Tag Archives: GP2

GP2 follows F1 with new tyre and points changes

The GP2 feeder series will mimic F1 in its tyre regulations

The GP2 feeder series will mimic F1 in its tyre regulations

The GP2 series has followed F1 in the introduction of “prime” and “option” tyres for the feeder series in 2012.

As well as this, the series will also adopt the 25, 18, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1 points system – for the Saturday race only. On the reversed grid (top 8 drivers only) Sunday sprint race, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 and 1 points will be awarded.

The Saturday pole position driver will receive 4 bonus points, with the driver taking fastest lap in either race earning 2 points.

In similar fashion to F1, GP2 drivers will now have to carefully manage their tyre supply over a race weekend. 3 sets of “primes” – the harder tyre – and one set of “options” – the softer compound – will be allocated to each driver for the weekend.

The prime tyres must be used at some point in the Sunday race, and the mandatory pit stop for the Saturday race remains unchanged.

GP2 CEO Bruno Michel explained the changes, citing both relevance to F1 and cost reduction as reasons for the new regulations:

"Our series’ main goal has always been to prepare them [drivers] to Formula 1, and 
so far we have been very successful at it.

More than ever, tyre management is key to how quickly young drivers can adapt to 
the pinnacle of motorsport. However, although we will introduce a second compound, 
we have decided to keep only four sets of tyres per race weekend in order to control 
the costs.

It will be interesting to watch as our teams will put in place the best possible 
strategy. It will add even more suspense, but it will also make tyre management all 
the more delicate."

In comparison, F1 drivers each receive 11 sets of dry tyres (6 prime, 5 option), as well as 4 sets of intermediates and 3 sets of extreme wets.

Is GP2 a good indicator of driver skill?

We all know that GP2 is considered the main stepping stone for drivers looking to get into Formula 1. The entire layout and design of the series is centred around familiarising the drivers with Formula 1, so it would be easy to assume that the best of the GP2 drivers will do well in Formula 1. However, this has not always been the case.

As you know, all GP2 cars use the same chassis, engine, and tyre supplier. This is to give an even ground, and good opportunity to all the drivers. In recent years, all of the GP2 champions have made a name for themselves in F1. These include Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Timo Glock and Nico Hulkenberg. However, at the same time, there have been drivers who do well in Gp2 then flop when they go into F1. Nelson Piquet Jr, Scott Speed and Giorgio Pantano all spring to mind.

The good and the bad drivers all came together in GP2. For example, in 2006, the GP2 championship was fought between Lewis Hamilton and Nelson Piquet Jr, not two names you usually compare. When Lewis got into F1, he immidiately shone, nearly taking the world championship in his first year. On the other hand, Piquet struggled at the back in a Renault, and was being trounced by his team-mate Fernando Alonso. He constantly crashed, accidentaly and on purpose, and left the sport halfway through 2009. So, the question is, why did a driver like Piquet do so well in GP2?

Here is just one of the battles Hamilton and Piquet had in GP2:

One possible answer is that his team, HiTech/Piquet Racing was well funded by his father, Nelson Piquet Sr. This extra funding could have meant that he was getting an unfair advantage. But, this could be cancelled out when you take a look at iSport International. The only link to F1 this team have is that their advisor, Jonathon Williams, is a son of Frank Williams, the boss of Williams F1 Team. However, this doesn’t give them any financial advantage whatsoever. And, their drivers have been doing well, with most getting into F1, such as Timo Glock, Karun Chandhok, Bruno Senna and Scott Speed. So, with a big difference in two successful teams, both can get drivers into F1. This means that the point of overfunded teams doesn’t apply here.

To further confuse matters, you then have to take into account the most successful GP2 team there is: ART Grand Prix. Some of their drivers do well in F1, like Hamilton, Rosberg and Hulkenberg (probably). But, some of their best drivers never worked well when they got to the top. Romain Grosjean springs to mind here. In 2008, he was 4th overall. In 2009, he was withdrawn from the last 4 races, as he was given a drive with the Renault F1 Team. Despite missing the last 4 races, he still managed to get 4th overall again, even though he was with a different team. When a good driver like him goes into F1, you would expect him to slightly challenge his team-mate, even if it is Fernando Alonso. While I feel that he did slightly better than Piquet (neither got any points at all that year, with Piquet getting 10 races and Grosjean 9), he still wasn’t good enough, and was not retained for 2010. He was replaced by Vitaly Petrov, who finished 13th, 7th and then 2nd in 2007, 2008 and 2009 respectively.

