Photos: GP2 Media Service
We look at who impressed and who didn’t in the latest season of the premier Formula 1 feeder series…
A combination of ever-soaring budgets, increasing difficulties raising sponsorship and the preference to be fully-focussed on any F1 duties during Grand Prix weekends produced the most uninspiring GP2 grid yet and sadly that impacted on the season as a whole. The title quickly came down to a battle between veterans Davide Valsecchi and Luiz Razia, but even they failed to be particularly convincing and it was hard to get excited about their duel even if only a few points separated them for so long. An impressive figure of 12 drivers did stand on the top step of the podium, but very few of those were able to have consistent seasons. Despite all the negatives, some drivers were able to prove their worth.
Italy, DAMS, age 25
247 points, 4 wins, 10 podiums, 2 pole positions, 2 fastest laps
In his fifth year in GP2 and now with reigning champions DAMS, there were no excuses for anything other than the title for Valsecchi this year. He started well with pole in Malaysia and his ridiculously dominant time in Bahrain where he won three of the four races, at which point you got the impression he was going to have a convincing campaign and prove himself to be a truly talented driver. But then that pace vanished upon returning to Europe, qualifying no higher than third during the rest of the year, which isn’t really the form of a champion.
In race conditions he mastered the Pirelli tyres brilliant and so often made up places, yet still he didn’t win again until the reverse grid race at Monza. Once again, not really acceptable for a champion, is it? Of course experience is a great thing to have in your armoury and he could use it to his advantage if he could get an F1 seat and do well there, but it also wouldn’t be a crime if he were to miss out, given that he just doesn’t have the prodigious pace of so many other drivers around him. Season rating: 8
Brazil, Arden International, age 23
222 points, 4 wins, 9 podiums, 1 fastest lap
A similar case to Valsecchi, except whereas the Italian had shown flashes of talent before, Razia had come off the back of three totally uninspiring campaigns and was only convinced to carry on in GP2 by Arden chief Christian Horner. Did very well to win the season opener in Malaysia, but shockingly that would be his only feature race victory of the year. He was somehow a considerably worse qualifier than Valsecchi, all too often starting near the middle of the pack, or in the case of Spa’s wet session he was embarrassingly outqualified by Teixiera.
Just like Valsecchi he was brilliant with the tyres and always moved forward in the races, enabling him to get three sprint race wins mid-season including that fabulous last-lap triumph in Valencia. Consistently decent results kept him in contention until Monza when that consistency was wrecked by incidents with other drivers. Like Valsecchi his experience and ability to nurse the tyres would make him a more than competent F1 driver, but his constant lack of qualifying pace proves the raw talent just isn’t quite there. Season rating: 8
Mexico, Lotus GP, age 21
176 points, 3 wins, 7 podiums, 5 fastest laps
Despite his relative lack of experience to the likes of Valsecchi and Razia, the potential Gutierrez showed with his titles in Formula BMW and GP3 meant he started the year as the title favourite. Losing out on the title to the veteran duo wouldn’t have been anything to be upset about, if he’d actually managed to display his pace and raw talent. Clashing with Cecotto in practice in Malaysia largely set the tone for the rest of the season, and forced him to learn the track in qualifying. Despite his perceived pace he never once put it on pole and only claimed two feature race wins thanks to safety cars coming out after he’d already made his pitstop.
He would sometimes show his ability and braveness with some bold overtaking moves to move through the field, but all too often he was either over-aggressive or impatient and ended up involved in clashes that would ruin his hard work. Mexican backing could see him promoted into a Sauber race seat to replace Perez, but the wise thing for all parties might be to see him combine Friday practice drives with some more racing ahead of a step-up in 2014. Season rating: 7
United Kingdom, Carlin, age 21
169 points, 2 wins, 4 podiums, 2 pole positions, 1 fastest lap
Chilton had showed the occasional promise last year without the results, but with Carlin now having a year under their belt in GP2 he was always going to make a step forward this year. Proved that with third in the first race, and showed some great consistency throughout the first half of the season. Found another gear towards the end of the year with two poles and two feature race wins from the final four weekends.
