F1 teams’ junior drivers to battle for 2014 GP2 title

2014 GP2 season preview

Alexander Rossi, Caterham, GP2, Bahrain, 2014Once it seemed as though winning the GP2 championship, or even finishing runner-up, was a ticket to a seat in Formula One.

But that hasn’t been the case in recent seasons. Fabio Leimer and Davide Valsecchi were both spurned by teams after their GP2 title wins in the last two seasons. Valsecchi couldn’t even get Lotus to give him two races in their car at the end of last season when the opportunity arose, despite ostensibly being their third driver.

GP2 drivers who have made the transition recently did so more for the backing they brought rather than the promise they showed. But the arrival of some highly exciting new talents into the series may change that.

Ferrari, McLaren and Williams have placed the latest products of their driver development programmes in the championship, Force India are taking an interest via Hilmer and Caterham maintain a presence in the sport as well.

Even so the depth of quality in the field has been sapped by the loss of other impressive talents from recent seasons including James Calado, Tom Dillman, Sam Bird and Robin Frijns. Meanwhile other drivers who showed conspicuously less promise head into their second, third or even fourth years.

As it begins its tenth season this weekend GP2 needs to reaffirm its place as a competition between the best young stars of the future, rather than a parade of the most competent pay drivers.

Teams and drivers

RT Russian Time – 1. Mitch Evans/2. Artem Markelov

Mitch Evans – the 2012 GP3 champion – embarks on his second season in GP2 having moved to reigning champions Russian Time. Driving for Arden last year he beat proven race winning team mate Johnny Cecotto Jnr and picked up four podiums. Generally finding himself towards the top of the testing times, Evans is one to watch.

Having finished second in German Formula Three last year, Artem Markelov is making the leap to GP2. He has failed to match Evans so far in testing but the team will hoping for some solid finishes.

Carlin – 3. Felipe Nasr/4. Julian Leal

Alongside his reserve role at Williams, Felipe Nasr will embark on his third full season in GP2 and his second with Carlin. He is still looking for that elusive first victory after scoring points in 16 of the 22 races last season, including six podiums. Testing has shown he should be towards the front again this season.

Julian Leal moves to his fourth different team in as many seasons. F1 teams generally prefer drivers who attain success quickly in GP2, and he will have to produce something spectacular to get noticed. He has been close to Nasr in testing and could find himself closer to the front this year.

Racing Engineering – 5. Raffaele Marciello/6. Stefano Coletti

Raffaele Marciello, Racing Engineering, GP2, Bahrain, 2014Reigning European Formula Three champion Raffaele Marciello has the backing of Ferrari’s Driver Academy, making him one of the most anticipated rookie arrivals in the field. He takes over Leimer’s championship-winning car, so expectations will be high.

No one could have predicted the fall from grace that befell Stefano Coletti during 2013. Leading by 24 points after three wins the first eight eight races, Coletti only featured in the points once in the remaining rounds. Having moved to the team who produced the last champion he’ll be hoping to fight at the front again, but testing has been similar to his team mate – quick, but inconsistent.

DAMS – 7. Jolyon Palmer/8. Stephane Richelmi

Jolyon Palmer is another fourth-year driver in yet another different team. DAMS have produced Champions such as Romain Grosjean and Davide Valsecchi but had a lacklustre season with Marcus Ericsson last year. Palmer came on strong in 2013 with two wins, and testing has suggested he should be a championship contender.

Stephane Richelmi enters his third full season in GP2 and his second with DAMS. Richelmi took a second place in Britain and several other strong points finishes but Palmer appears to have an edge on him based on their testing pace.

ART – 9. Takuya Izawa/10. Stoffel Vandoorne

Stoffel Vandoorne, ART, GP2, Bahrain, 2014ART’s alignment with McLaren – they also run their MP4-12C GT3 cars – has led to the surprise arrival of 29-year-old Takuya Izawa in their team this year. He enjoys backing from Honda, McLaren’s future engine supplier, and has spent the last few seasons racing in Super GT and Formula Nippon with limited success.

