GP2 2011: New cars, new tyres and 26 drivers trying to reach F1

GP2

The top two drivers in GP2 last year – Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez – jumped straight into F1 this year.

Now former Renault driver Romain Grosjean has returned to the series in a bid to win the championship and propel himself back into the top flight.

But he faces strong opposition in the form of Ferrari test driver Jules Bianchi.

Drivers to watch

Romain Grosjean, DAMS, GP2, Barcelona, 2011

Romain Grosjean, DAMS, GP2, Barcelona, 2011

Romain Grosjean

Team: DAMS
Nationality: French (Swiss-born)
Age: 25
Career: F1 with Renault in 2009, 2007 F3 Euro Series champion, 2008 and 2010 GP2 Asia champion, 2010 Auto GP champion, GP2 with ART in 2008, Addax in 2009 (partial season), DAMS in 2010 (partial season)

Nothing less than the title will do for Grosjean. He was second, 12 points behind Nico H???lkenberg, when he abandoned his 2009 campaign to join Renault.

He’s started off in the best way possible by winning the GP2 Asia series for the second time, though this year’s championship was reduced to just four races due to the impossibility of racing in Bahrain.

Jules Bianchi, ART, GP2, Barcelona, 2011

Jules Bianchi, ART, GP2, Barcelona, 2011

Jules Bianchi

Team: ART
Nationality: French
Age: 21
Career: 2009 F3 Euro Series champion, GP2 with ART in 2010

Bianchi is fast and well-connected. He’s on Ferrari’s driver development scheme and drove for them in the young drivers’ tests at the end of last year.

He drives for ART who have taken three out of six GP2 champions for the title. The team is co-owned by Jean Todt’s son Nicolas.

The first race of the GP2 Asia series, where Bianchi prevailed in a closely-fought battle with Grosjean, raised the prospect of a fascinating season’s racing between the two.

Sam Bird, iSport, GP2, Barcelona, 2011

Sam Bird, iSport, GP2, Barcelona, 2011

Sam Bird

Team: iSport
Nationality: British
Age: 24
Career: GP2 with ART in 2010

Bird had some poor luck in his first season of GP2 last year with ART, but ended the year four points behind team mate and fellow rookie Bianchi.

He’s moved to iSport, the team which took Timo Glock to the title in 2007.

Fabio Leimer, Rapax, GP2, Barcelona, 2011

Fabio Leimer, Rapax, GP2, Barcelona, 2011

Fabio Leimer

Team: Rapax
Nationality: Swiss
Age: 22
Career: 2009 Formula Master champion, GP2 with Ocean Racing in 2010

Leimer’s unusual career path has avoided Formula Three entirely.

But he scored his maiden GP2 win with Ocean in 2010 and has joined Rapax, who took Pastor Maldonado to the championship last year.

Giedo van der Garde, Addax, GP2, Barcelona, 2011

Giedo van der Garde, Addax, GP2, Barcelona, 2011

Giedo van der Garde

Team: Addax
Nationality: Dutch
Age: 26
Career: 2008 Formula Renault 3.5 champion, GP2 with iSport in 2009, Addax in 2010.

Giedo van der Garde heads into his third season of GP2 and his second with Addax.

But although he has experience on his side he’s placed seventh in both his previous seasons and was soundly beaten by team mate Sergio Perez last year. And that experience may count for less following the change of chassis this year.

Davide Valsecchi, Team Air Asia, GP2, Barcelona, 2011

Davide Valsecchi, Team Air Asia, GP2, Barcelona, 2011

Davide Valsecchi

Team: Air Asia
Nationality: Italian
Age: 24
Career: 2009 GP2 Asia champion

This is Valsecchi’s fourth season in GP2 and there’s only so long a driver can spend in the feeder series before being dubbed the next Giorgio Pantano.

But F1 teams have shown interest: he drove in the young drivers’ test at the end of last year and was signed by Lotus as a reserve driver.

He drove in first practice at Sepang for the team and races for their new GP2 outfit Air Asia this year.

Esteban Gutierrez, ART, GP2, Barcelona, 2011

Esteban Gutierrez, ART, GP2, Barcelona, 2011

Esteban Gutierrez

Team: ART
Nationality: Mexican
Age: 19
Career: 2008 Formula BMW Europe champion, 2010 GP3 champion

The champion of the inaugural GP3 championship makes the step up to GP2 with the team he won his title for last year.

Gutierrez is Sauber’s test driver and the opportunity of an excellent learning environment alongside Bianchi.

