Testing for the 2013 GP3 series will commence this week, and given the competitive grid from the 2012 season, it’s worth keeping an eye on the drivers. Only two drivers have signed contracts for 2013: Venezuelan Samin Gomez is the first of the two. She raced for Jenzer’s Formula Pilota China team in 2011 and their Formula Abarth team this year. She will continue her association with the Swiss squad. The second signee is Argentine Eric Lichtenstein who also raced in Formula Pilota China in 2011. This year saw him impress in the British Formula Ford Championship, where he won eleven races (eight races of them in succession) en route to third. Lichtenstein will race for British giants Carlin, off the back of a successful season with Antonio Felix da Costa.
Leaving the series will be champion Mitch Evans, who is eyeing a GP2 seat. Title rivals Daniel Abt, António Félix da Costa, and Aaro Vainio look set to remain in Formula Renault 3.5- both da Costa and Vainio have impressed with podiums, and even wins (four from da Costa!). Hungarian GP3 racer Tamas Pál Kiss is also interested in a WSR seat and has already done some races with BVM. It’s very likely that Conor Daly will also step up to either GP2 or WSR.
Trident have announced their two-man line-up for testing: teenagers Roman de Beer Shane and Emanuele Zonzini will be evaluated at Jerez. South African de Beer and Sammarinese Zonzini have raced in Italy: de Beer competed in a partial season of Italian F3 following two seasons of Formula Abarth, and Zonzini finished third in the Formula Abarth Italian Championship in his sophomore year.
Marussia Manor will run reigning Italian and European Formula Abarth champion Nicolas Costa. The Carioca previously tested for Carlin and is hot property with his triumph in the Italian feeder series.
Irish team Status, who have announced a collaboration with GP2 team iSport International, will test Ryan Cullen. The Briton finished sixth in British Formula Ford with two podium finishes. Cullen is expected to sign for the team in 2013.
A major pre-season headline is Ocean’s departure from the series and their replacement, Koiranen Motorsport. Finnish outfit Koiranen are Formula Renault 2.0 frontrunners who have an association with Red Bull as they field their Junior drivers. This year, Koiranen fielded cars for Juniors Daniil Kvyat (the 2.0 Alps champion and Eurocup 2.0 runner-up) and Stefan Wackerbauer (the 2011 Formula BMW champion). In addition, Koiranen ran Lotus Junior Esteban Ocon, Brazilians Victor Franzoni and Gustavo Lima, Finn Patrick Kujala, and Estonian Hans Villemi. It is unclear whether Red Bull will promote Kvyat to GP3 but following fellow Junior Antonio Felix da Costa’s success in the series, it is possible. Ocon and Wackerbauer scored podiums in Alps, Franzoni took pole positions at Spielberg, and Kujala won the Juniors’ Championship in the Alps- so all are candidates for Koiranen GP3′s team.
Marussia Manor is probably going to axe their 2012 driver Fabiano Machado, who failed to score points. Tio Ellinas hasn’t announced his plans for next year other than his guaranteed F1 test; he might or might not stay in GP3. They might retain Dmitry Suranovich, who, despite not scoring points, is still very young and is Russian (which is important considering Marussia’s influence on the team). With Suranovich on board, and possibly Nicolas Costa, the third seat could be filled by a Formula Renault 2.0 driver from the MP Manor team. Jordan King is this year’s runner-up in the 2.0 NEC and his McGregor-backed teammate Steijn Schothorst finished fifth. King is a contender for the 2012 McLaren-Autosport BRDC award.
Carlin might keep Alex Brundle for another year as William Buller might seek a driver in a higher category in all likelihood. Carlin could use Pietro Fantin or Harry Tincknell to partner Lichtenstein for experience.
Trident might stick to a two-car lineup with Zonzini and de Beer, but Venturini would be a valuable asset provided he remains in the series. Other options for Trident may include Italian-series racers Santiago Urrutia, Gerrard Barrabeig, Jakub Dalewski, or Nicholas Latifi.
Jenzer has two trustworthy options to partner Samin Gomez, namely, their 2012 drivers Patric Niederhauser and Robert Visoiu. Should Niederhauser step up to a different category, there’s three Swiss Jenzer affiliates ready to replace him: Kevin Jörg, Mathéo Tuscher, and Alex Fontana.
Lotus ART may very well have an all-new line up for next year. As the top team in the series, they could offer seats to promising sophomore drivers and others, including Jimmy Eriksson, Kimiya Sato, and Marvin Kirchhöfer.
Driver movement should be interesting this year, with 2012 rookies such as Fumanelli, Visoiu, Niederhauser, and Powell possibly on the move. Experienced drivers such as Marlon Stöckinger are attractive options for teams.