McLaren had an embarrassment of riches in their Young Driver Programme last year as Stoffel Vandoorne finished runner-up to Kevin Magnussen in his first year of Formula Renault 3.5. Can he achieve a similar feat in GP2? Testing times have not indicated as much so far, but with access to McLaren’s impressive driver training resources expect him to make rapid progress.

Hilmer – 11. Daniel Abt/12. Facu Regalia

Daniel Abt moves to Hilmer needing to make a quantum leap forward after a disappointing debut season. While team mate James Calado won twice on his way to third in the championship, Abt only scored twice and languished down in 22nd. He has shown better pace in testing and could be a candidate for regular points finishes.

Facu Regalia also moves to Hilmer from ART, however he has come from the GP3 series, where in his first full season he was runner-up to Daniil Kvyat. He doesn’t appear to have quite got up to speed with the more powerful car just yet.

Rapax – 14. Adrian Quaife-Hobbs/15. Simon Trummer

Adrian Quaife-Hobbs will enter his second season, now with his third different team. He switched from MP to Hilmer in the middle of last year after the latter proved considerably more competitive, despite a podium and three other points finishes in the MP car. Meanwhile his Hilmer stint resulted in a further podium and a debut win in the Italian sprint race. However it has so far looked unlikely from the testing times that Quaife-Hobbs will get anywhere near that kind of performance, finding himself generally towards the back.

In his third season of GP2 Simon Trummer will not have to do much to improve on his meagre career points total of 24 to date and highest finish of sixth. So far there’s been little indication he might to do so.

Arden – 16. Rene Binder/17. Andre Negrao

Arden should represent a step forward for Rene Binder as he seeks his first podium finish. Just three points scores in 2013 left him 23rd in the championship, despite finishing every race he started. Expect another season in the midfield.

Andre Negrao is another to make his debut in the championship this season having switched from Formula Renault 3.5. In his three years in FR3.5 Negrao struggled, picking up just two podiums, however he clearly improved from year to year.

EQ8 Caterham – 18. Rio Haryanto/19. Alexander Rossi

Alexander Rossi, Caterham, GP2, Bahrain, 2014Rio Haryanto struggled in a poorly performing Addax car in 2013 with just four points finishes, despite a strong outing at Silverstone that resulted in a podium. Now with Caterham – who have looked strong in testing – Haryanto needs to prove he can be a contender.

Alexander Rossi made his debut in the Bahrain round of the championship last season for Caterham and immediately impressed with a podium finish. A proven race-winner in GP3, Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2, and with close ties to the Caterham F1 team by being their test and reserve driver, Rossi must be hoping to claim the title and stake a claim to a place in F1. His lap times were positive in both tests and if the Bahrain session was anything to go by it may well be Haryanto vs Rossi in the opening round – they were four tenths clear of their nearest rivals, an unusual margin for a GP2 field.

MP Motorsport – 20. Daniel de Jong/21. Jon Lancaster

Daniel de Jong remains with MP for a second full season. He has scored just twice in GP2 so far and so far it seems the best he might hope for this year is a few more points finishes.

Jon Lancaster showed considerably more promise in the other MP car during testing. Not having a contract may have spurred him on but Lancaster was easily consistently the best during testing, finishing third in Abu Dhabi and fourth in Bahrain. He has an opportunity to build upon the two wins already to his name and make a bid for the title.

Trident – 22. Axcil Jefferies/23. Johnny Cecotto

Like Lancaster, Axcil Jefferies was another who tested without having a contract but was confirmed early on Wednesday morning to be driving the Trident car in Bahrain. Finding him at the bottom of the testing timesheets is no surprise given his lack of previous experience, and it will be a tough year and a steep learning curve for Jefferies, who is Zimbabwe’s first driver at this level of motorsport.