2011 GP2 driver line-up

At the time of writing there are two places left on the GP2 grid for 2011.

Russian Mikhail Aleshin was originally supposed to drive the second Carlin entry but dropped out after his funding fell through. There are reports he may have secured backing to do the first round this weekend.

Team Driver Driver
Rapax 1. Fabio Leimer 2. Julian Leal
Addax 3. Charles Pic 4. Giedo van der Garde
ART 5. Jules Bianchi 6. Esteban Gutierrez
Racing Engineering 7. Dani Clos 8. Christian Vietoris
iSport 9. Sam Bird 10. Marcus Ericsson
DAMS 11. Romain Grosjean 12. Pal Varhaug
Arden International 14. Josef Kral 15. Jolyon Palmer
Super Nova Racing 16. Fairuz Fauzy 17. TBA
Scuderia Coloni 18. Michael Herck 19. Davide Rigon
Trident Racing 20. Rodolfo Gonzalez 21. Stefano Coletti
Ocean Racing Technology 22. Kevin Mirocha 23. Jonny Cecotto Jnr
Carlin 24. Max Chilton 25. TBA
Team Air Asia 26. Luiz Razia 27. Davide Valsecchi

New cars, new tyres, same tracks

Max Chilton, Carlin, GP2, 2011

Max Chilton, Carlin, GP2, 2011

The departure of DPR and the arrival of new teams Carlin and Air Asia mean the championship is back to a full grid of 26 cars.

GP2 has switched to its third generation of chassis and it’s an ugly beast, with wide front wings and narrow rear wings apeing the clumsy, disproportionate look of modern F1 cars.

But the tweaked aerodynamics and the arrival of Pirelli as tyre supplier should make for some interesting racing. The cars will use the same tyres raced in F1.

The calendar remains unchanged with a pair of races supporting all nine European F1 rounds.

There are some significant livery changes, including one where a new front has opened up in the Lotus-vs-Lotus battle. Group Lotus are sponsoring ART, whose cars now race in green and yellow, similar to the Lotus F1 cars.

But the Tony Fernandes-run team also have their own GP2 outfit, Team Air Asia. They race in white and red, much as ART did last year.

GP2 champions and runners-up

Lewis Hamilton, ART, Monza, 2006

Lewis Hamilton, ART, Monza, 2006

GP2 has an excellent record of propelling new drivers into Formula 1. Of the 12 drivers to finish first or second in its first six years, 11 have progressed to F1.

Giorgio Pantano is the only one of these not to have moved into F1 after winning the title, but he had previously driven in F1 for Jordan in 2004.

Year Champion Runner-up
2005 Nico Rosberg Heikki Kovalainen
2006 Lewis Hamilton Nelson Piquet Jnr
2007 Timo Glock Lucas di Grassi
2008 Giorgio Pantano Bruno Senna
2009 Nico H???lkenberg Vitaly Petrov
2010 Pastor Maldonado Sergio Perez

Seven other GP2 drivers subsequently raced in F1: Scott Speed, Sebastien Buemi, Sakon Yamamoto, Kazuki Nakajima, Kamui Kobayashi, Karun Chandhok, Jerome d’Ambrosio.

Who’s your tip for this year’s GP2 title? Which of these drivers will be racing in F1 next year? Have your say in the comments.

Images ?? GP2 Media Service

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97 comments on GP2 2011: New cars, new tyres and 26 drivers trying to reach F1

  1. Toby said on 4th May 2011, 13:06

    As an Ericsson fan, I hope he manages to do well. 2010 was, admittedly, disappointing.

    • OEL said on 4th May 2011, 13:10

      Well, Super Nova wasn’t exacly on fire last year. Let’s hope he can re-ignite his reputation gained by winning titles in F3 and FBMW. He looked good in the Abu Dhabi this year, didn’t he?

  2. NickTheGeek said on 4th May 2011, 13:08

    Not sure if I love or hate the 2011 GP2 car.

  3. craig-o (@craig-o) said on 4th May 2011, 13:12

    Pretty sure the car is Hispania’s 2010 car…

  4. Matt Clinch said on 4th May 2011, 13:17

    make or break season for Giedo van der Garde. don’t imagine he can afford another crack of the GP2 whip… he had a strong showing in this years GP2 Asia, and he’s got Pic as a team-mate. could be his year…

  5. King Six said on 4th May 2011, 13:20

    GP2 is becoming too similar to F1, it’s not right that they should use the exact same tyres and such. It becomes boring having all these GP2 graduates jump into F1 afterwards, sometimes it’s nice to see people like Di Resta come in from DTM and such.

