2012 GP2 preview: Biggest ever season for F1’s feeder series

GP2

Giedo van der Garde, Caterham, GP2, 2012Last year two GP2 drivers earned the chance to race in F1.

Who will follow in the footsteps of Romain Grosjean and Charles Pic in 2012?

Drivers to watch

At least two drivers can consider this their ‘must-win’ years in GP2. Davide Valsecchi and Giedo van der Garde are heading into their fifth and fourth seasons respectively at this level.

Valsecchi has joined DAMS, who won the title last year with Grosjean. Meanwhile van der Garde has taken Valsecchi’s place at Caterham, which competed as Team AirAsia last year.

Success in GP2 often serves as a ticket to F1 but not if you take too long to put your name on a trophy – as Giorgio Pantano learned the hard way.

Valsecchi’s team mate is reigning British Formula Three champion Felipe Nasr. The Brazilian driver impressed in the Daytona 24 Hours in January and is definitely one to keep an eye on.

ART have become Lotus GP over the winter and have a very exciting line-up. James Calado has been promoted to their GP2 squad despite being beaten to the GP3 crown by team mate (and Williams test driver) Valtteri Bottas last year.

2012 GP2 driversHe partners Sauber reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez who impressed in his first season of GP2 last year despite some poor luck.

A pair of third-year drivers also looking to make title tilts are Fabio Leimer, who’s moved to Racing Engineering, and Marcus Ericsson, who remains at iSport.

Keep an eye also on Coloni’s promising Stefano Coletti, who won twice last year and tested for Toro Rosso.

But the presence of drivers like Ricardo Teixeira and Rodolfo Gonzalez, who have consistently failed to perform at this level does not reflect well on GP2. Especially while the likes of F3 Euro Series champion Roberto Mehri and Macau Grand Prix winner Daniel Juncadella ply their trade elsewhere,

The loss of top drivers like Jules Bianchi and Sam Bird to Formula Renault 3.5 further damages GP2’s claim to be F1’s foremost feeder series. But this is still one of the best places to see the stars of the future in action.

2012 GP2 drivers

Team Driver 1 Driver 2
Addax Johnny Cecotto Josef Kral
DAMS Davide Valsecchi Felipe Nasr
Racing Engineering Fabio Leimer Nathanael Berthon
iSport Marcus Ericsson Jolyon Palmer
Lotus GP James Calado Esteban Gutierrez
Caterham Rodolfo Gonzalez Giedo van der Garde
Coloni Stefano Coletti Fabio Onidi
Trident Stephane Richelmi Julian Leal
Venezuela GP Lazarus Fabrizio Crestani Giancarlo Serenelli
Rapax Ricardo Teixeira Tom Dillmann
Arden Simon Trummer Luiz Razia
Ocean Jon Lancaster Nigel Melker
Carlin Max Chilton Rio Haryanto

Teams changes

Super Nova have dropped out of the series and their place has been taken by newcomers Venezuela GP Lazarus.

The resolution of the Lotus naming row has had an effect on GP2 as well.

Lotus GP, which was called ART last year and raced in green and yellow, are now black and gold, matching their Formula 1 counterparts. That leaves Caterham using green and yellow, the same as their F1 sister team.

2012 GP2 calendar

Round Race Circuit Date
1 Malaysia Sepang International Circuit March 23rd-25th
2 Bahrain Bahrain International Circuit April 20th-22nd
3 Bahrain Bahrain International Circuit April 26th-28th
4 Spain Circuit de Catalunya May 11-13th
5 Monaco Monte-Carlo May 24-26th
6 Europe Valencia June 22nd-24th
7 Britain Silverstone July 6-8th
8 Germany Hockenheimring July 20th-22nd
9 Hungary Hungaroring July 27-29th
10 Belgium Spa-Francorchamps August 31st-September 2nd
11 Italy Monza September 7-9th
12 Singapore Marina Bay September 21st-23rd

The 24-race calendar is the biggest ever for GP2. Following the demise of GP2 Asia, the series sports an expanded calendar this year with races in Malaysia, Bahrain and Singapore.

While this promises to offer better preparation for aspiring F1 drivers, it has also placed an added financial burden on teams.

After supporting the F1 race weekend in Bahrain the teams will remain at the track for another week for a further two races, which will be their only standalone race meeting of the year.

Rules changes for 2012

GP2 is heading into the second season with the current version of its chassis. But while the cars remain the same, there have been some significant other rules changes.

