This upcoming weekend will see the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya host the opening race of the 2016 GP2 Series season, with drivers like Pierre Gasly, Alex Lynn, Mitch Evans and Sergey Sirotkin fight for the championship title.
After Stoffel Vandoorne’s record-breaking season in 2015, this year’s grid will be hoping to replicate the year of entertainment and action that we witnessed when Vandoorne won ahead of Alexander Rossi by almost double the points the American scored to come second in the championship. The GP2 championship offers drivers the opportunity to be noticed by Formula One teams, just as Vandoorne, Rossi and Rio Haryanto have previously, the latter currently racing with Manor F1 Team.
This year’s driver line-up begins at current Constructor’s Champion’s ART Grand Prix whom have retained Nobuharu Matsushita and brought in Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin from Rapax. Japanese driver Matsushita raced for ART alongside Vandoorne last season and brought home a total of three podiums, including a win in the Hungarian Grand Prix Sprint Race. Matsushita made his debut last season and will be hoping to compete for the championship as he races with the number 1 on his car. Racing with number 2, is Sirotkin who finished the 2015 season third in the championship after claiming five podiums, which included a win at Silverstone. It will be Sirotkin’s main aim to claim the title this season as numerous Formula One teams showed their interest in the young Russian, following his success in 2015.
Racing Engineering have signed Norman Nato and Jordan King for their 2016 campaign as the team hope to get the better of closest rivals ART. Nato joins the team after spending a year racing with Arden International. Last year proved difficult for the Frenchman after he only collected a total of 20 points and ended the year in 18th position so he will be hoping to collect podiums and endless amounts of points.
King remains with the team after making his debut in the series with them last year. King had a year of mixed results, as he competed for Racing Engineering and worked alongside Manor F1 Team as their Development Driver.
Alex Lynn and Nicholas Latifi will race for DAMS in 2016. Lynn was the winner of two races last season – one in Barcelona and another in Hungary and will hope that he can repeat his victory in Barcelona at the opening race this weekend. Also a Williams Martini Racing Development Driver, Lynn will be looking to impress the Formula One team to increase his chances of gaining a seat in the top end of Motorsport. Latifi competed in only a handful of races last year when Daniel de Jong was injured in Belgium and will be hoping to complete a full season with the DAMS team this season.
Mitch Evans and Sean Gelael will race for Pertamina Campos Racing. Evans enters his fourth year in the GP2 Series and will hope that by the end of the season, he will have the championship title beneath his belt. As well as competing in GP2, Evans will also race in the World Endurance Championship, meaning the New Zealander will split his time between the two.
Gelael only competed in nine races last season, and had a poor run of results as he failed to score points and finished 30th in the championship standings.
RUSSIAN TIME have signed Italian driver Raffaele Marciello and Russia’s Artem Markelov. Marciello was one of last season’s favourite drivers as he provided us with great entertainment to take 7th in the championship.
Marciello is competing in his third season of the GP2 Series, moving away from Trident to race with RUSSIAN TIME. Markelov will remain with the Russian team for a third season. Throughout his time in GP2, Markelov has had mixed results as he finished 24th in 2014 and 13th in 2015.
Rapax have signed both Gustav Malja and Arthur Pic to be part of their campaign for 2016. Malja has competed just five times previously in the series, whilst his teammate Pic enters third season. Malja competed in the Formula Renault 3.5 series in 2015, as well as competing in three GP2 races. Pic moves from Campos Racing to Rapax for the season, hoping to improve on his 11th place from 2015.
Trident have signed GP3 Series superstar Luca Ghiotto alongside Philo Paz Armand to star in their 2016 line-up. Ghiotto had a strong run in the GP2 sister series in 2015, when he was close to becoming the championship winner after he took five wins throughout the year. The Italian will hope to continue his impressive form when he makes his debut in the GP2 Series this weekend. Armand is also making his GP2 debut this year after he competed in the Formula Renault 3.5 for a handful of races last year.
Status Grand Prix are yet to announce their line-up, whilst Marvin Kirchhofer is the only confirmed Carlin driver at the moment. The German will make his GP2 debut after he, like Ghiotto, competed in the GP3 Series last season, collecting a handful of brilliant results in order to make the step up into the GP2 Series.
PREMA Racing will enter the series this season with Pierre Gasly and Antonio Giovinazzi making up their line-up for the year. Gasly is set to be one of this year’s favourites as he continues whilst continues with Red Bull Racing in a Reserve Driver position. 2016 marks the Frenchman’s second full season in the series, as he competes for the title against numerous rivals.
Giovinazzi makes his debut after competing mainly in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship, where he finished the year in second position. As well as competing in Formula 3, the Italian dipped his toes into DTM, for two races.
MP Motorsport have signed Oliver Rowland and retain Daniel de Jong for 2016. Britain’s Rowland signs with the Dutch squad after he raced after he raced in seven races last year splitting his time between MP Motorsport and Status Grand Prix. As well as racing in GP2, Rowland won the Formula Renault 3.5 Championship, where he took 11 podiums including 8 wins, ending the year on 307 points.
De Jong returned to MP Motorsport in the latter stages of the season after he suffered serious spinal injuries at the Belgian round of the championship in 2015. Despite the seriousness of the accident, he spent very little time recovering before the Dutchman jumped back into the MP Motorsport machine to finish the season.
Finally, Arden International will race with two rookie drivers this season. Nabil Jeffri and Jimmy Eriksson line-up on the grid with the British based team for the opening round in Barcelona. Jeffri, from Malaysia, racing in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship, just as Giovinazzi did but failed to finish higher than 25th in the championship as he could only score two points throughout the entire season.
Eriksson however had a better run in 2015, when the Swede finished fifth in his third year of GP3. The quick and entertaining driver from Sweden won in Russia, and took podiums in Barcelona and Abu Dhabi to end the year on 118 points.
Although there are still three seats available in the series, we already have an exciting line-up for this year’s GP2 Series and expect it to be as exciting as ever. As drivers compete for the title and the attention of Formula One teams, numerous drivers will also be competing to get experience and to add to their already glowing CV’s.
We expect 2016 to provide us with excitement, joy, anger and occasional upset but that is what racing is about, and if there is a series you do not want to miss, it is the GP2 Series. The first race gets underway this weekend, with action starting on Friday with Free Practice around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and you do not want to miss any of it.