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. OukilF1 (@oukilf1) said on 4th May 2011, 15:30

    wasnt the Air Asia team supposed to be renamed Caterham ? :D

  2. Jonathan Wallcroft said on 4th May 2011, 16:12

    For moving up next year I think

    Grosjean as Champion
    Clos as runner up
    Bianchi as third placed driver

    also Gonzalez or Cecotto at Hrt/Williams because of the PDVSA connection

    Maybe Leal if the Colombians want to payfor him

  3. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 4th May 2011, 16:22

    I must say the Lotus livery issues spilling into other series is a little confusing. Group Lotus run Team Lotus’ livery in GP2 and Indy Cars and run Team Lotus’ other classic livery in F1. Meanwhile, Air Asia (Team Lotus) run a livery in GP2 that’s similar to one run previously by ART, which is now in partnership with Group Lotus!

  4. Bleu said on 4th May 2011, 16:37

    I can get most of the races (well not Asian series) and plan to watch this year too.

    I feel that Grosjean and Bianchi are the favourites and one of them will win the title. Pic, van der Garde, Gutierrez, Bird, Clos and Vietoris to the list who I can see winning feature races. I don’t say anything about sprints since there is reverse grid for that. Anyway I like the system which GP2 and GP3 use, because therefore top drivers learn also about racing even if they would take all the poles and wins (in the first races). The point system allows that driver doesn’t get too much advantage. 3rd in feature + 6th in sprint is same as 8th in feature + win in sprint.

  5. George (@george) said on 4th May 2011, 18:08

    I imagine the title fight will be between the ART and iSport drivers, and Romain Grosjean. I hope Grosjean takes it, he probably deserves a chance in F1 more than anyone else.

    I love his massive giraffe neck too.

  6. MattHT (@mattht) said on 4th May 2011, 19:03

    I have a bit of a soft spot for Grosjean as well actually, hope he does well.

  7. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 4th May 2011, 21:18

    Grosjean seems to really enjoy GP2. Could imagine it’s easy to be bitter given the position he was in with Renault.

    Really looking forward to GP2 starting. What a great circuit to start at also.

  8. Klon (@klon) said on 4th May 2011, 21:29

    I’m interested in Vietoris’ results, if he manages to deal with the double effort required for DTM and GP2.

  9. Hamish said on 4th May 2011, 21:34

    Well Brendan Hartley sure disappeared off the scene like a fart in the wind.

  10. StrFerrari4Ever (@strferrari4ever) said on 4th May 2011, 22:14

    I’m hoping my good friend Pal Varhaug can do well in his debut season in GP2. He has high hopes and he could be a driver to watch for.

  11. Tedster said on 4th May 2011, 22:45

    Really looking forward to what Sam Bird has to offer this season having got one season under his belt already! He put in some magnificent drives through the field last year after poor starts and misfortune and deserves to be mixing it up at the front! potentially could see him going to force india if di resta goes to mercedes!

  12. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 5th May 2011, 8:24

    Luca Filippi has been confirmed as Super Nova’s second driver.

  13. 1e58 said on 5th May 2011, 9:20

    Mikhail Aleshin confirmed on the 2nd Carlin’s seat. But only Turkey GP

  14. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 5th May 2011, 12:20

    Eurosport have supplied details of their UK GP2 coverage for the first six races:

    “We will again be showing every round of the GP2 Series on British Eurosport/British Eurosport 2.

    “Not all the races will be live but we endeavour to show at least one race live from each round, with the exception of Monaco where both races will be shown on a delayed basis.

    “Eurosport HD is a simulcast of Eurosport International, the pan-European channel which broadcasts across Europe, and the GP2 Series rights are for British Eurosport only. Therefore our GP2 coverage will not be available in high definition.

    “Timings for each round are still TBC so it’s difficult at this stage to give you an accurate schedule for the season but here are the timings for the next couple of rounds:

    Istanbul
    7 May
    1900-2000 GP2 Race 1 on BE2
    8 May
    0935-1025 LIVE GP2 Race 2 on BE1

    Barcelona
    21 May
    2200-2300 GP2 Race 1 on BE2
    22 May
    0935-1025 LIVE GP2 Race 2 on BE2

    Monaco
    27 May
    2345-0015 GP2 Race 1 on BE1
    28 May
    2045-2115 GP2 Race 2 on BE2

    “Please note that all schedules are subject to change.”

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