Alongside him will be Johnny Cecotto Jnr, whose name has all-too-often been mentioned in exasperated terms while describing his latest driving standards violation. Last year’s escapades included running Sam Bird off the road during Malaysia qualifying and being excluded from the Monaco sprint race after causing a 14 car pile-up at turn one during the feature event. Not unlike countryman Pastor Maldonado, Cecotto has interspersed his woeful moments at the wheel with impressive turns of speed. His dominant 2012 Monaco victory is one example, and testing gave some hope we might see more of the ‘quick Cecotto’ and less of ‘liability Cecotto’ this year.

Venezuela GP Lazarus – 24. Nathanael Berthon/25. Conor Daly

Nathanael Berthon impressed in his debut season taking two podiums for Racing Engineering but struggled for Trident last year, scoring just twice. A switch to Venezuela GP hardly promises to be a significant step fowards.

Conor Daly was the third driver to run in testing without a contract and like Lancaster it was confirmed at the 11th hour he will race in Bahrain. Daly drove in the opening round only last season for Hilmer – scoring two points – before returning to GP3. A debut season with Lazarus probably won’t yield the results he wants but gives him an opportunity to potentially outshine the car and get himself noticed.

Campos – 26. Arthur Pic/27. Kimiya Sato

Campos make a return to the series after taking the team back from Addax – who took it over in 2008 – after the latter quit the sport following five seasons of mixed fortunes. Arthur Pic – younger brother of Lotus F1 test driver Charles – makes his GP2 debut following three adequate seasons in Formula Renault 3.5 in which he took a win and two further podiums.

There’s another familiar surname in the second car, but Kimiya Sato is no relation to Formula One turned IndyCar racer Takuma. Sato raced in the Auto GP World Series in 2013 finishing runner-up to Vittorio Ghirelli. Like his team mate Sato has been in the midfield and towards the back during testing leaving everyone guessing as to where Campos will end up on their return.

Spotter’s guide

Calendar

GP2 will follow Formula One in racing in Austria and Russia’s new street circuit this season. However these new rounds come at the expense at the Malaysian and Singapore rounds of the championship.

Rule changes

2013 was set to be the final year that GP2 used the Dallara GP2/11 chassis following the end of it’s three year cycle after it was brought in at the start of 2011. Series organisers have instead decided to keep it for another three year cycle however in order to cut costs.

The second and slightly more significant change – brought about to better prepare drivers for Formula One – is regarding the tyres. Drivers must now use both the ‘prime’ and the ‘option’ during the feature race whereas in previous seasons drivers had been allowed to use the compounds whenever they liked.

Testing Times

Abu Dhabi

Pos Driver Team Best Time Gap Laps
1 Jolyon Palmer DAMS 1:49.126 152
2 Mitch Evans RT Russian Time 1:49.292 +0.166 121
3 Jon Lancaster* MP Motorsport 1:49.653 +0.527 125
4 Stephane Richelmi DAMS 1:49.756 +0.630 157
5 Daniel Abt Hilmer 1:49.777 +0.651 126
6 Stoffel Vandoorne ART 1:49.790 +0.664 174
7 Johnny Cecotto Trident 1:49.880 +0.754 105
8 Felipe Nasr Carlin 1:49.896 +0.770 151
9 Stefano Coletti Racing Engineering 1:49.963 +0.837 134
10 Alexander Rossi EQ8 Caterham 1:50.018 +0.892 177
11 Arthur Pic Campos 1:50.204 +1.078 143
12 Takuya Izawa ART 1:50.219 +1.093 183
13 Andre Negrao Arden 1:50.241 +1.115 129
14 Rio Haryanto EQ8 Caterham 1:50.256 +1.130 167
15 Raffaele Marciello Racing Engineering 1:50.261 +1.135 162
16 Daniel de Jong MP Motorsport 1:50.265 +1.139 75
17 Facu Regalia Hilmer 1:50.289 +1.163 121
18 Rene Binder Arden 1:50.496 +1.370 127
19 Julian Leal Carlin 1:50.541 +1.415 135
20 Kimiya Sato Campos 1:50.748 +1.622 162
21 Artem Markelov RT Russian Time 1:50.925 +1.799 159
22 Conor Daly* Venezuela GP Lazarus 1:50.933 +1.807 76
23 Nathanael Berthon Venezuela GP Lazarus 1:51.026 +1.900 91
24 Simon Trummer Rapax 1:51.043 +1.917 130
25 Axcil Jefferies* Trident 1:51.300 +2.174 131
26 Adrian Quaife-Hobbs Rapax 1:51.401 +2.275 110

*Not signed to a team at the time of the test.