But while there’s little doubting his pace, serious question marks remain about his racing ability, just as had been the case in British F3 where he was often on pole but rarely a race winner. It’s rather baffling actually how a driver with the skills and bravery to put a car on pole position can struggle so much in racing situations, demonstrated most clearly in Bahrain when he dithered passing a backmarker and got done by Calado. Having proven he’s fast enough for F1, his father’s clout seems to have bagged him a Marussia drive next year, and his lack of racing menace won’t be obvious down that end of the grid. Season rating: 7
United Kingdom, Lotus GP, age 23
160 points, 2 wins, 7 podiums, 2 pole positions, 1 fastest lap
Without any doubt the star of the season. Started well with his Malaysia sprint win and a strong first weekend in Bahrain, and then claimed pole at the first two tracks where he had previous experience; Barcelona and Valencia. Outdone in the pitstops in Barcelona by the experienced van der Garde, he should have won in Valencia comfortably had the team brought him in for his stop at the same time as anyone else and therefore not got caught out by the subsequent safety cars. He was then a close second on the grid in three straight weekends from Hockenheim to Spa.
A setup disaster in Monza and food poisoning in Singapore ended his season on a low and denied him the third place he so clearly deserved. If anybody in this year’s field deserves an F1 chance it’s James, but with his Racing Steps backing due to expire it’s not clear where his future lies. Having shown great speed as well as maturity in the races, there’s little to gain from another year of racing other than some silverware, so a sensible move would be for RSF to invest one last time to get him a Friday practice role. Season rating: 9
Netherlands, Caterham Racing, age 27
160 points, 2 wins, 6 podiums, 2 pole positions, 1 fastest lap
The man who said at the end of 2011 that he wouldn’t return to GP2 did just that, as part of his reserve deal with the Caterham F1 team. The team’s inexperience in GP2 meant the title would always be a long shot but he still had a reasonable season. It had a bit of a rocky start but he soon turned it around and ended his lengthy win drought in Barcelona before recording a commendable double podium at Monaco. He mastered tricky conditions to claim pole at Hockenheim and ended his year with another win at Singapore.
All too often he was let down by his machinery, in particular its inability to look after the tyres. As in his previous GP2 campaigns, Giedo once again proved himself to be a capable if unspectacular driver. He’s now getting a run of Friday drives with Caterham, and it remains to be seen whether his substantial financial backing will finally land him a race drive for next year. If it doesn’t, it might be wise to start looking elsewhere. Season rating: 7
Switzerland, Racing Engineering, age 23
152 points, 6 podiums, 1 pole position, 1 fastest lap
Leimer was another of the pre-season favourites having dominated the non-championship race at Abu Dhabi at the end of 2011, but failed to repeat that form. He was a consistently strong qualifier, perhaps even the best, never once starting a feature race from outside the top ten. He really should have won a race, but circumstances always conspired against him. Was leading comfortably in Bahrain before being penalised for ignoring yellow flags, while he would have converted his single pole at Silverstone into victory had the safety car not come out before he made his pitstop.
Was always strong in difficult weather conditions and led after the early wet laps in Hockenheim, but needed to change to slicks unlike eventual winner Cecotto. Finished the season with a fine double podium in Singapore with some good overtaking moves. Has the money to come back for another attempt and could land a top seat, but he was also given a DTM test by BMW recently and would be silly not to take a paid drive if it came up. Season rating: 7
Sweden, iSport International, age 22
124 points, 1 win, 5 podiums
Like fellow third-year driver Leimer, Ericsson should have been amongst the title contenders this year but his chances already looked slim after a nightmare first two weekends. Took until round five at Monaco to hit the front, and proved? how good he can be with a second and a fourth around the Principality. He promptly followed that up by second at Valencia but then had another run of bad races. Enjoyed a pretty convincing win at Spa, his first in over two years, and he had a solid run-in after that with two more podium finishes.
