2012 GP2 Series Preview

This weekend sees the 2012 GP2 Series season begin at Sepang in Malaysia.  Of the series below Formula One on the motorsport ladder, GP2 is most often drivers’ last step.  Of the 24 drivers who will start the 2012 Formula One season, 14 graduated from GP2 or its predecessor, International Formula 3000, and all seven GP2 Series champions have driven in Formula One (though Giorgio Pantano, Timo Glock and Romain Grosjean raced in Formula One before winning the GP2 Series Championship).

This season is the first where the GP2 Asia Series has been merged with the main GP2 Series, which sees the season grow from 18 races in 2011 to 24 for this season, running as support races for 11 Formula One Grands Prix.

So, in the interest of being proven wrong at the end of the season, here’s a look at the teams, their drivers, and my predictions:

Barwa Addax Team

With their roots in Campos Racing, Barwa Addax are one of GP2’s top teams – since Alejandro Agag took control of the team they’ve never finished lower than second in the championship, winning the championship last season.  They have also produced their fair share of Formula One graduates, with Romain Grosjean, Vitaly Petrov, Sergio Pérez and Charles Pic all alumni.
I predict – 6th

1.            Johnny Cecotto, Jr.
Johnny Cecotto, Jr. is the son of Johnny Cecotto, Sr who drove in Formula One for Toleman and Theodore, but achieved more fame for his earlier exploits on two wheels.  Johnny Cecotto, Jr. has been driving in GP2 since 2009, and he’s only picked up 3 points in that time.  That said, this is the first time he’s been at one of the top GP2 teams (no disrespect meant to Trident Racing and Ocean Racing Technology), and at the end of last season he was selected to drive at the Formula One young driver test for Sahara Force India.
I predict – 11th

2.            Josef Král
Czech driver Josef Král joins Barwa Addax after a promising season at Arden International, which saw him pick up two podiums and finish 15th, equal on points with both Fabio Leimer and Esteban Gutiérrez.  Now that he’s at an established GP2 team, I think he could well pick up his first win.
I predict – 9th


Last year DAMS (which stands for Driot-Arnoux Motorsport, in case you were wondering) took Romain Grosjean to the title, and they’ll be hoping to repeat the performance this year.  Aside from Grosjean,Kazuki Nakajima, Kamui Kobayashi and Jérôme d’Ambrosio are all DAMS drivers who made it to Formula One.  Current Lotus F1 team principal, Éric Boullier, has also worked at DAMS, and the team came close to entering Formula One as a constructor in 1996.
I predict – 2nd

3.            Davide Valsecchi
Davide Valsecchi is now something of a GP2 veteran, with 72 starts over 4 seasons of the series.  He is also a former GP2 Asia Series champion, having won the championship in 2009-10.  Last season Valsecchi drove for Caterham Team Air Asia, bringing the team their first win in GP2.  At the pre-season test in Jerez Valsecchi was fastest, so he will enter the season in high spirits, and could well challenge for the title if things go well.
I predict – 2nd

4.            Felipe Nasr
Brazilian driver Felipe Nasr is a debutant in GP2, having stormed to victory in the last season’s British Formula Three Championship.  Nasr is clearly a great young driver, and could well impress a few people in his first season in GP2.  That said, I don’t think he will win the championship in his debut season, as he will probably need to use this season to adapt to the step up from British Formula Three.
I predict – 5th

Racing Engineering

Racing Engineering finished last season third in the championship, taking two wins, their best ever finish in GP2.  Having taken Giorgio Pantano to the title in 2008, Racing Engineering are a professional outfit, based out of state-of-the-art facilities near Jerez.  Lucas di Grassi drove for Racing Engineering before he was snapped up by Virgin Racing to drive in Formula One.
I predict – 4th

5.            Fabio Leimer
Last season Fabio Leimer took one win driving for Rapax, winning the sprint race at Catalunya for the second time in his GP2 career – I wouldn’t be surprised if he made it a hat trick of wins this season - though Leimer may well be disappointed not to have performed even better in the team that had previously taken Pastor Maldonado to the title.  Now with two seasons’ experience under his belt, and a competitive race seat, it could be Leimer’s year.
I predict – 6th

