Following the success of GP2 Series, GP3 Series was launched in 2010 to act as a feeder series for GP2. So far Jean-Éric Vergne is the only ex-GP3 driver to make it to Formula One, but given the number of GP3 drivers who graduate to GP2 and Formula Renault 3.5 it should not be long before the Formula One field is filled by GP3 Series graduates. Esteban Gutiérrez, James Calado and Tom Dillmann, all race winners in GP2, all previously drove in GP3, with Esteban Gutiérrez taking the inaugural title.
Like the GP2 car, the GP3 chassis is developed by Dallara. The turbo charged engine, which is based on a 2L road car engine, delivers 280hp, and is developed by Renault Sport. The car also has Pirelli tyres, similar to those used in Formula One and GP2 Series.
There are 9 teams competing in GP3 Series this season, each running up to 3 drivers. There were due to be 10 teams, but German team Mücke Motorsport pulled out in early this year. The season will be contested over 16 races in 8 rounds, each round supporting Formula One. This will be the first season which the series has been able to run at Monaco, as in previous years the paddock has been too small to accommodate GP3.
Just as in GP2 Series, this season sees ART Grand Prix rebadged as Lotus GP. The team is the strongest in GP3, having won every drivers’ and teams’ championship in the series so far. With a strong driver line-up, it seems likely that the French team will be able to keep their run of success going.
I predict – 1st
1. Daniel Abt
German Daniel Abt drove in Formula 3 Euro Series last season, finishing 7th in a difficult year. Previously he has been ADAC Formel Masters champion in 2009, and was runner-up in 2010’s ATS Formel 3 Cup (the German Formula 3 championship). While he might have benefited more from a second season in Formula 3 Euro Series, he has landed on his feet by getting a seat at Lotus GP this season, and he should regularly be in the points, if not on the podium.
I predict – 4th
2. Conor Daly
The number 2 car has been lucky in GP3 Series so far, as both GP3 drivers’ champions drove the number 2 car when they won the title. It is not far-fetched to see Conor Daly repeating the feat this season. The American driver, son of ex-Formula One driver Derek Daly, was Star Mazda (an American open-wheel junior series) champion in 2010, before having his first taste of GP3 with Carlin last season. While he only finished 17th in the championship, he contributed almost half of Carlin’s points for the season, and is almost a certainty to pick up his first win this season.
I predict – 2nd
3. Aaro Vainio
Aaro Vainio made his debut in GP3 Series last season, taking one podium. The Finnish driver had driven in Formula Renalt 2.0 Eurocup in 2010, finishing 4th. With an illustrious history in karting, which saw him crowned European Champion and runner-up in the World Championship in 2009, Vainio’s career is only just beginning, and he has the ability to take wins this season.
I predict – 6th
In GP3 Series, Arden International have teamed up with Red Bull Racing driver Mark Webber to compete as MW Arden. Last season the team picked up 2 wins on their way to finishing 2nd in the teams’ championship. This year they have the potential to go one better.
I predict – 2nd
4. Mitch Evans
Mitch Evans returns with MW Arden for his second season in GP3 Series. A good start to last season saw him leading the championship after round 3, but a combination of the ART drivers improving and Evans being hit by a series of bad results saw him drop down the rankings, finishing the season only 9th. Mitch Evans definitely has the talent to succeed in GP3 Series, as demonstrated by a string of successes down under – runner-up in the New Zealand Formula Ford Championship in 2008-09, runner-up in the Australian Formula Ford Championship and VSCRC Formula Ford Fiesta Series in 2009, runner-up in the Australian Drivers’ Championship and winner of the Toyota Racing Series in 2010.
I predict – 1st
5. David Fumanelli
Having come 2nd in last season’s European F3 Open championship, David Fumanelli is a new graduate to GP3 Series. The Italian driver got his chance as a result of a successful test at Jerez in 2011, which saw him set the fastest lap on day 1. A strong driver, Fumanelli could pick up wins straight away.
I predict – 5th
6. Matias Laine
Finnish driver Matias Laine returns for his second season in GP3 Series, having driven for Marussia Manor Racing last season. Last season he failed to score any points, and looking at his record in other series, he might struggle to score again.