    Look at these cars, they’re almost identical to F1 cars save a little less complicated aerodynamics and engine. It’s just silly.

    • Toby said on 4th May 2011, 13:35

      But that’s the idea. It’s supposed to be preparing drivers for Formula One.

      • Fixy (@fixy) said on 4th May 2011, 14:51

        Going on this way there will be drivers preferring to go to GP2 instead of a low-field team.

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 4th May 2011, 20:41

          Those drivers should be sacked from their GP2 team immediately and banned from F1 for their worrying lack of ambition.

          • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 4th May 2011, 21:11

            Agreed. Any single seater competitor needs their head checking if they wouldn’t want to join even the lowest ranks of F1.

          • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 4th May 2011, 21:30

            Spend a bit more time in GP2, maybe to win the championship, or go straight to F1, be dropped after one year and spend the rest of your career in Auto GP and Superleague Formula?

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 5th May 2011, 0:02

            @Icthyes- You have a valid point, but I felt the past comments were implying that it was better to stay in GP2 winning (without actually moving up) than work your way up in F1 like numerous drivers (inc. world champions) have done.

        • Adam Tate (@adam-tate) said on 4th May 2011, 22:25

          Great point Icthyes!

          I like GP2 and think it has done wonders in support of F1, but this is at the expense of quality drivers in other series like DTM, Indycar and yes even Superleague, AutoGP, etc.

          Look at Grossjean, he got the boot, went nack to AutoGP and won, went back to GP2 Asia and won and I suspect we will see him again in F1 in the near future.

          GP2 is great, but the teams need to look at other series and a drivers record on the whole before they automatically snatch up every GP2 champion and front runner.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 3rd September 2011, 19:34

      You pulling a joke on us right? It really helps these guys to get up to F1 speed quickly. Only thing better would be some scope for car development.

  6. RIISE (@riise) said on 4th May 2011, 13:22

    I really want Grosjean to do well and get picked up by an F1 team next season. He got a bum deal with Renault and couldn’t really lay a claim as too how good he is.

    ART…Lotus? Yet the Air Asia team has a more previous ART livery. Strange.

  7. Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 4th May 2011, 13:29

    Wow, I never realised exactly how good a spring board into F1 GP2 is. Going back to the last few years of F3000 days you can add a few more, notably Alonso, Bourdais, Heidfeld, Montoya etc.

    Then again, looking at that list it’s interesting how few GP2 graduates have gone on to win races. Obviously, Alonso and Hamilton have turned out to be mega stars, and Montoya was amazing on his day, and Kovalainen sneaked a race win, but even the likes of Rosberg, Heidfeld and Glock have so far proved to be not quite good enough to win races. It’s still early days of course, the likes of Buemi, Hulkenberg and Petrov may in time prove to be top drawer drivers.

    On the other hand, consider the likes of Vettel, Kubica, Massa and Button who made it to F1 relatively recently without the help of GP2/ F3000. Perhaps Paul di Resta will be the next man to throw the rule book out the window and prove DTM is the best stepping stone? Or maybe Karthikeyan will show young drivers the potential merits of honing their skills in NASCAR trucks?!

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th May 2011, 13:39

      Here’s the top two in last six years of F3000 for comparison:

      2004: Vitantonio Liuzzi, Enrico Toccacelo
      2003: Bjorn Wirdheim, Ricardo Sperafico
      2002: Sebastien Bourdais, Giorgio Pantano
      2001: Justin Wilson, Mark Webber
      2000: Bruno Junquiera, Nicolas Minassian
      1999: Nick Heidfeld, Jason Watt

      I make that six our of 12, so clearly some way short of GP2′s current record. And clearly Pantano is a bit of an exception!

      But it’s not just about getting in, it’s staying there – four of those 11 GP2 graduates have dropped out already, though I’d be very surprised if Nico Hülkenberg doesn’t get back in soon.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 4th May 2011, 13:50

        Interesting to see how hard it is to make it stick. Then again, that shows F1 really is the top spot.

      • Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 4th May 2011, 14:11

        I think Wirdheim and Junquiera both landed a job as a reserve driver in F1 too, and Toccacello got to drive a few friday practice sessions. Maybe some of the others got a test drive too, I don’t know

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th May 2011, 14:18

          And of course we can’t have a conversation about Bjorn Wirdheim without mentioning this:

          • Fixy (@fixy) said on 4th May 2011, 14:55

            How do you add a video?

