip for the title. And, like di Grassi, he will have his eyes on a Renault drive. We could be in for a highly entertaining battle between the pair.
Williams test driver with some impressive credentials from the junior formulae. He won the F3 Euroseries last year comfortably, then in four GP2 Asia starts he took two pole positions out of two, and registered a win, a third and two fourth places.
The GP2 main series runs different chassis, so he might struggle compared to the more experienced drivers early on. But keep an eye on him to see if he manages a Sebastien Buemi-style run of improvement throughout the season, that might entice Williams into taking a punt on him sooner rather than later.
Paul Jackson, team principal at iSport, has said his team will consider F1′s new budget capping rules before deciding whether to enter the sport.
His team is running last year’s World Series by Renault champion Giedo van der Garde in GP2 this year. But an F1 effort on their part would be likely to include Bruno Senna, who was runner-up in GP2 with iSport last year.
Another team that has been linked to F1 is Addax, which is owned by Spaniard Alejandro Agag. He was linked to a take-over of Super Aguri when the team collapsed last year.
There have also been rumours about the ART team moving up to F1. It is run by Jean Todt’s son Nicolas. And last week Autosport claimed Super Nova was talking to Cosworth about an F1 engine supply.
GP2 is being broadcast on Setanta Sports in Britain this year.
Will you be watching GP2 this year? Who’s your tip for success?
For a guide to all the drivers confirmed so far see here: GP2 2009 drivers and teams in pictures
Image (C) GP2 Media Service / LAT