So, as the years went by, Petrov got better and better in GP2. A second place finish in 2009 was enough to get him up into F1 for 2010. So far, he hasn’t done too badly, though he hasn’t scored a point yet. In my opinion, despite his good form in GP2, he won’t last more than a few years in the big league.

Then we get to a very strange case: Kamui Kobayashi. He did well in the GP2 Asia Series, winning it in 2008, but was very poor in the main GP2 series. In 2008 and 2009, he finished 16th both years, only getting 23 points in those years. When Timo Glock was unable to race in Brazil 2009, Kobayashi was given his chance. He took it and ran, qualifying 11th in a rain-soaked session, and finished 9th in the race after a battle with the world champion Jenson Button. He later called the Japanese driver “absolutely crazy”. In Abu Dhabi, he finished 6th, getting his first ever points, and beating drivers like Kimi Raikkonen. He is best remembered for his overtake on Jenson Button, which was the move that got him a drive with Sauber in 2010. So, my question here is, how could such a mediocre driver in GP2 do so well in Formula 1?

I’m not sure there is a definitive answer to these questions. But, we can have a look at the 2010 season this year to see can we learn more. The championship starts in May, has 11 rounds, and ends in November. My favourite for the title is Jules Bianchi, driving for ART Grand Prix. He has been given an unspecified role in the Ferrari team, and there are rumours that if he wins the championship, he could be given a drive with Sauber for 2011. So, if he does win the title, we can see how well (or badly) he does in F1 the year after.

Virgin replace Parente with Soucek

Andy Soucek

Andy Soucek

Virgin Racing have announced that Formula 2 champion Andy Soucek has been signed as their reserve and test driver for the season.

Initially, this role was handed to Alvaro Parente, who is currently racing in the GP2 Series. He was the former 2007 World Series by Renault and 2005 British F3 champion. However, his sponsors, the Portugese tourism institute, pulled out, leaving him with no sponsorship.

This means that Soucek will join Luiz Razia in the reserve squad in Virgin Racing. Soucek said today:

“I am thrilled to be joining Virgin Racing. This role offers me a great opportunity to prepare myself for the Formula 1 environment, which is naturally where my longer-term ambitions lie.”

“I look forward to learning from Timo and Lucas as well as soaking up as much information as possible from engineering meetings and time on the simulator. I would like to thank John Booth (Team Principal) and Nick Wirth (Technical Director) in particular for the faith they have shown in me at this stage in my career.”

Team Principal John Booth added:

“We are delighted to welcome Andy Soucek to Virgin Racing. He had a very good season in Formula 2 last year and a positive F1 test with Williams. He is certainly someone we have been keeping a close eye on, as we believe he has a great deal of potential. We expect him to be a real asset to our development programme with the VR-01 and at the same time he provides the experience we need, should he be required to deputise for one of the race drivers at short notice.”

It has always been my belief that after winning the F2 title last year, Soucek would find a way into F1. The problem is, how is he going to get any track time? Testing concludes after the next 4-day session in Barcelona, so he won’t get any running all year. Hopefully we can watch him develop in this year’s F2 championship.

Renault set to unveil Petrov

Vitaly Petrov

Vitaly Petrov

Renault are ready to reveal Russian Vitaly Petrov as their second driver, alongside Robert Kubica, for the 2010 season.

He apparently had his seat fitting in Enstone yesterday, and signed his contract today.

The Russian is known to have around €10m in backing from sponsors such as Gazprom and the Russian government, who are keen to have their first Russian in Formula 1.

It seems, however, that there was more than sponsor backing that may have helped this deal. Gazprom, his main sponsor, is owned (50%) by the Russian government. It is understood that there was a deal between Gazprom, the Russian government, and Petrov, regarding the Renault seat. To give you an idea of how powerful Gazprom is when it comes to these negotiations, their little-known chairman from 2000 to 2008 was Dmitry Medvedev, who then became president of Russia. Why Gazprom is so interested in Petrov, I don’t know. However, it is rumoured that the Russian government and Bernie Ecclestone were (supposedly) looking for a Russian Grand Prix in the future.