6.            Nathanaël Berthon 
Nathanaël Berthon will be making his debut in the main GP2 series this year, having previously driven in GP2 Asia Series for Racing Engineering last season.  He might not be the best driver in the series, but he brings sponsorship from Greentech, and completed the young driver test in Abu Dhabi for HRT.  Racing Engineering will be hoping he can back up Fabio Leimer by scoring some points.
I predict – 17th

iSport International

With its DNA from the Petrobras Junior Team, iSport International are somewhat of an enigma to me.  They’re definitely a quality outfit, having finished in the top three in all but one of their first four seasons in GP2, taking first place and the drivers’ title in 2007, with Timo Glock.  Since 2008 though, despite having some talented drivers at the team (van der Garde, Turvey, Valsecchi, Bird) they’ve not quite been able to replicate the same form.  I’m a big fan of iSport, and I think this year they’ve got a good chance of taking the title.
I predict – 3rd

7.            Marcus Ericsson
Probably Sweden’s top racing driver at the moment, Marcus Ericsson is a lot of people’s favourite to take the title this season, and not without good reason.  Despite failing to win, last season was an improvement on his debut season, and if he continues the trend and applies what he’s learnt from two seasons in GP2, I think he should be up there at the end of the season.
I predict – 3rd

8.            Jolyon Palmer
Another driver with a famous father, Jolyon Palmer is the son of Motorsport Vision’s Jonathan Palmer.  This will be his second season in GP2, and at iSport International he should be hoping for a better season than he had last year at Arden, when he failed to score in a difficult season.
I predict – 8th

Lotus GP

I’m somewhat disappointed that sponsorship  reasons see ART Grand Prix’s name disappear from the GP2 grid.  ART Grand Prix have a tremendous racing pedigree at this level, having won three drivers’ and teams’ championships in their time in GP2, having given drives to Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Romain Grosjean, Nico Hülkenberg, Pastor Maldonado, Sébastien Buemi, Lucas di Grassi, and Sakon Yamamoto.  But money talks, and so the ART Grand Prix team will line up as Lotus GP for this season, with a very exciting driver line-up.  ART Grand Prix have never failed to win a race in a GP2 Series season, and with an exciting driver line up they’re definitely my pick for the teams’ championship.
I predict – 1st

9.            Esteban Gutiérrez
In his short motorsport career, Esteban Gutiérrezhas already impressed many with his driving ability, having won the Formula BMW Europe and GP3 championships, and was disappointed last season not to be able to stand in for the injured Sergio Pérez at the Monaco Grand Prix.  In his debut GP2 season he managed a win at Valencia on his way to 13th in the final standings.  An obvious talent, I think Gutierrez will be the driver to beat this season.
I predict – 1st

10.          James Calado
Keeping Gutierrez true will be James Calado, a very talented British driver who was runner-up in last season’s GP3 Series.  Calado drove a GP2 car for for the first time in the non-championship race at Yas Marina at the end of last season, winning the feature race for Lotus ART.  Some are predicting a rookie championship for Calado, which I think might be a difficult goal.  For me, Calado should use this year like Gutierrez did 2011, learn GP2, finish consistently, and prepare for an assault on the title in 2013.  I think he could well produce a race win or two in his first season though, and given how quickly he’s learnt in other series, he could well be close to the title chasers.
I predict – 4th

Caterham Racing

The sister team of Caterham F1 Team, Caterham Racing are now entering their second season in GP2.  They’ll be hoping to build on a promising debut season in which they took one win and one pole, finishing sixth in the teams’ championship.
I predict – 5th

11.          Rodolfo Gonzalez
This will be the Venezuelan driver’s fourth season in GP2, as it seems that Caterham have gone for an experienced driver line-up for this season.  In his time in GP2 Gonzalez has only picked up four points, so I don’t expect him to set the world alight, and his record so far would suggest that GP2 is as far up the motorsport ladder as he will progress.  Hopefully with Caterham behind him he’ll manage to add to his points total.
I predict – 22nd

12.          Giedo van der Garde
This will also be van der Garde’s fourth season in GP2, having joined Caterham from Barwa Addax: at 26 years old, he’s also the oldest driver on a young grid.  A former McLaren Young Driver, van der Garde landed Catheram’s GP2 seat in combination with joining the F1 team as a test driver.  The Dutchman has what it takes to win at this level, and also brings valuable consistency – despite failing to win last season, he finished on the podium five times on his way to fifth in the drivers’ championship.  This year I think he should be able to add to his win tally, and his consistency mean he can’t be discounted from the title hopefuls.
I predict – 7th