While he has good ability as shown earlier in his career, nailing the results in GP2 has proven difficult, and as a result it might be a wise move to look elsewhere for 2013. At the same time, it also wouldn’t be a surprise to see him back in GP2 with a different team having seen what the likes of Valsecchi and Razia have managed. Season rating: 6
Venezuela, Barwa Addax Team, age 23
104 points, 2 wins, 4 podiums, 1 pole position
With just one points finish from his previous 37 starts in the main series, it was somewhat upsetting to see Cecotto handed the #1 Addax machine for the 2012 season. His many doubters were proved right to begin with as he struggled over the opening four weekends. Then came Monaco, where he topped practice, qualifying and won the feature race. At Silverstone he went some way to proving that was no fluke with second place in the feature race, while he did luck into victory at Hockenheim by taking the right tyre choice on a drying track. Showed great pace again at Monza, coming from eighth to second in the feature race.
For all the good moments there were plenty of bad ones, getting himself caught up in far too many collisions, being too aggressive, earning himself a bad reputation amongst his rivals and retiring an unparalleled eight times. And for every Monaco there were weekends where he had no pace at all. 2012 was the season where Cecotto did at least show some promise and potential, but there’s a hell of a lot of refinement to be done yet. He’ll be back, unless the interest from F1 teams he’s spoken about actually comes to something. Season rating: 6
Brazil, DAMS, age 20
95 points, 4 podiums, 1 fastest lap
The second best of the rookies, and while he wasn’t able to hit the same heights as Calado he still impressed on plenty of occasions. Thrown in at the deep end without as much off-season running, he bagged a podium on his first weekend and then qualified an almighty third in Bahrain before a collision with Cecotto ended his race. He then took P2 in qualifying in Valencia but struggled with a car issue in the race. At Silverstone he came from 23rd to sixth and was then third in the sprint, while he moved forward in both Hockenheim races to finish fourth and third.
So often he made impressive drives through the field, including at Spa where he ran as low as 21st before taking eighth at the line. His starts were a weakness and so failed to capitalise on the reverse grid pole, but still looked after his tyres well to steal second place from Calado. While results were sometimes hard to find he showed good maturity for his inexperience, and should be a leading contender next season though will need much better consistency to be champion. Season rating: 7
United Kingdom, iSport International, age 21
78 points, 1 win, 3 podiums, 1 fastest lap
After a point-less rookie season, 2012 was much improved for Palmer. Things didn’t get off to the greatest of starts though, as a mysterious electrical issue kept causing his car to stop. The series and the team got him a new car together for Monaco and he made the most of it by winning the sprint race. The rest of his season had an interesting pattern to it. At Valencia he retired twice due to stupid collisions, then had a podium on a strong home weekend at Silverstone, then no points at Hockenheim, then two points finishes in Hungary where he nearly took pole, then Spa was ruined by another daft collision, before another podium at Monza and another collision-wrecked weekend at Singapore.
Once the car gremlins got out the way he showed almost ever-present pace, but he really needs to cut out the collisions. If he can, he will be a contender next year. Season rating: 6
France, Racing Engineering, age 23
60 points, 2 podiums, 1 fastest lap
Berthon’s first season of GP2 was certainly a respectable one. He showed particularly well at Barcelona, climbing from 10th to fifth in the feature race and then finishing second in the sprint race, keeping Razia honest to begin with. He put in a similar performance at the Hungaroring, again coming second in the sprint and pushing Gutierrez at times. His qualifying let him down, with Barcelona being the only time he started a feature race from inside the top ten.
Despite that, from Barcelona to Valencia he scored points in six consecutive races and sat inside the top ten in the standings, but he was unable to keep that form going. A reasonable effort from the Frenchman, but he didn’t come into this entirely inexperienced with two seasons of FR3.5 behind him as well as three previous GP2 weekends. Needs to better his qualifying efforts next year and more consistent race results will follow. Season rating: 5
Monaco, Scuderia Coloni/Rapax, age 23
50 points, 1 podiums, 1 fastest lap
Probably the disappointment of the season. After racking up three sprint race wins during 2011 with the lowly Trident, big things were expected of Coletti after his switch to Coloni. Fourth on the grid in Malaysia was a good start, but he managed just one podium in Barcelona. Early in the year he kept wearing his tyres out too soon, while later in the season his qualifying let him down and also had contact and penalties regularly ruin his races.
