There is such a lot of talent on the 2014 GP2 series grid. We have seven former race winners (Stefano Coletti, Jolyon Palmer, Adrian Quaife-Hobbs, Alexander Rossi, Johnny Cecotto Jr, Jon Lancaster and Nathanael Berthon) on the grid, plus champions and runner-ups from other series around the world (Raffaele Marciello, Artem Markelov, Stoffel Vandoorne, Facu Regalia and Kimiya Sato), so it is hard to choose just five drivers.
But I believe these five here could be the ones to watch in 2014.
Felipe Nasr – Brazil – Carlin
The Brazilian is now the Williams F1 reserve driver, which shows what many people believe, is a very strong talent. The added confidence of the Williams role and the benefit of remaining in the Carlin team that knows him well should give him those extra boosts he needs to get onto the top step of the podium.
Despite his obvious speed, Nasr has surprisingly yet to win a race in the GP2 series in two years of trying, the closest he came was in Bahrain last year when he lost out to Sam Bird by 0.080s. If he does not win a race this year, you would have to say that something would have gone drastically wrong for him.
Raffaele Marciello – Italy – Racing Engineering
The Italian comes into GP2 as the reigning FIA European Formula 3 champion and with the backing of the Ferrari F1 team. Was the best driver in EuroF3 last year, and with the continued backing of Ferrari, should come into GP2 confident and ready to win races early on in his career.
Is the best hope Italy have of a driver in Formula 1, and if he continues his career progression as he has in recent years, he will be in F1 sooner rather than later. Should win races in his debut year, and could give Racing Engineering their second consecutive drivers’ title.
Alexander Rossi – United States – EQ8 Caterham Racing
The American has remained at the Caterham team he joined last year as a replacement for Ma Qing Hua at the Bahrain race weekend, and scored a podium finish first time out. Will come into this year high on confidence having won his first race in the series at the season closing race weekend at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi.
Had a very productive and rapid pre-season along with his new team-mate Rio Haryanto, and the American will want to add more wins to his tally in 2014 and aim for the championship. He will also run a few free practice sessions for his Caterham F1 team, but should be a contender for the GP2 crown.
Stoffel Vandoorne – Belgium – ART Grand Prix
The Belgian McLaren F1 reserve driver comes into GP2 on the back of finishing as runner-up in the 2013 Formula Renault 3.5 series in his rookie season behind new McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen. He took the championship fight to the last weekend of the season and won four races, including at his home track of Spa-Francorchamps.
Remarkably Vandoorne only made his single seater debut back in 2010, but will go into 2014 as a GP2 driver for ART Grand Prix, one of the best teams in the series, and as one of the pre-season favourites. It would not be a surprise to see him winning races straight from the off, something he managed to many people’s surprise in 2013 in FR3.5 at Monza.
Jolyon Palmer – Great Britain – DAMS
The Briton is entering his fourth season in the GP2 series with his fourth different team, but has got better and better every year. Won twice for the Carlin team in 2013, at the Hungaroring and around the streets of Singapore, and finished seventh in the championship.
Joins the DAMS team who have won two of the past three GP2 Drivers’ championships, and was instantly quick in pre-season testing, topping the first two days in Abu Dhabi and never finishing outside the top ten on any of the six test days. If he can get his qualifying weaknesses sorted out he could and should be a championship contender; we all know he is one of the best overtakers in the business.