But back to Petrov. He finished 2nd in the GP2 championship last year, behind Nico Hulkenberg. He may be good, but he certainly is nowhere near as good as Hulkenberg, in my opinion. Having said this, it’s good to see him given a chance. Kubica will almost certainly beat him, but that’s not the point, as it will be his first year, and it’s only an indicator of how good he will be in the future.

Also, I hear that he will be a great addition to the paddock. Unlike so many other PR robots in F1, Petrov speaks his mind and has a wicked sense of humour.

Petrov will probably be unveiled tomorrow, at Renault’s launch of their 2010 R30 car in Valencia.

Renault: Money not incentive for Petrov interest

Eric Boullier, team boss of Renault

Eric Boullier, team boss of Renault

Renault team boss Eric Boullier has denied that the team are looking into having Vitaly Petrov as a driver because of his sponsorship, saying that the first priority is talent.

The Frenchman, who relaced Flavio Briatore as team principal last year, says that he is considering many other drivers.

He told ESPN:

“I am not just talking to five drivers but actually to everyone who does not have an F1 contract. I have been speaking with Nick Heidfeld (now confirmed as Mercedes’ reserve driver) and also with Takuma Sato, Christian Klien and Romain Grosjean, amongst others.”

“I am looking for talent first and foremost, but then after that I do need to consider the sponsorship opportunities; people say we are only looking at Petrov because he is bringing a lot of money, but he is not the richest driver we are talking to.”

So I was right in saying that Renault were interested in Klien, Sato and Grosjean. But, none of these 4 have really proved themselves. Klien seems to be pushed aside a lot, and tends to go as test driver. Sato is a bit dangerous for a team that wants to distance itself from crashing (owned!!). And Grosjean does deserve another chance, but I doubt that anyone will offer it to him.

Petrov has shown form in the GP2 series, but possibly not enough of it. This may leave Renault in a tough spot. If they wanted proper talent, they should have gone for Heidfeld while he was still there. Fisichella is still in the market, however.

At the end of this, however, I still think Renault will sign Petrov. MegaFon (who sponsor Renault) are underdstood to have interest in the Russian, he has huge backing behind him, and the GP2 guys always deserve a chance.

Petrov moving in on deal with Renault

Vitaly Petrov

Vitaly Petrov

There are reports that Russian Vitaly Petrov is closing in on a deal that will see him race at Renault this season alongside Robert Kubica.

The 25-year-old, who finished 2nd in the GP2 Series last year, has many reports from Enstone that he is in consideration for the job. He has a huge amount of backing from the Russian government (another example of politics in these situations) and current Renault sponsor MegaFon, who are also Russian.

It is understood that Petrov is being considered alongside an F1 driver with recent experience. This may be Romain Grosjean, but I doubt it. Jacques Villeneuve hasn’t got recent experience, so he is out of the picture also. It seems that USF1 is the only option left for JV. The other driver may also be Christian Klien or Takuma Sato.

If Petrov fails to get the seat at Renault, he may also get a role in Campos. This is because he used to race for them in the GP2 Series (2007-2008) and Gp2 Seies Asia (2008-2009). Also, Campos seem to be in difficulty financially, so Petrov’s huge backing will be a large incentive.

Petrov also seems to have a good amount of talent along with his backing. In the complete GP2 series, he finished 13th and 7th in 2007 and 2008 with Campos. He then moved to the GP2 Asia series, another popular series for upcoming F1 drivers, and finished 3rd and 5th in 2008 and 2009.

Whichever team he may join, it is my opinion that we will almost definately see the first Russian Formula 1 driver in 2010.

Lopez reportedly signed for USF1

Jose Maria Lopez, when he was part of the Renault squad

Jose Maria Lopez, when he was part of the Renault squad

Reuters is reporting that Jose Maria Lopez has been signed for USF1, with an announcement due on Monday.

His manager, Miguel Mattos, confirmed the announcement, saying to Reuters that the 26-year-old Argentinian would be with USF1 for 2010. He stated:

“Everything has been agreed (with the US F1 team) and the official announcement will be made on Monday.”