Bahrain

Pos Driver Team Best Time Gap Laps
1 Rio Haryanto EQ8 Caterham 1:39.129 166
2 Alexander Rossi EQ8 Caterham 1:39.173 +0.044 174
3 Julian Leal Carlin 1:39.538 +0.409 141
4 Jon Lancaster* MP Motorsport 1:39.647 +0.518 146
5 Raffaele Marciello Racing Engineering 1:39.704 +0.575 156
6 Felipe Nasr Carlin 1:39.829 +0.700 146
7 Jolyon Palmer DAMS 1:39.854 +0.725 160
8 Mitch Evans RT Russian Time 1:39.870 +0.741 136
9 Stoffel Vandoorne ART 1:39.913 +0.784 214
10 Daniel Abt Hilmer 1:39.931 +0.802 129
11 Stephane Richelmi DAMS 1:40.045 +0.916 160
12 Rene Binder Arden 1:40.126 +0.997 137
13 Kimiya Sato Campos 1:40.154 +1.025 165
14 Nathanael Berthon Venezuela GP Lazarus 1:40.190 +1.061 135
15 Artem Markelov RT Russian Time 1:40.191 +1.062 153
16 Conor Daly* Venezuela GP Lazarus 1:40.223 +1.094 145
17 Adrian Quaife-Hobbs Rapax 1:40.250 +1.121 141
18 Andre Negrao Arden 1:40.314 +1.185 139
19 Facu Regalia Hilmer 1:40.446 +1.317 155
20 Simon Trummer Rapax 1:40.474 +1.345 155
21 Daniel de Jong MP Motorsport 1:40.508 +1.379 114
22 Stefano Coletti Racing Engineering 1:40.529 +1.400 127
23 Takuya Izawa ART 1:40.678 +1.549 207
24 Johnny Cecotto Trident 1:40.779 +1.650 109
25 Arthur Pic Campos 1:40.840 +1.711 155
26 Vittorio Ghirelli* Trident 1:40.976 +1.847 74
27 Axcil Jefferies* Trident 1:42.670 +3.541 44

*Not signed to a team at the time of the test.

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 tweets from all of the GP2 teams on drivers on Twitter here:

In the UK, GP2 will be broadcast live on the Sky Sports F1 channel in 2014.

Over to you

What do you think of the strength of this year’s GP2 field? Who’s your tip for the title – and a future in F1?

Have your say in the comments.

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38 comments on F1 teams’ junior drivers to battle for 2014 GP2 title

  1. gruntr18 (@gruntr18) said on 3rd April 2014, 12:53

    I hope for Ferrari’s sake Marciello has a good season, they must be desperate to get a young, fast and promising Italian into the car within the next couple of years. It would be great to see. I think Stoffel and Evans will have a great season, they would be my favourites for the championship.

    • Denis 68 said on 3rd April 2014, 23:18

      “I hope for Ferrari’s sake Marciello has a good season, they must be desperate to get a young, fast and promising Italian into the car within the next couple of years”.

      I thought he was Swiss? What part/region of Italy does he come from?

      • Iestyn Davies (@fastiesty) said on 4th April 2014, 8:48

        Probably the bit that is now in Switzerland. Indeed – him or Fuoco seem like their best chance of getting an Italian in the car. I expect him to be promoted to Marussia when Kimi retires (and Bianchi or Hulk/Vettel is chosen as a replacement).. but lets wait and see how he gets on in GP2 (and how that would affect Luca Baldisserri’s judgements).

