GP2 SeriesOpen Wheel

2011 GP2 Series Season Preview

9 Mins read

Having produced ten of the drivers on the current Formula 1 grid, the GP2 Series enters its seventh year with its place firmly sealed as the feeder series for Grand Prix racing.

2011 has seen the third generation of chassis being introduced, while Pirelli have replaced Bridgestone as the sole tyre supplier. There have also been changes on the team front, where single-seater top dogs Carlin and the Team Lotus-linked Team AirAsia have joined the fray.

We were all given a taste of these changes in the 2011 GP2 Asia Series, but the problems in the Middle East saw it restricted to just two rounds, with the second being held in Imola in Europe. The teams and drivers have had a couple of pre-season tests since then with which to try and get the best out of the new car and the tyres.

Ahead of the new season looks at each of the drivers hoping to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Hamilton, Rosberg, Petrov and Perez in impressing in GP2 ahead of stepping up to Formula 1.

Last year's champion team, almost entirely thanks to a rejuvenated Pastor Maldonado. Their achievements this year will be limited by their driver lineup, which is unlikely to see them amongst fighting for the titles this time round.

1. Fabio Leimer (Swiss, 22)
The 2009 Formula Master champion's rookie campaign was a disappointing one. Racing for Ocean, he took a reverse grid victory at Barcelona in the opening round but failed to score any further points. He signed for Rapax after topping the timesheets during testing for the team at Abu Dhabi at the end of last year. With a better team behind him in 2011 he should be a regular points scorer and podium contender.

2. Julian Leal (Colombian, 20)
Leal enters GP2 after two quiet years in Formula Renault 3.5 where he finished 20th in the standings in both seasons. Has shown more promise in Euro 3000/Auto GP, but his Asia Series and pre-season form have not really marked him out as one to watch. Expect to see him in the lower midfield at best.

Barwa Addax Team
The Spanish team formerly known as Campos is still chasing its first drivers' title, despite having been a front-running outfit since 2007. It will be in the mix again this year with both drivers, but are outsiders for the title.

3. Charles Pic (French, 21)
Pic won the first race of the 2010 season at Barcelona after his move from FR3.5, but only made one further visit to the podium all year for Arden. His switch to Addax should see him move closer to the front of the pack, but he was nowhere to be seen in the Asia Series races. More wins should be expected though.

4. Giedo van der Garde (Dutch, 26)
Well-backed Dutchman nearly made it into Formula 1 over the winter, but returns for another crack at GP2 after a disappointing sophomore year in 2010. Continuity often pays off at this level, so sticking with the Addax team may help him to contend for the title and prove that he has the talent to go further.

Lotus ART
Having previously taken Rosberg, Hamilton and Hulkenberg to the titles in their debut seasons, the French team would have been disappointed not to have achieved the same with Bianchi in 2010. Partnership with Group Lotus sees their cars decked out in green and gold this year.

5. Jules Bianchi (French, 21)
Despite ending the season third in the standings, Bianchi would have been disappointed with his rookie season, where he failed to score a race win. Broke that duck in the Asia Series, where he missed out on the title thanks to being taken out at the start of the final race. The Ferrari reserve is definitely one of the favourites and only the title will do for him.

6. Esteban Gutierrez (Mexican, 19)
Gutierrez absolutely dominated the inaugural season of the GP3 Series, and was rewarded with a place in ART's crack GP2 squad. Has not quite shown the speed in the Asia Series and pre-season testing to mark him out as a title contender in his rookie year, but should contend for race wins during the course of the season.

Racing Engineering
The Spanish squad sticks with the same driver lineup as it had last season, and that should help it to mix it with the frontrunners. Took Pantano to the drivers' title in 2008, and has been classified fourth in each of the last three seasons in the teams' title.

7. Dani Clos (Spanish, 22)
Clos returns for his third season with Racing Engineering, and after finishing fourth in the standings in 2010, hopes will be high to contend for the title. However, his form so far with the new chassis has not been the kind of form that would scare the likes of Bianchi and Grosjean.

8. Christian Vietoris (German, 22)
Gravity-backed driver finished ninth in the standings in his rookie year in 2010. He missed the Asia Series, but has said that will not hamper him. This year he is combining his GP2 commitments with a DTM drive with Mercedes.

iSport International
Having never quite got the hang of the second generation car, the British team will hope the new car will help them return to the winning ways of 2007, when they won the title with Timo Glock. 2011 driver lineup was voted the best in an online poll.

9. Sam Bird (British, 24)
Bird suffered an unlucky rookie year in 2010 with ART, but still finished a strong fifth in the standings and won at Monza. His bad luck seemed to continue into the Asia Series with iSport, suffering three straight DNFs. He should be in the mix, but whether he has the ability to win the title is another matter.

10. Marcus Ericsson (Swedish, 20)
Ericsson had a quiet first year in GP2 with Super Nova, scoring just three times all season (albeit once was a reverse grid win in Valencia). He has shown much more promise since his switch to iSport. Like Bird, he should certainly win races, and could do more.

French squad has found success hard to come by in the main series, scoring just five wins and never having a driver contend for the title. Has twice won the Asia Series though, most recently with Grosjean, who will certainly fight for the title this time round.

11. Romain Grosjean (French, 25)
Eager for a second chance in Formula 1, Grosjean made his return to GP2 half-way through 2010. He took his second Asia Series title earlier this year, and his pre-season testing pace has been strong. He is expected to compete for the title up against Bianchi.

12. Pal Varhaug (Norwegian, 20)
Varhaug graduates from GP3, where after winning the first ever race, at Barcelona, he failed to score again during the season. It will be a learning year for him at this level, and as a result he will be nowhere near his teammate. Points will be the target.