I predict – 11th
Marussia Manor Racing
Last season Marussia Manor Racing managed to take two of their drivers to victory. With an all-rookie line-up this season the team might find it difficult to have as much success, but Manor are an experienced motorsport outfit, and know how to best develop young drivers.
I predict – 4th
7. Dmitry Suranovich
16 year-old Dmitry Suranovich is a debutant in GP3 Series, having just finished racing in the Toyota Racing Series, where he finished 12th in the championship, picking up one podium. While he is still young, and is building experience in open-wheel racing, Suranovich did not have a particularly stellar karting career to build upon, and he might struggle now he is up against more experienced drivers.
I predict – 16th
8. Fabiano Machado
The reigning Formula Three Sudamerica champion, Fabiano Machado now makes the move to GP3 Series. Having won from the start in Formula Three Sudamerica, he is a talented driver who learns quickly, and so he will probably get up to speed in GP3 Series, though his pre-season testing form was not the best. Also counting against Machado is his age, as at 25 years of age he is the oldest driver in GP3 Series; while a drivers age should not particularly count against them, F1 teams are not likely to take a gamble on a driver in his late 20s in this day and age.
I predict – 14th
9. Tio Ellinas
Eftihios ‘Tio’ Ellinas joins GP3 Series from the Formula Renault 2.0 UK Championship, in which he finished 3rd, equal on points with Oliver Rowland in 2nd. The Cypriot driver has looked good in pre-season testing, and it would not be a surprise if he managed to win a race in his debut season.
I predict – 7th
Status Grand Prix
Created in 2005 to run A1 Team Ireland in the now defunct A1 Grand Prix series, Status joined GP3 Series when it began in 2010. If the team carries their form from the last race of 2011 over they will do well, as they won the final race of last season at Monza. Looking at their driver line-up though, the team may not be at the front end of the field as often as they might life.
I predict – 6th
14. Marlon Stöckinger
The first Filipino driver to win a race in Europe, Marlon Stöckinger joins Status Grand Prix after a difficult first season in GP3 with Atech CRS Grand Prix, in which he failed to score any points. Hopefully now that he has a year of experience in GP3 to build on he will be able to finish in the points consistently.
I predict – 15th
15. Kotaro Sakurai
While Kotaro Sakurai is the reigning British Formula Three Rookie Class champion, one should not read too much into that, as he was the only Rookie Class driver to compete in more than 5 of the 10 rounds of the championship, and his best finish was a 13th place. Given a history of low-finishes, he will probably struggle to score points this season.
I predict – 20th
16. Alice Powell
This season Alice Powell is making the move up to GP3 from Formula Renault UK, in which she finished 9th. Powell showed her talent in 2010, when she won the Formula Renault BARC championship. This year I think that finishing in the points consistently and building experience for next season would be a good goal.
I predict – 18th
Ocean Racing Technology
GP2 Series outfit Ocean Racing Technology are one of two teams making their debut in GP3 Series this season. Starting out in a new series is difficult for even the most experienced of teams, so it may take a few races for Ocean to hit their stride.
I predict – 7th
17. Kevin Ceccon
Kevin Ceccon is one of the more exciting drivers making his debut in GP3 Series in my opinion. Last season the young Italian driver just edged out Luca Filippi to take the Auto GP title, the previous winner of which was Romain Grosjean. While he struggled in GP2 Series last year before bowing out to concentrate on Auto GP, he should find GP3 Series more his level and he could well end up on the podium on a few occasions.
I predict – 8th
18. Carmen Jordá
Spanish driver Carmen Jordá last drove competitively in 2010, when she raced in Indy Lights, finishing the season in 16th. Jordá does not have the most impressive record in competitive motorsport, and in GP3 she will find it difficult to score points.
I predict – 26th
19. Robert Cregan
Robert Cregan is moving into GP3 Series this season after a year driving V8 Supercars. With little experience in open-wheel racing, he might be slow to adapt to the different style of GP3 Series. As long as he beats Carmen Jordá, he will have done okay.
I predict – 24th
Swiss team Jenzer Motorsport finished 3rd in their first season of GP3 Series, but had a more torrid time last season, only finishing 7th, though their driver Nico Müller did finish 4th. The team are the reigning Formula Abarth champions and have the quality necessary to finish higher, but their drivers will need to adapt to GP3 Series quickly.