        Impressive amount of laps in testing by ART and Caterham behind them – well needed given the lack of running in the season. Maybe that means these two teams will be stronger this year. The top drivers should adapt well to GP2 but the lack of power steering means it can sometimes take a while to adapt or lead to series regulars doing better than raw talents.

  2. Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 3rd April 2014, 13:02

    I still can’t believe how reckless some of the incidents that Cecotto was involved in and caused. He makes Maldonado look like a saint.

    • Iestyn Davies (@fastiesty) said on 4th April 2014, 8:48

      Some people said Grosjean/Maldonado was the ultimate crash team (then it happened at Lotus).. imagine if Maldonado and Cecotto paired up for a Team Venezuela!

  3. I don’t see the point in following GP2 any longer. For a start, it is far too expensive for many drivers to compete. However if you can get to GP2 and then go on to be successful in the series, then unless you’ve got buckets of money then there is no chance to progress into F1.

    The reason I’m not watching GP2 is not because of GP2, it’s because of the lack of opportunities for young drivers to progress into F1.

    • joetoml1n (@joetoml1n) said on 3rd April 2014, 13:06

      The actual racing though is normally very good.. Often better than F1 (especially if compared to the two races so far this year).. I agree though, that it is no longer the “go to route” into Formula 1.. And with a number of good talent absent this year, I don’t see it re-claiming that crown any time soon.

  4. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 3rd April 2014, 13:11

    Rooting for Alex Rossi and Mitch Evans this year !

  5. spoutnik (@spoutnik) said on 3rd April 2014, 13:29

    Image links seems broken?

  6. Neel Jani (@neelv27) said on 3rd April 2014, 13:48

    I really haven’t followed GP2 apart from watching a race or two last year. Does anyone suggest the series? I really have limited background on it

    • gruntr18 (@gruntr18) said on 3rd April 2014, 15:31

      The racing is usually pretty good but as @georgeod said, the talent pool is terrible except for a handful of drivers (Stoffel, Evans, Marciello, Rossi). Should be fun to watch those drivers i mentioned plus they are still running V8′s so the sound is good, although its a bit generic compared to last years F1.

      • joetoml1n (@joetoml1n) said on 3rd April 2014, 18:38

        If it’s the V8 sound any one tunes in for, they’ll be disappointed.. The engines are a marked difference to the last Formula’s V8 in terms of tuning and peak RPM, and don’t sound anywhere near as good, unfortunately.

  7. ElBasque (@elbasque) said on 3rd April 2014, 13:53

    On the weekends it will run alongside F1 i think i’ll be more excited for this series tbh. I know the field’s not as strong as it has been, but the chance to see the next left-field talent rise to the top, as well as Cecotto’s crazy capers, will be more entertaining than the negativity and gimmickry of its big brother.

    I’d watch Renault 3.5 instead due to the general consensus that its driver pool is of a higher level, but the 2012 introduction of DRS soured the entire thing for me. GP3 will also be interesting to watch to see where Mardenborough’s talent level is at now.

  8. Rigi (@rigi) said on 3rd April 2014, 15:38

    ever since i saw the nurburgring race in person, i’ve been following the gp2 and gp3 really closely. last year was especially interesting for me to see, because there was a swiss guy fighting for the title! this year, i’m rooting for rossi. i think he’s definately a candidate for the title this year. i also support conor daly (i like americans doing international single-seater racing, they kind of stand out of the rest of american drivers) but since he’s with lazarus, i can only hope a better team picks him up next year or in the middle of the season.

  9. WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 3rd April 2014, 16:13

    2014 is a litmus test for GP2. In the shape of Vandoorne and Marciello, GP2 has two serene talents who should go unchallenged by the resident Nasr, Palmer and Rossi. And yet, in the past three years the eventual champion has had over three seasons worth of experience before taking the title, and therefore, if GP2 is to wrangle the status of #1 feeder series to Formula 1 back from Formula Renault 3.5, the prevalence of talent over experience must be established. It is vital also, for the very survival of GP2, that the known talent of Mitch Evans and Daniel Abt shine through more brightly in their first year compared with their somewhat lackluster first years.