Parted company with Coloni with two rounds to go, switched to Rapax and immediately had a positive weekend at Monza with an eighth and fourth, while another eighth place followed in Singapore, ending a disastrous season on a positive note. Season rating: 4
Indonesia, Carlin, age 19
38 points, 1 pole position
Haryanto was expected to struggle in his rookie GP2 season, but immediately proved he could cut it at this level with a tenth place in his second race, then a ninth at his second. Then at the second Bahraini weekend he qualified a mighty fifth before picking up two sixth-place finishes. A a quiet couple of weekends he was back at the sharp end in Valencia, finishing fifth in race one ahead of teammate Chilton and then showing well in a battle over the sprint race win with Calado before he ran out of patience and collided with the Brit.
He’d been a wet-weather demon in GP3 and proved this again at Spa when he qualified on pole, but he embarrassingly threw away victory when he spun on fresh tyres under the safety car. Next year he needs to have more consistent pace and cut out the rookie errors, but is’s a solid start for a driver with time on his side. Season rating: 5
France, Rapax, age 23
29 points, 1 win, 1 podium
After shining on his GP2 debut in Abu Dhabi at the end of last year, it almost looked like Dillmann wasn’t going to get a seat before Rapax gave him a chance on the eve of the season opener. He quickly produced some great drives in the first few races, pulling off numerous overtakes. Then at his third weekend he started the sprint race from the reverse grid pole and produced a stunning defensive drive to keep Razia behind and take victory.
Results were hard to come by over the following weekends and due to a lack of budget he was cruelly ditched, only racing at Valencia because Teixeira was ill. Got one final chance at Hockenheim when De Jong was otherwise engaged and finished a strong ninth in the first race before being eliminated in a pileup on the first lap of race two. Deserves another chance, somewhere. Season rating: 7
Italy, Scuderia Coloni, age 27
29 points, 1 win, 1 podium, 1 pole position, 2 fastest laps
Having failed to land a drive after he finished runner-up last year, Filippi returned for Coloni’s final two race weekends in GP2 and his participation in a seventh consecutive GP2 season. Took a highly emotional victory on his first race back on home soil at Monza to remind everybody what he can do. Second race was wrecked by a damaged front wing, but still took the fastest lap after having it replaced.
Then took a stunning pole in Singapore, but made an awful start. Made his pitstop early but struggled with tyre wear as a result and had to make a second stop before crashing twice, the latter due to a broken front wing. His car was too damaged to take part in the second race. However brief, his comeback proved how good a driver he is. Season rating: 7
Czech Republic, Barwa Addax Team, age 22
27 points, 1 win, 1 podium
Having watched Kral win in Formula BMW UK as a 16-year-old, it was baffling to see him struggle quite so much with Addax in his third GP2 campaign. Made a reasonable start in Malaysia but was then forced on the sidelines in Bahrain. Topped free practice on his return in Barcelona but had brake problems for the rest of the weekend. Qualified eighth in Monaco but picked up damage at the first corner, and later failed to capitalise on a good starting place at Silverstone. Topped practice again at Hungary, but mechanical failure continued his points drought.
Things finally came together at Spa, moving from 14th to fourth in the feature race. Then he got a great start to the sprint, taking the lead from fifth on the grid and scoring a commanding win. And then he was dropped. He’d shown how good he can be when everything is just right but it wasn’t enough, presumably for financial reasons given how awful his replacement Rosenzweig proved to be. Season rating: 5
Monaco, Trident Racing, age 22
25 points, 1 podium, 1 fastest lap
Expectations were low, but Richelmi was a bit of a pleasant surprise. It was a couple of early qualifying results that particularly caught the eye – sixth in the second Bahrain weekend and third in Barcelona. He threw away his chances of decent results on both occasions with bad starts, but picked up his first points with eighth at home in Monaco. He started the reverse grid race from pole but was eliminated after making contact with Calado entering the first corner.
His undoubted highlight of the season was a third place in the Hockenheim feature race, thanks to deploying the same strategy as winner Cecotto by risking slicks at the start on a wet track. He went on to enjoy a strong weekend in Belgium with a ninth and a sixth from the two races. A decent rookie season, but nothing to suggest he’s ever going to become championship material. Season rating: 4
Netherlands, Ocean Racing Technology, age 21
Melker’s rookie season was restricted entirely by the shortfalls of the Ocean team, as demonstrated by the fact he was only competitive when it was wet and the team’s setup deficiencies were not apparent. Qualified and finished outside of the top ten at every round until Silverstone, when he started the feature race eighth and finished in fourth before ending up sixth in the sprint race. At the similarly rain-affected subsequent round at Hockenheim he led the first four laps of the feature race after starting third and finished up in sixth, and took a fourth consecutive points finish in eighth in race two.