Arden International
British team has been firmly rooted in the midfield in recent seasons, struggling to repeat the success they found in F3000 and the first season of GP2, where Kovalainen took them to second. Their driver lineup for this, while not bad, looks unlikely to win regularly.

14. Josef Kral (Czech, 20)
Kral was ruled out of action for half of his maiden year in GP2 after an airborne accident at Valencia, similar to that suffered by Mark Webber. Scored points on his return in Abu Dhabi and has continued to look strong since his switch from Super Nova to Arden. Could contend for race wins.

15. Jolyon Palmer (British, 20)
Palmer dominated the first half of last year's Formula Two season, but ended up losing out on the title. He has now graduated to GP2 with Arden, thanks to backing from his father's companies. Should be a regular fixture in the midfield, as his Asia Series form showed.

Super Nova Racing
Like Arden, Super Nova have been unable to repeat the success they found in F3000. Their driver lineup for the year ahead is the oldest in the field, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be found fighting at the front going by recent form.

16. Fairuz Fauzy (Malaysian, 28)
Fauzy raced in GP2 in 2005/06, driving for Super Nova in the latter year, without scoring any points. Three years in FR3.5 saw him end as runner-up in 2009, before acting as reserve for Lotus Racing last year. Proton's money sees him return to GP2. Didn't show in the Asia Series that his experience will help him to race at the front of the field.

17. Luca Filippi (Italian, 25)
Filippi begins what will be his sixth year in GP2. Previously raced for Super Nova in 2007 and 2009, and then filled in for the injured Kral during 2010. Tested for the team during pre-season, and will now race for the team again. His experience will be invaluable for the team as they try to get the best out of the new car.

Scuderia Coloni
Italian squad has been a regular in the lower midfield through the years, but their driver lineup for this year could offer more promise and help them to move closer towards the front.

18. Michael Herck (Romanian, 22)
Despite being a backmarker in his early time in GP2, Herck gradually improved his results while racing for the DPR team that was owned by his father. With the team having now been dropped from the grid Herck moves to Coloni, where he has shown promisingly over the winter. Should score the odd podium here or there.

19. Davide Rigon (Italian, 24)
A double champion in football-themed Superleague Formula, Rigon is clearly talented behind the wheel of a single-seater. This is something Ferrari have noticed, signing him up as a development driver. He will want to, and should, improve on his previous GP2 campaign in 2009 with Trident, where he scored just three points.

Trident Racing
Despite showing well in their early years, Trident have been backmarkers in recent seasons, partly down to some unimpressive combinations of drivers. This year's is no different, but they did score a sprint race win with Coletti in the Asia Series.

20. Rodolfo Gonzalez (Venezuelan, 24)
Sponsorship from his home nation helps Gonzalez to stay in GP2 for a second full season, despite being a backmarker during 2010 for Arden, bar a double points-scoring weekend at Spa. Little more should be expected of the former British F3 National class Champion this time round.

21. Stefano Coletti (Monegasque, 22)
Initially made the step up to GP2 with Durango at the end of 2009, only for the team to run out of cash. He too was a bit short of money, so did a dual FR3.5-GP3 campaign last year, finishing sixth and ninth respectively. Won the Asia Series sprint race at Abu Dhabi, and if his form continues from there he could be a regular points scorer.

Ocean Racing Technology
The Portuguese team part-owned by Tiago Monteiro finished bottom of the pile in 2010, and with a relatively unproven driver lineup for 2011 they look all set to achieve the same embarrassing fate in 2011.

22. Kevin Mirocha (German, 19)
Mirocha had a part-season in the F3 Euro Series in 2009, and then only managed a few Formula Renault races in 2010. He has very much been thrown in at the deep end, and his lack of experience will make it very hard. Even scoring points could be a minor miracle.

23. Johnny Cecotto Jr (Venezuelan, 21)
Cecotto competed for Super Nova in the Asia Series, but has made the switch to Ocean for the main campaign. The son of the former motorcycle world champion, he only got into the points on one occasion last year, and improving on that form will be tough with a team with a tendency to run at the back.

Having conquered various single seater categories over the years Carlin finally arrive in the biggest feeder series. If they can repeat just some of their British F3 success they'll be challenging at the front, but this year could be a learning one.

24. Max Chilton (British, 20)
With his father and insurance boss Grahame Chilton owning the Carlin team it was obvious when Carlin joined GP2 that Max would race for the team, returning to the team he drove for in F3. He had a quiet first year in the series with Ocean last year, but his move to Carlin coupled with more experience should help him to move forward.

25. Mikhail Aleshin (Russian, 23)
Aleshin steps up to GP2 with Carlin after winning the Formula Renault 3.5 Series for them last year. He previously had to pull out of the deal due to a lack of sponsorship, but returns to the team for the season opener in Turkey at least. Remains to be seen whether he will do further races.

Team AirAsia
Created by Tony Fernandes and run out of the Team Lotus factory in Norfolk, AirAsia were quick out of the box in Abu Dhabi, scoring a podium finish in their debut race. Their strong driver lineup should help them to mix it with the frontrunners.

26. Luiz Razia (Brazilian, 22)
Razia was comprehensively beaten by teammate Maldonado at Rapax last year, only managing 11th in the final standings. He is no slouch though, so should be in contention for race wins to add to the one that he scored at Monza in 2009.

27. Davide Valsecchi (Italian, 24)
Valsecchi enters his fourth year of GP2, having had a disappointing main season last year. After dominating the Asia Series he failed to win until the final race of the season. He has been impressive with his new team during the winter and could win further races this year.

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