Scuderia Coloni

Scuderia Coloni is the only ex-F1 team on the grid.  Last season Luca Filippi won three races for the team on his way to a distant second place in the drivers’ championship, and the team will be disappointed that Michael Herck didn’t manage to contribute more than a single point, leaving them seventh in the teams’ championship.
I predict – 7th

14.          Stefano Coletti
For all its motorsport history, the tiny Mediterranean state of Monaco has produced very few drivers, though it’s been home to more than its fair share!  Coletti had a successful carting career which saw him race against Jaime Alguersuari and Charles Pic before moving on to open wheelers.  Last year in his debut season in GP2 Coletti managed to pick up two wins, which clearly impressed Coloni enough to take him on for 2012.
I predict – 10th

15.          Fabio Onidi
Joining Coletti at Coloni is Fabio Onidi, who is making his debut in GP2 having graduated from Auto GP.  Onidi secured the seat at Coloni largely thanks to his impressive testing for the team at the end of the 2011 GP2 season.  Despite some solid performances in Auto GP, he never bettered his 2008 performance (when the series was called Euroseries 3000) when he narrowly lost out to Nicolas Prost.  This year I expect he’ll manage some point finishes and build experience.
I predict – 12th

Trident Racing

Despite picking up two race victories last season, Trident only finished 8th in the final standings, which suggests that they have a decent team and need two evenly matched drivers who can consistently perform and bring in points in order to achieve a position that accurately reflects the quality of the team.
I predict – 12th

16.          Stépahne Richelmi
Yet another Monegasque driver, making Monaco somewhat overrepresented in GP2.  Richelmi actually repaced his compatriot Coletti at the Italian round of last year’s GP2 season, and Trident Racing have kept him on for 2012.  Runner-up in 2010’s Italian Formula Three season, Richelmi should be an adequate team leader for Trident.
I predict – 15th

17.          Julián Leal
Last season was Leal’s debut year in GP2, driving for Rapax.  He didn’t manage to score any points, but he showed enough for Trident to pick him up this season (and I’m sure the sponsorship money didn’t hurt – not that Leal is alone in GP2 in having sponsors).  He isn’t without talent, as demonstrated by his winning 2008’s F3000 Italian Championship, but recently he hasn’t been at that level.  While he’s still young, he needs to perform better this year in order to impress at this level.
I predict – 21st

Venezuela GP Lazarus

With a name more suited to competing in A1GP (remember that?), Italians Team Lazarus will enter GP2 in 2012, replacing Super Nova Racing.  Their entry is backed by a consortium of Venezuelan investors, who are responsible for the new name.  It’s difficult to know how Team Lazarus will perform in their first season in GP2.  They were not the best team in Auto GP, and teams with better motorsport pedigrees than Team Lazarus have struggled in their first seasons of GP2.  If they score points I think they can be happy with that.
I predict – 13th

18.          Fabrizio Crestani
Team Lazarus have brought Crestani with them from Auto GP, the Italian driving for them last season.  In 2010 Crestani made his debut in GP2 driving for David Price Racing in place of Giacomo Ricci, but he didn’t secure a drive for the 2011 season, necessitating the drop down to Auto GP.  Given that he should already know the team around him, he should be fairly settled, and so should be able to perform consistently.
I predict – 24th

19.          Giancarlo Serenelli
Serenelli continues the Venezuelan theme at Team Lazarus.  Being the oldest driver on the grid, I would be surprised if he was to progress any higher than this level.  That’s not to say he’s completely without talent as he is a three-time LATAM Challenge Series.  Despite this, GP2 is quite a different beast, and he might find it difficult to adapt, especially with the challenge of so many talented young drivers.
I predict – 26th


Rapax are somewhat inconsistent performers in GP2, having finished 6th, then 2nd, then 11th, then 3rd, then 7th, then 1st, and finally 10th last year.  This course of events would suggest that this season they will finish in the top three again!  Realistically it seems more likely that the team might finish somewhere in the midfield again.
I predict – 10th

20.          Ricardo Teixeira
2012 sees the Portuguese-born Angolan driver return to the GP2 grid, having spent two season out – one in Formula Two, and last season acting as test driver for Team Lotus.  Despite having attractive sponsorship backing from Sonangol, he has never had much success in motorsport, and this year is the second-oldest driver in GP2.  If he breaks his point-scoring duck in GP2, I think he can count this season as a success.
I predict – 25th