His previous form returned for the remaining races, only catching the attention again with his huge Spa shunt. Needs to get a better team for 2013, and reportedly has interest from the category’s top outfits. Season rating: 6
Italy, Scuderia Coloni, age 24
13 points, 1 fastest lap
Auto GP convert Onidi looked reasonable early in the season, taking an eighth place finish in Bahrain and a sixth in Barcelona, but then wasted good reverse grid starting places on both occasions. Only managed one further points finish – an eighth at Silverstone – despite qualifying fourth at Hockenheim and seventh in Monza. Clocking up at least four post-race penalties didn’t help his cause, and for a driver of his experience he was involved in too many collisions including two out of control under-braking moments in consecutive races in Monza and Singapore. Must do better if comes back. Season rating: 4
Colombia, Trident Racing, age 22
9 points, 1 fastest lap
A slight improvement on 2011, but not by much. Did a good job of keeping his nose clean, retiring just once due to overheating in Monaco. That allowed him to score twice in Valencia, when everyone else was crashing into each other, and also in Monza, while seventh in the Spa feature race was also a good effort. Those are about the only positives. Shockingly poor in qualifying, lining up 20th or worse for seven of the 12 feature races and never better than 15th. Couldn’t blame experience this year. Not really good enough for this level. Season rating: 2
Venezuela, Caterham Racing, age 26
Oh dear. Where to start? Two positives: Managing to qualify seventh for the second Bahrain weekend (though his teammate was on pole) and finishing fifth in the Monaco sprint after managing to dodge the first lap pile-up. That was one of just two race weekends where he has scored points out of 40 in his GP2 career so far. And yet he’s been given F1 mileage by both Caterham and Force India already this year. Outrageous. Season rating: 2
Switzerland, Arden International, age 23
4 points, 1 fastest lap
Not brilliant, but at least he was a rookie, unlike some. Raced well to grab a point in eighth at just his second weekend in Bahrain, having started the feature race back in 23rd. Qualified last except Teixeira and Serenelli in Malaysia but did at least make progress up the order within a few races. Another to largely keep it clean (which can’t be easy back there), he was rewarded with two points finishes in Valencia although he then went without any for the rest of the season. Not really quick enough to race at this level, I’m afraid. Season rating: 3
Italy, Venezuela GP Lazarus, age 24
1 point, 1 fastest lap
Crestani started brightly, taking his team to tenth place in its very first race. Never really repeated that form (except when he topped the washed-out practice session at Silverstone), but more worrying was the way he didn’t get out the way of blue flags in Monaco, causing Gutierrez to trip over him and clip the barrier. Lost his seat after Silverstone even though his long-term sponsor Daiko remained. Season rating: 3
New Zealand, Ocean Racing Technology, age 22
Hartley scored Ocean’s only points of 2011 when he joined them at Spa last year, and was given another chance to show what he can do by Tiago Monteiro at the Bahrain double-header while the team looked for a driver who could pay for the seat. Started his first race from the back but finished a superb tenth, which thinking about it was the only point the team scored on a dry weekend. Incidents prevented further results, and Hartley has been forced to switch focus to sportscars although Mercedes have given him another taste of F1. Season rating: 6
Netherlands, Rapax, age 20
De Jong wasn’t exactly Mr Popular when he arrived in GP2 because he’d forced Dillmann out of a seat, but he actually made a reasonable account of himself in his eight races. Recorded a ninth place on his debut in the chaotic Valencia weekend, and then qualified 14th in the wet session at Silverstone, before rather embarrassingly running into the back on Gonzalez under the safety car before the race had even properly started. Qualified at the back again in Hungary but raced well again in Spa to finish 13th and 11th. Will almost definitely be back next year and will probably deserve his spot more than some. Season rating: 3
Spain, Venezuela GP Lazarus, age 24