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th May 2011, 15:23

            By being me :-) Sorry!

          • kowalsky said on 4th May 2011, 15:05

            it could be the single most stupid move in motorsport history, and that’s a big statement.

          • Mouse_Nightshirt said on 4th May 2011, 15:07

            That verged on a career ending mistake.

          • Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 4th May 2011, 16:02

            Arghhhhh it’s painful just watching that!…

          • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 4th May 2011, 16:38

            Haha I love that vid.

          • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 4th May 2011, 18:14

            Wow, that’s truly painful to watch.

          • nathancabopino said on 4th May 2011, 20:02

            Wow, had not seen that before, EPIC FAIL!

            How? No really, how did he not realise where the chequered flag was, it’s in the same place all the time! And there aren’t even two lines, like a finish line, then a start line a bit further on, (a bit like Barcelona,) there’s only one line.

            Bet he was ever so slightly annoyed with himself after the race! :)

            Nathan

            P.S. Sorry about the liberal use of exclamation marks, but it is the only form of punctuation that will do here.

          • Adam Tate (@adam-tate) said on 4th May 2011, 22:29

            Wow, that’s just awful.

          • GeeMac (@geemac) said on 5th May 2011, 13:17

            That is all I will ever associate with Bjorn Wirdheim…poor fella. You have to be a pretty handy driver to perform at that level and to throw away a Monaco race win like that is enough to make you want to throw yourself off a cliff! He did win the championship that year though.

          • Maybe that was why he didn’t get to F1 ;)

        • TFLB said on 4th May 2011, 15:41

          Didn’t Junquiera have a shoot-out with Button for the Williams race seat in 2000? Or am I thinking of something else?

  8. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 4th May 2011, 13:39

    GP3 is also looking pretty good this year. I like the way both feeder series run as support to Formula 1 rather than struggle as an indepedent series the way Formula 2 and Formula 3 do. They work as a great showcase of young talent – so much so that I wouldn’t object to seeing Formula 2 and Formula 3 die out entirely to be replaced by GP2 and GP3.

    • OllieJ said on 4th May 2011, 14:07

      I’d agree with you on Formula 2, but Formula 3 in its various guises is probably the most important stepping stone to Formula 1, because it teaches drivers how to set up a car. If you drew up a list of F1 drivers I’m pretty sure all of them would have competed in F3.

    • Tim said on 4th May 2011, 14:10

      The only problem with GP2 and GP3 as they currently are is that they’re single chassis formulas. The chassis mostly stays unchanged from year to year so part of the key to success is finding a berth in the team with the best handle on chassis setup. If anything, F2 is worse because the cars are all the same and centrally run by a single organisation.

      Getting a good feel for technical and setup issues is important for up and coming drivers. That comes through best in open chassis series. In GP2, the chassis used by all drivers is generally a known quantity – the only exception being when a new car is introduced, as in 2011. Dallara usually produces a very good chassis that works out of the box and then can’t be changed, meaning minimal opportunities for setup or technical development. Then drivers who graduate often jump into an untried, untested F1 car – and if they go badly is it them or the car?

      Although F3 is admittedly dominated by Dallara, teams can and do develop their cars so that one car can be significantly different from another. There’s also the possibility of competition between manufacturers – and I’m old enough to remember when F3 was fought out between Reynard, Ralt, Dallara, Bowman, TOMS, Martin, Van Diemen and others.

      Martin Brundle recently said that his son Alex learnt more in a single weekend when he stepped back to F3 than he did in a whole year of F2.

      • Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 4th May 2011, 14:14

        I see that as a good thing though. Introducing more manufacturers would drive up costs and, more importantly, it’d be difficult to distinguish between driver talent and car performance

        • Tim said on 4th May 2011, 14:31

          The junior formulas should allow drivers to develop a range of skills, not just learning how to drive a well setup car quickly.

          Single chassis formulas have their place, but they shouldn’t make up the entire ladder. At the moment a young driver could feasibly compete in Formula Renault, GP3, F2, GP2, the WSR, Auto GP and Superleague without ever having to acquire the skills to setup or develop a car before reaching F1.

          • OllieJ said on 4th May 2011, 15:29

            A quick check shows that the only drivers who never competed in F3 were Petrov, d’Ambrosio and more surprisingly Alonso and Massa, although it makes sense when you look at their career paths

          • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 4th May 2011, 16:43

            This why I have always thought F2 to be a waste of space. If it was more like an upgrade from F3, then not only would it be a training ground for F1 drivers but also teams.