Drivers will have to manage their tyre allocations during race weekends just as F1 drivers do. They will have three sets of harder tyres and one set of softer tyres for the whole weekend.

The rules require them to make a pit stop in the longer feature race and use the harder tyres in the sprint race.

The points system has also been revised for 2012 as follows:

Position Feature race Sprint race
1 25 15
2 18 12
3 15 10
4 12 8
5 10 6
6 8 4
7 6 2
8 4 1
9 2 -
10 1 -
Pole position: 4 points; Fastest lap: 2 points (per race)

Spotters guide

Pictures of all the teams’ liveries:

Following GP2

You can follow GP2 on F1 Fanatic Live during the races this year.

We also have a dedicated group and forum for GP2 fans:

And you can find a list of GP2 drivers and teams on Twitter here:

In the UK, GP2 will be broadcast live on the Sky Sports F1 channel in 2012.

GP2 in 2012: Your view

Who’s your tip for the GP2 title this year? Which of the drivers looks worthy of a place in F1?

Have your say in the comments.

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32 comments on 2012 GP2 preview: Biggest ever season for F1’s feeder series

  1. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 22nd March 2012, 9:14

    Valsecchi’s team mate is reigning British Formula Three champion Felipe Nasr. The Brazilian driver impressed in the Daytona 24 Hours in January and is definitely one to keep an eye on.

    I’d say his British F3 performances with Carlin last year were more impressive – seven wins, eight podiums, and only three races where he failed to score a point. He beat Kevin Magnussen by 318 points to 237. He didn’t quite dominate the way Jean-Eric Vergne did in 2010, but he’s certainly on a par with the likes of Jaime Alguersuari and Daniel Ricciardo. I think that if anybody is going to do what Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg did and win the GP2 title in their first year, it will be Nasr. I fully expect to see him in Formula 1 in the near future, maybe as early as next year if he has a good season.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd March 2012, 9:19

      @prisoner-monkeys He has looked good so far, but for the sake of F1 commentators everywhere it might be for the best if he waits until Felipe Massa drops out of F1 before getting a seat.

    • Davros said on 22nd March 2012, 11:36

      Nasr may well win the gp2 title in the future but he won’t make a big impact in his first season.
      I find it sad that gp2 needs to copy the stupid things that f1 does (such as the wings).
      It’s also not a great line up, the fact that Merhi (someone who could make a big impact) can’t afford to be there is a real pity.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 22nd March 2012, 11:54

        I find it sad that gp2 needs to copy the stupid things that f1 does (such as the wings).

        They don’t. It’s Formula Renault 3.5 who are introducing DRS this year. GP2 is only using the Pirelli tyres.

        • davros said on 22nd March 2012, 13:02

          wide front wing, narrow rear wing, ugly cars, same points system, tyre allocation, stupidly going to places like bahrain (twice!!)…

  2. Tango (@tango) said on 22nd March 2012, 10:33

    I loved following and sometimes watching GP2 last year. I always feel it is more active and attractive than formula 3.5, but the cars are the main reason why. The gap in the field between top of the crop and backmackers was impressive considering they all have nearly the same equipment. But this year the top of the crop has disappeared. If there ever was a year for someone to win in their first GP2 season or for a midpack competitor from last year winning Ă  la Maldonado, this year’s the year. I might switch to formula 3.5, but I don’t think Eurosport shows the races in France. I do hope Coletti, Van den Garde and Valsecchi up their game, Gutierrez reveals himself, and that Nasr and the other newcommers grace us with a nice surprise. Can’t wait for their season to start anyway (as my wife says : In formula 1, drivers think twice before going for a gap, in GP2 they think after diving in a non existant gap :D).

    • claudioff (@claudioff) said on 22nd March 2012, 14:14

      Congratulations on your wife. The most I get from mine, sometimes, is “Who won?”

      • Tango (@tango) said on 22nd March 2012, 16:22

        She has become a real F1 Fanatic in her own right. (Thank you Monaco GP, GP2, Karting sessions and Morning Grand Prix). She reads the website too. So I’m not really allowed to say anything wrong on her :D. (or use one of her expressions without giving her credit).

    • PT (@pt) said on 23rd March 2012, 9:59

      I love the visual appeal of the Formula Renault 3.5 cars more because of their wide look (wide enough for its length) and those meaty slick tyres (big enough for its diminutive size) giving the appearance of a wide track race car. I hope they don’t change that wide look. For me they are the most beautiful single seaters of the current generation.