In 2006, Lopez was a GP2 driver for Super Nova, and also the Renault F1 test driver. However, he was dropped from the renault young driver programme. In 2007, due to a lack of funding, he raced in TC2000, the Argentine Touring Car Championship. He claimed the titles for this championship in 2008 and 2009.

The USF1 team are also hinting towards this, saying, on their Facebook page, a big announcement is due next week.

It is understood that this deal was assisted largely by Carlos Reutemann, a former F1 driver from 1972 to 1982. He is now a politician in Argentina and a close friencd of Peter Windsor. A certain amount of governement backing (because of Carlos’ influence as a politician) and some sponsors brought on board meant that Lopez now had the money to sign a deal.

Lopez was saying months ago that he had an offer, but had to get some money and sponsors first. Now, thanks to Reutemann, he has his chance.

Personlly, I don’t think that politics like this should play a part in F1, but money talks big around here. Let’s see how he does in USF1 first, before we make any rash decisions. If he’s good, then it’s well worth this political influence. If he isn’t, it’s just money down the drain.

Schumacher shows pace in GP2 test (includes video)

Michael Schumacher showed signs of pace today, at the the last day of his 3-day test in a GP2 car, in Jerez. He came within 4 tenths of a second of the lap record.

In the morning, wet tyres were needed, but in the afternoon, when the track dried up, Schumacher was able to go onto slicks. He soon showed fast pace, with a best lap of 1m24.621s. This was only 4 tenths of a second slower than the lap record, set by Kamui Kobayashi in October 2008.

Schumacher was very happy about the test, saying:

“I could really drive a lot on this last day of testing and it worked out perfectly.”

“I am very happy with the way testing went here: we worked well, times and consistency were well, we could do everything we had scheduled to do. I feel fit, I felt comfortable immediately back in the car – hey, let’s go for it!”

The GP2 series organiser, Bruno Michel, was also impressed, saying:

“Michael Schumacher’s analysis and feedback was fantastic and the GP2 technical staff who has been working with him this week is positive that what has been learned from this development test will provide us with an even better car in 2011.”

“We are very happy that Michael chose our car to get his sensations back at the wheel of a high performance machine and that he stated that it was the closest thing to a current Formula 1 car. He made a few comments comparing the GP2 and the F1 cars notably regarding their handling.”

“We are now looking forward the second round of the GP2 Asia Series next month in Abu Dhabi and we would like to wish Michael all the best for his return to Formula 1.”

A video of the test is available here;

Schumacher starts GP2 test in Spain

Michael Schumacher has starte his 3-day test of a Super Nova GP2 car in Jerez, to “develop new components” for GP2 cars.

The new components being tested are suspension configurations, and a new clutch. Pictures of the test are provided below.

Schumacher to test GP2 car this week

The Super Nova GP2 car that Schumacher will be testing

The Super Nova GP2 car that Schumacher will be testing

Michael Schumacher, who came out of retirement to driver for Mercedes for next season, will drive a GP2 car for 3 days this week to “develop new components” for the GP2 cars.

The private test will take place this week at the Jerez, from Tuesday to Thursday. This test has already been approved by the FIA, as testing is normally banned until February.

The components being developed are numerous suspension configurations, to define several new race set-ups. Also, there will be evaluation and validation of updated components, such as a new clutch, which will be introduced later this year. If these new components are successful, they will be added to the third generation GP2 car in Spring 2011.

“Today’s test marks a milestone for the GP2 Series,” said GP2 boss Bruno Michel. “It is an honour and a privilege for us to have seven-time Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher help us to develop our car. The goal of the GP2 Series is to prepare young drivers for Formula 1.

“This test will prove to be very important for the future of our GP2 drivers and will be a confirmation of the high-standards and competitiveness of our Series. Michael’s input and advice will be invaluable. I am confident that his knowledge and unparalleled driving skills will help us to develop a great car for next season.”

It is obvious that Schumacher sees this test as an opportunity to prepare himself for his F1 comeback. When he attempted to replace Felipe Massa after Hungary, he tested a Ferrari F2007, since the FIA prohibited him from testing the F60.