I predict – 5th
20. Robert Visoiu
The youngest driver in GP3 Series, Romanian Robert Visoiu drove for Jenzer Motorsport in Formula Abarth last year, taking 2 wins to finish 4th in the European championship. If he takes to GP3 Series, he might well end up on the podium on a number of occasions, but his main aim should be to beat his team-mates.
I predict – 12th
21. Patric Niederhauser
Another driver who Jenzer Motorsport have brought into GP3 Series from their Formula Abarth team, Patric Niederhauser won the Formula Abarth Italian championship, and was 2nd in the European championship. He could have the quality to win races this season, if any of the Jenzer drivers were to do so.
I predict – 10th
22. Jakub Klasterka
Czech driver Jakub Klasterka has not driven since 2009, when he raced as a 15 year-old in Formul’Academy Euro Series, finishing 11th. Against a pair of competitive team-mates, and with little experience in open-wheel racing, Klasterka could well end up being outclassed this season.
I predict – 22nd
Trident Racing are the other team entering GP3 Series this year, along with Ocean Racing Technology. Trident have an average record in GP2 Series, and will probably be just as average in GP3.
I predict – 9th
23. Vicky Piria
Last season Vittoria ‘Vicky’ Piria was driving in Formula Abarth, finishing 15th in the Italian championship and 18th in the European. There are more talented drivers in GP3 Series than there were in Formula Abarth, and so she will likely be at the back of the field most season.
I predict – 23rd
24. Antonio Spavone
This season Antonio Spavone will be driving in Auto GP World Series as well as in GP3 Series. Having never won a race in open-wheel racing, and having looked unimpressive in his racing career so far, he will do well to score points this season.
I predict – 19th
At the first race of the season Trident Racing have decided only to run two cars. This is the first season in GP3 Series in which teams are allowed to enter only 2 cars instead of 3, which was previously compulsory. If they decide that they want to do so, Trident Racing can enter a third car at any of the rounds this season, so watch this space.
Yet another of Carlin’s numerous teams in various open-wheel series, the GP3 team hasn’t yet performed as well as the Formula Three team has, or as well as the GP2 team is this season. With a good driver line-up, though, as well as their own heritage of success in motorsport, Carlin should be nearer the front of the field this year.
I predict – 3rd
26. Alex Brundle
The son of ex-F1 driver and commentator Martin Brundle, Alex Brundle drove in Formula Two last season. While he managed to pick up a couple of 3rd place finishes, he did not trouble the title challengers often enough. This season he should score points, but may not do much better than that.
I predict – 17th
27. António Félix da Costa
Last season António Félix da Costa drove for Status Grand Prix in GP3 Series, winning the final race of the season. Now that he is at Carlin, he might have the backing behind him to make a serious challenge for the title, and his performances in pre-season testing suggest that it is very possible.
I predict – 3rd
28. William Buller
In British Formula Three last season William Buller drove for Fortec Motorsport, winning 3 races and finishing 4th in the championship. The Northern Irish driver has also been driving in Formula 3 Euro Series this season. He might end up on the podium this year, but regular point finishes would be a good result in his debut year in GP3 Series.
I predict – 9th
Atech CRS Grand Prix
Atech CRS Grand Prix is a collaborative effort between Atech Grand Prix and CRS Racing. The team finished last in last year’s GP3 championship, and this year they will be hoping to score points more consistently.
I predict – 8th
29. Tamás Pál Kiss
Hungarian Tamás Pál Kiss drove in GP3 Series for Tech 1 Racing last year, taking a win in the sprint race at Catalunya, but was not able to score points regularly, and only finished 16th. While Kiss clearly has talent, and a year of experience in GP3 Series will also help him, he may struggle to show his true abilities at Atech CRS Grand Prix. Hopefully some podium finishes and regular points will come his way.
I predict – 13th
30. John Wartique
John Wartique’s previous experience of racing comes from driving Peugeot 207s in France. The Belgian driver will probably be found at the back of the grid on most occasions this year.
I predict – 25th
31. Ethan Ringel
Ethan Ringel is only just out of karting, driving in sports cars and F2000 in the USA last season. With little experience of European open-wheel racing, Ringel’s main aim for the season should be to beat John Wartique, and get into the points on occasion.
I predict – 21st