Friday, May 6, 2011

GP2: 2011 Season Kicks Off in Istanbul...

So once again, it’s time for the GP2 Boyz ‘O Summer to kickoff their racing campaign, as these aspiring lads seek to become champion of the series which currently is the final stepping stone to The Pinnacle of Motorsport, a.k.a. Formula One. As you can catch the action in the wee hours of Sunday morning on SPEED preceding the Turkish Grand Prix...

Thus, here’s a very quick take upon the past Champions, Runners-up and “Second losers” (Third-place) finishers - as second place has been referred to as FIRST LOSER; Aye Karumba! And I’ve also included the other Formula 1 drivers graduating from the series who finished outside of these positions.

GP2 Champions
2005 ART Grand Prix: Nico Rosberg; Germany
2006 ART Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton; United Kingdom
2007 I-Sport International: Timo Glock; Germany
2008 Racing Engineering: Giorgio Pantano; Italy
2009 ART Grand Prix: Nico Hulkenberg; Germany
2010 Rapax: Pastor Maldonado; Venezuela

GP2 Championship Podium
Year/Runner-up/Third place
2005 Heikke Kovalainen; Scott Speed
2006 Nelson Piquet Jr., Alexandre Premat
2007 Lucas di Grassi; Giorgio Pantano
2008 Bruno Senna; Lucas di Grassi
2009 Vitaly Petrov; Lucas di Grassi
2010 Sergio Perez; Jules Bianchi

Other Formula 1 Graduates
Kazuki Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi, Romain Grosjean, Kamui Kobayashi, Karun Chandhok, Jerome d'Ambrosio.

GP2 Trivia
Interestingly to date, albeit not so much for himself, only one former GP2 Champion has managed to not be part of the F1 Fraternity’s automatic inclusion upon winning the title; as this dubious honour falls upon the shoulders of Italian Giorgio Pantano. Sadly Pantano was dismissed due to his relative “OLD” age – at the time of his triumph, whilst The Cheepster, nee Chip ganassi didn’t exactly give him much of a chance in the Indy Racing League either...

Meanwhile the six Champions to date have garnered one Formula One Drivers World Champion, two Grand Prix race winners along with multiple Podium recipients and even a vaunted Pole-position in this ‘Uber echelon of Motorsport!

2011 Prognosis
As part of the ongoing struggle over the Group Lotus Pretenders, the Malaysian backed PROTON has done a dealio to see the perennial GP2 Champions ART Grand Prix powerhouse become renamed Lotus-ART; Whatever Dudes! As it’d be funny to see newcomers Team Air Asia – Tony Fernandes squad leapfrog Nicolas Todt’s ART outfit this season, eh? (Although I DON’T expect to see that happen...)

Returnning to Loti-ART for his sophomore season is Jules Bianchi, the Scuderia Ferrari Third Driver, who presumably is a title contender, with some pressure upon him to capture the crown this season in his hoped for progression upstream...

Joining Bianchi is Mexican Esteban Gutierrez – who I’ve tipped as one of my three picks for future F1 Graduates, along with “Thee Young Wicky,” nee Canada’s Robert Wickens and America’s Alexander Rossi; which I suppose aren’t exactly long shots, eh?

Obviously Gutierrez hopes to emulate fellow countryman Sergio Perez’s path into Formula One, albeit hopefully not at the expense of Japanese Hard-charger “K-Squared” (Kamui Kobayashi) who’s currently racing for “Slim Junior’s” TelMex backed Sauber F1 entity.

I-Sport International seems to have stepped up its game with the arrival of Britain’s Sam Bird and Sweden’s Marcus Ericsson, who’ll be looking forward to improving upon last year’s disappointing season, albeit both Bird and Ericsson won one race apiece for their former GP2 teams.

And I suppose I cannot ignore Rapax Team, who after all won last year’s Drivers Championship, as I was unaware that this is the team formerly known under the multiple guises of Minardi and Piquet... As Rapax will see two unknowns join the team with Switzerland’s Fabio Leimer ccampaigning the No. 1 plate with Italian teammate Julián Leal aalongside him.

Also probably remiss if I didn’t mention the Barwa Addax Team which features drivers Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde; not to mention Racing Engineering’s Daniel Clos and DAMS Romain Grosjean.

Perhaps you’ll recall the Netherlands van der Garde  from his abortive F1 Test Driver days when the Dutch ‘Schue was involved in a ‘Mega Tug ‘O War between “Super Best Friends” (Super Aguri) and Spyker – reputedly a candidate for this year’s second Virgin F1 seat, albeit ultimately losing out to fellow GP2 competitor Jerome d'Ambrosio.

Also of interest is Christian Horner’s Arden International concern with Czech driver Josef Kral and Great Britain GP2 debutant Jolyon Palmer, as you may recognize the last name – as in son of ex-Formula 1 driver and Founder/Organizer of the current FIA Formula 2 Championship.

I’d assume that the young bloke Jolyon will have a better outcome in his inaugural GP2 campaign then past F2 participants Henry Surtees, who unfortunately was killed during an Formula Two race during its inaugural 2009 season; whilst 2010 F2 Champion Dean Stoneman is currently upon a racing sabbatical due to having been diagnosed with cancer; SHEISA!

And I see that much unheralded ex-Renault F1 driver Romain Grosjean is back again, presumably trying to revive his Formula 1 aspirations, as he’ll be seeking to wrestle best Frenchmen (right Jeffie? Since it’s plural; Hya!) Err Frenchman away from compatriots Bianchi and Pic, albeit Bianchi probably has the best bloodlines towards achieving F1 Stardom...