  3. Force Maikel (@force-maikel) said on 22nd March 2012, 11:16

    F1 is getting a lot of influence in GP2 aren’t they

  4. damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 22nd March 2012, 12:01

    Slightly random — but I think their chassis is already outdated. They need a new one with a stepped nose if they’re to keep with F1’s path of aesthetics…

  5. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 22nd March 2012, 12:05

    I was hoping that GP2’s expansion to include international races might be a good thing, to create more of a step between GP3 and Formula 1. Unfortunately, the only thing it seems to have done is drive the price of a seat up. This is the first year that I can recall where drivers have had individual sponsors on their cars. Take Lotus ART for instance; Gutierrez is backed by Telcel, but Calado has decals for the Racing Steps Foundation on his car. And it’s the same with every team up and down the grid. The grid is now populated by the Max Chiltons of the racing world, people who live beyond their means because they have more money than talent. I’m afraid that Formula Renault 3.5 is going to become the pre-eminent feeder series for aspiring Formula 1 drivers, if only because it keeps costs down by staying in Europe.

    It’s a shame, because if we could combine the most promising drivers from the GP2 and FR 3.5 series grids – Kral, Nasr, Calado, Gutierrez, Dillman, Trummer, Melker, Haryanto and (maybe) Berthon from GP2 alongside Magnussen, Huertas, Frijns, Korjus, Stanaway, Sorenson, Rossi, Williamson, Bird and maybe Rosenzweig – then we’d have a hyper-competitive feeder series.

  6. snowman.john (@snowman-john) said on 22nd March 2012, 12:38

    Massively excited for these races this weekend. Hoping that Sky will cover it well, bring back Charlie Webster, she was well funny when ITV4 had the rights. Sounds like it could be a close season, hoping that one or two drivers can stamp their mark though, as Jamie and Seb proved, dominance (or money) is the only way to progress up.

  7. GeeMac (@geemac) said on 22nd March 2012, 13:12

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Renault use to have a close relationship with DAMS, hence them running in the 2010 Renault “bumble-bee” colours. When the Lotus v Lotus debate started to rumble did Renault/LRGP formally switch their allegiance to ART (now Lotus GP2)? If thats’ the case, then why to DAMS still run in the bumble bee colours, because they used to run in silver, black and red.

  8. JCost (@jcost) said on 22nd March 2012, 14:30

    Ricardo Teixeira, who like me is Angolan, will probably make another unimpressive run at GP2 series…

  9. KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 22nd March 2012, 15:21

    Frankly, I’m not too excited about GP2 this year, but since every race will be on MTV3MAX here in Finland, I’m most likely going to watch it again. Let’s just hope we get some proper racing.

  10. Mikemat5150 (@mikemat5150) said on 22nd March 2012, 17:45

    Felipe Nasr really impressed in the 24 hours of Daytona. He was quick and hopefully he’ll be a good prospect in GP2

  11. Enigma (@enigma) said on 22nd March 2012, 21:05

    I’ll be supporting Lotus GP this year – awesome and incredibly talented driver line-up.

  12. Denis 68 said on 22nd March 2012, 22:24

    Davide Valsecchi is my tip to win the title. Then it will make it two GP2 Champions not to gradute to F1 the following season and both are Italians.

    No wonder there are no Italians in F1, they win junior titles and then they remain on the sidelines. Look at Mirko Bortolotti (FIA Formula 2 Champion 2011) and Kevin Ceccon (Auto GP Champion 2011) neither of them even have a drive for season 2012.

  13. verstappen (@verstappen) said on 22nd March 2012, 23:29

    Here’s to champion Giedo and runner-up Nigel!
    *nationalistic dreams*

  14. Jay Menon (@jaymenon10) said on 23rd March 2012, 0:27

    Im gonna keep a close eye on GP2 this year. Im a fan of Rio Haryanto. Saw him at the BMW Pacifics in Singapore in 2009, he was pure class, blew everyone else away at the age of 16!!

    This guy has a great future, it will be great to see a South East Asian driver make it to F1 on merit.

  15. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 23rd March 2012, 13:41

    Good to see that DAMS are still sporting their yellow and black. Ocean Racing also have a great livery.

    Unfortunately I didn’t really catch much of GP2 last year due to Eurosport being pretty useless when it came to coverage. However, new channel and new season! I will be sitting down and watching qualifying later which I’ve recorded.

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