This weekend sees a non-championship GP2 race take place in support of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, giving us a glimpse into next season…
The race sees a number of reshuffles amongst the teams and drivers, including a number of GP2 debutants. Tyre supplier Pirelli is offering a cash prize to the best GP3 graduates taking part. Here, PaddockScout.com takes a quick look at each of the 26 drivers taking part at Yas Marina.
Rapax – 1. Dani Clos/2. Mihai Marinescu
Having completed three GP2 campaigns for Racing Engineering, 23-year-old Clos switches to Rapax, ahead of testing for HRT in next week’s Young Driver Test. After finishing fourth overall in 2010, a slip to ninth with just two podium finishes was a disappointment. Romanian Marinescu makes his GP2 debut after two years of F2. The 22-year-old enjoyed a strong end to the season with a win from pole position at Monza and podium finishes at Spielberg and Catalunya.
Addax – 3. Jake Rosenzweig/4. Jolyon Palmer
Rosenzweig steps from Formula Renault 3.5 and is one of two Americans on the grid. Success has been limited in the past two years, but his career prospects will no doubt benefit from the ever-increasing US interest in F1. Palmer failed to score any points in his rookie GP2 season, but was similarly quiet in his first F2 season before finishing runner-up the following year.
ART – 5. James Calado/6. Esteban Gutierrez
Racing Steps funding helps GP3 runner-up Calado into a seat with ART. With no experience of high-powered single-seaters he will likely find the step up difficult to begin with, just as Gutierrez did this year. The Sauber reserve will be aiming for the title only in 2012, but could have some more experienced competition.
Racing Engineering – 7. Fabio Leimer/8. Nathanael Berthon
One of those more experienced drivers is Leimer, who has been mighty quick in testing after switching from Rapax after an inconsistent second season. He will make his F1 testing debut alongside Gutierrez at Sauber next week. Berthon switches from FR3.5 after a couple of promising seasons.
iSport International – 9. Tom Dillmann/10. Marcus Ericsson
Dillmann steps up from a GP3 season that promised much after pole in the season opener, but was promptly dropped. Showed further flashes of speed after returning, and was quick too in GP2 testing. Ericsson’s 2011 didn’t live up to expectations, but he and iSport stick together for another go at the title in 2012.
DAMS – 11. Rio Haryanto/12. Nigel Melker
Indonesian Haryanto has impressed this year with wins in GP3 and Auto GP, but may take a while to adapt to GP2 if his testing pace so far is anything to go by. Fellow GP3 graduate Melker’s times have been somewhat more promising, off the back of a strong year in both GP3 and the F3 Euro Series.
Arden International – 14. Josef Kral/15. Simon Trummer
Czech driver Kral was another driver who’s results in his sophomore season were a little disappointing, barring sprint race podiums in Monaco and Spa. He would expect to be more of a challenger if he returns next year. Trummer was being somewhat trounced by his rookie teammates in GP3, but finished his second year in the category well with three top five finishes from the last three races. Needs to show he deserves the chance in GP2.
Super Nova Racing – 16. Giacomo Ricci/17. Fabio Onidi
Ricci won his last GP2 race, at Hungary in 2010. However, at 26 years old, his inclusion here doesn’t reflect so well on Super Nova. Fellow Italian Onidi is a little more youthful at 23, and ran well in testing after making the step from Auto GP, where he has been a frontrunner for the past four years after making the jump from Formula Renault 2.0.
Scuderia Coloni – 18. Kevin Ceccon/19. Stefano Coletti
At the age of 18, Ceccon claimed the Auto GP title in his first season out of F3, displaying great maturity and consistency even if he only won once. He also got some GP2 outings courtesy of Auto GP organisers Coloni. Coletti scored three sprint race wins during the course of the year, set to be his first full GP2 campaign until it was cut short by injury. Both will test for Toro Rosso next week.
Trident Racing – 20. Julian Leal/21. Stephane Richelmi
21-year-old Colombian Leal failed to score any points in his rookie GP2 season at Rapax, despite four years’ experience at F3000/FR3.5 level. Monaco’s Richelmi meanwhile raced in FR3.5 after finishing runner-up in Italian F3 last year. He picked up just one points finish, before making his GP2 debut in place of compatriot Coletti at Monza.
Ocean Racing Technology – 22. Nicolas Marroc/23. Antonio Felix da Costa
The Ocean lineup is a mixed one. Marroc made the switch to sportscars in 2011 after a fruitless couple of years in F3, but is now handed a go in GP2. The highly rated Felix da Costa meanwhile tested for Force India twelve months ago, and although he endured a tough GP3 season that he had started amongst the title favourites, he did end it with a win at Monza.
Carlin – 24. Max Chilton/25. Jan Charouz
Chilton showed good improvement in pace in his second season of GP2 in 2011, but will need to run at the sharp end more often next year. Will test for Force India in the young driver test. Renault F1 reserve Charouz has had two pretty quiet FR3.5 campaigns since winning the Le Mans Series title in 2009. Will also test F1 machinery next week.
Caterham Team AirAsia – 26. Alexander Rossi/27. Luiz Razia
Rossi is perhaps the most hyped young driver around right now, but with good reasons. The American finished a fine third in his debut season in FR3.5, and now makes the step up to GP2 after being snapped up by Tony Fernandes earlier this year. Razia’s season for AirAsia, his third year in GP2, was disappointing bar a pole in Hungary and two podium finishes. Both will test for parent outfit Team Lotus next week.
The Formula Renault UK Finals Series concludes with the fifth and sixth rounds at Rockingham. Oliver Rowland won three of the four races at Snetterton last weekend, and thus already has a comfortable margin in the points. His nearest rivals are fellow Brits Dan Wells and Josh Webster.
The five-round CIK FIA World Karting Championship comes down to the final races at Suzuka, where McLaren protege Nyck de Vries leads Red Bull-backed Alexander Albon by 18 points, with 75 up for grabs. Italians Flavio Camponeschi and Ignazio d’Agosto are also mathematically in contention.