Replaced Crestani for Hockenheim and showed some impressive pace to begin with, and later qualified seventh at Spa and tenth in Singapore. However, it’s three incidents that left onlookers dismayed that the Spaniard’s part-season will be remembered for. First he rear-ends Trummer at the very end of the race in Hungary. Then he puts Berthon in the wall at Spa. And then at Singapore he first ignores a drive-through, then a black-flag and only comes in when his car stops working. His radio may not have been functioning, but he still ignored the team frantically waving the pitboard. Season rating: 4
Spain, Barwa Addax Team, age 23
Drafted in by Addax to replace Kral in the Bahrain double-header, Clos showed nothing of particular note. The highest he ran during the four races was sixth during the first of them, before he struggled with tyre wear after making his stop quite early. Came back to 11th in the second race, while retired from both races in the second weekend due to a mechanical and wheel damage respectively. Might get an F1 drive next year with HRT, might not. Who knows? Season rating: 5
Angola, Rapax, age 30
Teixeira’s previous GP2 campaign was nothing to be proud of, but given he seemed to perform reasonably in his season of F2 and posted competitive times in pre-season testing, I was prepared to give him another chance. But he turned out to be worse than I could ever have imagined. Almost always qualified on the back row, with Spa being a notable exception when he somehow got his car around a wet track in a time good enough for 17th on the grid – one spot ahead of Razia. He can’t play the inexperienced card like Serenelli can, so there’s just no excuse. Just leave. Season rating: 1
Brazil, Ocean Racing Technology, age 20
0 points, 1 fastest lap
Ocean did find someone who would pay for their second seat, in the form of Guerin who had already raced in Auto GP and F2 this year before stepping into GP2 at Barcelona. Like Melker he was most impressive in the wet when Ocean’s uncompetitiveness was not so important, managing a fine seventh in qualifying at Hockenheim, and also started higher up than usual at Silverstone and Spa. Failed to capitalise at all though, only managing a best result of 13th in the season finale. Like fellow mid-season money-man De Jong he made an embarrasing gaffe at Silverstone, spinning on his way to the grid and not taking the start. Another who’ll probably be back for more. Season rating: 3
Austria, Venezuela GP Lazarus, age 20
Another seemingly unworthy mid-season replacement, except Binder’s uninspiring German F3 record suggested he would be even more out of his depth than the others. He was slowest in qualifying at Spa, but was certainly competitive one week later at Monza with 21st place and enjoyed a good couple of races, finishing 13th in race two, only a second away from the top ten and ahead of an off-form Calado. Unfortunately suffered a pair of early retirements in Singapore. Again, should be back for more. Season rating: 4
United States, Barwa Addax Team, age 23
Perennial underachiever in FR3.5 brought in to replace race winner Kral for the final two weekends. Unlike Binder he can’t claim to be inexperienced, with a GP2 Asia campaign and an appearance with Addax at last year’s Abu Dhabi race on his CV in addition to three FR3.5 campaigns. Yet he was slower. Does not deserve a seat in GP2 or any European single-seater series next year. Season rating: 2
Venezuela, Venezuela GP Lazarus, age 31
Serenelli was racing Formula Renault-spec cars in Latin America last year, and it showed in Malaysia where he was just dangerously off the pace. Come the next round in Bahrain he was ahead of his back-row rival Teixeira although that didn’t last and he was generally adrift for the rest of the season. He had two high-speed shunts at the same corner at Hockenheim, while a reported training injury ruled him out for Spa. Was fit in time for Singapore, but sensibly opted for the Auto GP race in Sonoma instead. Hopefully he’ll make the same choice at the start of next year. Really has no business in Formula 1’s feeder series. Season rating: 1
United Kingdom, Ocean Racing Technology, age 23
On the eve of the season it seemed Lancaster, a driver who showed great promise early in his career, had pulled off the impossible and landed some external sponsorship from the UK to go and race in GP2. And after a tough baptism in Malaysia it did indeed prove to be too good to be true, as he didn’t have a full deal and was replaced. Even with live television coverage on a dedicated F1 channel, GP2’s extortionate budgets are not value for money for sponsors. Season rating: 5