          • bananarama said on 4th May 2011, 20:59

            Raikkonen had only 23 outings in professional racing series before his F1 career. He did fine. Probably he was a rare talent but if a driver is capable then he is capable.

  9. kateafan said on 4th May 2011, 13:54

    Hoping to see Arden back to their F3000 form.

  10. Vieon (@vieon) said on 4th May 2011, 14:18

    Sorry if this seems like a silly question, but how does one go about actually watching the races? I’d really love to get into GP2 this season, but I’m not sure how to watch the races. I’m in the UK, by the way.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th May 2011, 14:19

      Eurosport show the races in the UK, some of them live. Last year they seemed to miss a lot of the feature races, which was disappointing.

      • smifaye (@smifaye) said on 4th May 2011, 14:33

        Yeah Eurosport was always a bit hit and miss, plus they repeated a lot of the races, so you need to make sure you read the description of the programme before watching otherwise you might get a repeat. I think i watched the Hockenheim race 3 times!

      • TFLB said on 4th May 2011, 15:46

        I hate how Eurosport neglect GP2. They sometimes show repeats of programmes instead of live GP2. What’s the point? Also, I think during the 2009-10 Asia series, they put another programme on when they said the race would be shown live then suddenly cut to the race about half way through. The BBC should have got GP2 along with F1 and shown it on the red button.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th May 2011, 15:57

          I had a conversation with one of the British Eurosport reps about this last year. It’s to do with them having to sync up with the European broadcast. Apparently sometimes the European channel is showing something else live which isn’t on the British channel, and if that overruns it means the European channel isn’t showing the GP2 live, which in turn means the British channel can’t show it.

          And they usually show some dreadful low quality blooper reel-type programme on British Eurosport while they wait to be able to put the GP2 on, which makes it all the more frustrating.

          It’s not a very satisfying explanation. Other channels use online broadcasting and the ‘red button’ to show extra programming, so Eurosport really should be able to come up with a better solution.

          Hopefully they won’t have these problems this year.

          • S.J.M (@sjm) said on 4th May 2011, 18:47

            Eurosport is very hit-miss. I saw that they had the British F3 on the other day and when i put it on, its some other kind of racing on, but still listed as F3. But when they do show the races its not that bad, but luckily they do show all the Le Man 24hrs, abeit it involves some channal swapping between their channals (bit like Wimbledon on BBC)

  11. smifaye (@smifaye) said on 4th May 2011, 14:38

    This is an interesting page to look at if you want to compare the feeder series:

    Formula 2 website

    It’s interesting to see that in Formula 2 you get almost 4 hours of track time and is an awful lot cheaper than GP2. There aren’t as many obvious links with F1 in Formula 2, but there is Williams putting money into it.

    I’m looking forward to the GP2 season as the Asia series showed some good promise of a battle at the front of the pack with Grosjean and Bianchi. I really hope Grosjean gets out of GP2 because it would be good for his career and also good for GP2 so we see other drivers at the front – not that he is neccesarily going to dominate.

    • Adam Tate (@adam-tate) said on 4th May 2011, 22:34

      Could pumping a lot of their money and resources into F2 be part of the reason Williams in struggling so much in F1 this season?

      It’s something I had not thought of before. What are your thoughts on this Keith? Everyone?

  12. KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 4th May 2011, 14:54

    I’m seriously doubting if I’ll watch GP2 this year. The four GP2 “Asia” races we had were just horrible. The new cars rely way too much on aero, and without the “gimmicks” of F1 I doubt that we’ll see much good racing this year.

    Then again, if the tyres are identical to F1 (is this a fact?), we might get some nice different strategies in the feature race.

  13. Fixy (@fixy) said on 4th May 2011, 14:58

    I think Bianchi and Grosjean will be very evenly matched, with the latter prevailing by little.

  14. kowalsky said on 4th May 2011, 15:09

    i hope bianchi delivers. Me, having started watching f1 when the grid was full of french drivers, (prost, arnoux, pironi, laffite, depallier, jabuille, etc), it’s sad to watch now, how a country with that racing heritage doesn’t have a single top driver for such a long time. I hope this changes soon.

  15. Mordred said on 4th May 2011, 15:24

    Mikhail Aleshin has confirmed that he will drive for Carlin this weekend. Just F.Y.I.

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