21.          Tom Dillmann
Partnering Teixeira will be French driver Tom Dillmann, 2010’s German Formula Three champion.  Last season he raced in GP3, and despite finishing down in 14th, Rapax believe that Dillmann shows enough promise to earn a drive in GP2.  Points, and possibly a podium, could well be on the cards for his debut season.
I predict – 16th

Arden International

Arden is the team that launched Christian Horner to success as a Formula One championship-winning team principal for Red Bull, and is also the team which took Heikki Kovalainen to second in the 2005 GP2 season.  Bruno Senna, Sébastien Buemi, Sergio Perez and Charles Pic are also former Arden drivers who have made their way to Formula One.  Despite this proud history, Arden’s recent history has been a little disappointing, finishing no higher than 6th in the last five seasons.  The team should have the ability to turn this around and work their way up the championship, and they could take some wins again if things go their way.
I predict – 8th

22.          Simon Trummer
This season sees Trummer graduate from Arden’s GP3 team.  While his 2011 season could have gone better, if he carries over the form he showed at the end of the year then he should impress.  It all depends on how quickly he can learn GP2.
I predict – 23rd

23.          Luiz Razia
2012 will be Luiz Razia’s fourth in GP2.  Razia has shown flashes of what it takes to succeed in GP2, winning a race in his first season, and adding a handful of podiums since, and this has been recognised by Formula One teams, earning him a testing role at Virgin Racing in 2010, and last year for Team Lotus.  Those days, however, are now over, with Razia failing to be picked up for a testing role for this season.  What he really needs to get a handle on is his ability to finish races – Razia has retired from six races every season of his GP2 career, and last year only one driver racked up more retirements than he did.  If Arden are going to win races this year, I feel it’s up to him to do so.
I predict – 13th

Ocean Racing Technology

Perennial backmarkers Ocean have never finished higher than 9th in a GP2 championship, and didn’t take their first win until 2009, despite running some talented drivers who have made it to Formula One – Timo Glock, Sakon Yamamoto and Karun Chandhok.  This season I don’t expect them to turn any heads, and predict another year of frustration and low-scoring.
I predict – 11th

24.          Jon Lancaster
I’m not quite sure how Jon Lancaster has ended up in GP2 this season.  That’s not to say he lacks the talent for it, he is just as talented and able as many other drivers in the series, in fact he’s probably more talented than some of the other drivers here.  However, last season was very frustrating for him, as he started the season in Formula Two, and also competed in Auto GP from mid-season before having to quit after four races thanks to a lack of funds.  He’s clearly been working flat out to secure more sponsorship for this season, and has done really well to even make it onto the grid for this season.  Any other driver might be happy with just that, but Lancaster is clearly highly ambitious and very talented (as demonstrated in his performances in Auto GP last season).  He seems to learn very quickly, so should be picking up points.
I predict – 18th

25.          Nigel Melker
Lancaster’s Dutch team-mate completes a talented line-up at Ocean.  Last season Melker drove very well on his way to third place in the GP3 championship.  A very quick driver, I think he should also be scoring points this season.
I predict – 19th

Marussia Carlin GP2 Team

2012 sees renowned British team Carlin team up with Formula One’s Marussia for their second season in GP2.  Dominant in British Formula Three, I think Carlin might have found their first season in GP2 something of a culture shock, as they only picked up four points all year.  Their Formula Three performance tells me that this shouldn’t continue, and hopefully they’ve learnt lessons from last year and will perform better.
I predict – 9th

26.          Max Chilton
All four of Carlin’s points last year were scored by Chilton, so he is kept on for his third season in the series.  If you recognise the name Chilton, then perhaps you are familiar with his big brother Tom, who competes in touring cars.  Max Chilton finished fourth in 2009’s British Formula Three season, but since then has had some difficult seasons in GP2.  He should definitely score points across the season, if Carlin have adapted well he might get onto the podium.
I predict – 20th

27.          Rio Haryanto
The youngest driver on the grid, and a graduate of Marussia Manor’s GP3 team, Rio Haryanto is a very talented Indonesian, and could well have what it takes to achieve at this level.  In 2009 he was dominant in Formula BMW Pacific, winning 11 out of 15 races, managing 10 in a row.  In GP3 he was similarly impressive, finishing 5th and winning a race in his first season.  While he did not finish so highly in his second season, he did pick up two wins to finish 7th, and looked impressive at the feature race in Germany, winning from 3rd on the grid.  I think he could outpace his more experienced team-mate on occasions this year.
I predict – 14th

No comments:

Post a Comment