    That said, GP2 is well placed in the modern world of F1, with the comparable handling, torque and traction characteristics of the Dallara GP2/11 chassis giving young drivers a presumably similar sensation to driving a modern F1 car, and therefore it is essential that the success we have from Kvyat and Magnussen in the first two races in F1 translate in young success in GP2 so it does not become a retirement home for well-backed drivers lacking in talent.

    If Palmer fulfills his pre-season status as title favourite and wins the title with DAMS, and if Marciello, Vandoorne, Evans and Abt spend most of their time on the outer reaches of the top ten, then a series ignored by the Red Bull Young Driver Programme and clearly struggling financially in the way they failed to update the GP2/11 chassis after the normal three year had elapsed, might just cease to exist. That would be shame, because probably some of the best racing held on Grand Prix tracks in 2013 were GP2 races…

    • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 3rd April 2014, 16:15

      *talent of Mitch Evans and Daniel Abt shines through more brightly in their second year

    • spoutnik (@spoutnik) said on 3rd April 2014, 18:48

      @william-brierty Indeed, and people like Vandoorne switching to GP2 shows that some big F1 teams are serious about backing the sport, it can make the difference. A more global approach, with already many joint events may be better in many ways: training, costs, logistics…

      • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 3rd April 2014, 22:03

        @spoutnik – FR3.5 was McLaren’s first choice for Vandoorne, which is why they placed him there in 2013, but for 2014 a greater litmus test of his talents will come through fighting against more experienced drivers in GP2 than taking the inevitable title in FR3.5. It was a good decision. The decisions taken by Ferrari and Force India to include GP2 in their young driver programmes are more encouraging, but still, the fact that Red Bull have completely ignored GP2, and that it is a second choice for McLaren is worrying for GP2. However, if the value of experience can be lessened, and with the similarities between GP2 and F1, I see no reason why GP2 can’t weather the storm.

  10. SatchelCharge (@satchelcharge) said on 3rd April 2014, 16:17

    Thanks for a great preview @Bradley Downton

  11. Aditya F. Yahya (@adityafakhri) said on 3rd April 2014, 17:18

    People will talk about Marciello and Vandoorne, but look out for the Caterhams!
    in my opinion, Rossi is the main favourite of this season. I also glad that my countryman Rio is doing good so far against Rossi thus I do hope Rio’s stock can be up higher.
    Can’t wait to see the season begin!

  12. craig-o (@craig-o) said on 3rd April 2014, 18:04

    I’d put my money on Palmer but Alex Rossi could well be the dark horse here. Didn’t expect Caterham to be so strong in testing! There are some very good drivers in this category, you could argue far better than last year, as some of the younger drivers appear to be a lot more refined than this time last year. It will be interesting to see how Ferrari and McLaren’s youngsters go, and whether Nasr can actually win a race too!

  13. Paul Sainsbury said on 3rd April 2014, 18:41

    I’m looking forward to it, especially as we can hear some engines that sound like racing cars, and the driving can often be very entertaining.

  14. Bradley Downton (@bradley13) said on 3rd April 2014, 19:46

    Just to have my two cents, my drivers to watch out for this season for the Championship are:
    Jolyon Palmer, Mitch Evans, Jon Lancaster, Alexander Rossi, Rio Haryanto and Felipe Nasr

    Stoffel Vandoorne and Raffaele Marciello should do well, and will probably collect some podiums and possibly wins between them, but with the competition having better cars and being ahead on pace and experience, I think it unlikely they’ll battle for the Championship.

  15. Aimal (@aimalkhan) said on 3rd April 2014, 20:54

    I’ve always wanted to know…if the GP2 cars are identical then are the teams allowed to develop them during the season?

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