Where are they now #5: Alexandre Prémat

In my opinion, one of the best “true” drivers to pass through GP2 was Alex Prémat.  This Frenchman joined GP2 in the 2005 inaugural season with solid credentials, coming off a 2002 French Formula Renault 2.0 championship and a massively successful 2004 F3 season.premat1

That year he placed 2nd in the F3 Euroseries with ASM (now ART), behind champion Jamie Green, but in front of some serious talent like Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Robert Kubica and Nicolas Lapierre.    He also won the F3 Masters race at Zandvoort, event won in the past by Hamilton, Christian Klien and David Coulthard.  To cap it all off, he won the Macau GP in front of Kubica and Lucas DiGrassi.  This very demanding street circuit race has been won by legends such as Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher on their way to F1 glory.

So, Premat joined GP2 with ART (his F3 Euroseries team) and was partnered up with future champ Nico Rosberg, who he had handily beaten the year before.   He started off strong and even outpaced Nico, but a bad spell between Spain and France cost him dearly.  He ended up winning 2 races in a row – the Hungary sprint and Istambul feature – ending the season in 4th place.   Considering he finished behind Rosberg, Kovalainen and Speed all of which would move to F1 the next year, he did an extraordinary job.

In 2006 Premat once again sat in an ART GP2 (with the #1 on his nose) and was partnered up with Lewis Hamilton.   In what ended up being a highly competitive season once again, Premat was not able to pull in the top results to fight for the title.  He won just 1 race, though it was Monaco, and racked up 7 more podium finishes.  He ended up 3rd this time.  Curiously, the 2 drivers ahead of him (Hamilton and Piquet) once again also ended graduating to F1.

All in all, another solid GP2 season, but not enough to stay on for a 3rd year. I wonder if the pressure of being teammate to 2 champions got to him or not, but Alex definitely did not show it.   I would have loved to see him try for the title, which in the irregular 2007 he would have probably won, but in that 2007 season,  ART the first of many recent strategic mistakes that it still has not fully recovered from in terms of results.

One seat was sold to Red Bull, and through it paraded Michael Ammermuller, Mikhail Aleshin and eventually Sebastien Buemi – all of which had miserable seasons and failed to get even 1 podium finish.   The second seat was filled by Renault RDD driver Lucas DiGrassi – who put together a consistent, though uninspired season to finish 2nd behind Timo Glock.   The point is, ART would have been much better of risking a 3rd season for a deserving and very competitive Alex Premat, but Red Bull and Renault cash locked him out.   Little good did it do the team, since in 2008 Buemi and his energy drink money would go to Arden after Neel Jani was fired from the program.

In 2006 Premat was also called in by the France A1GP team, winning 7 races and the title, in a shared ride with fellow GP2 racer Nicolas Lapierre.  The sad part is despite a top-level CV and solid results, Premat was left without a ride for 2007.   He couldn’t put together the budget to get a race seat, and ended up running for Team Phoenix, fielding an unofficial Audi A4 in the DTM.

Since then, Premat has solidified his position in DTM and has competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the Audi Team Joest – finishing 4th in 2008.  That year, he also raced in the LMP1 category of the LeMans series, winning the title with German Mike Rockenfeller.  For 2009, Premat continues in DTM and has become a solid driver in the touring car and LMS scene, earning a good living and racing as a career.

H is single-seater days were finished when ART closed the door on him, but Premat was able to reconvert himself, find a niche and be happy and profitable racing cars.   Though let me confess one thing:  if I had a GP2 team and could field a non-paying seat, Premat would be my choice.  With Adam Carroll a close second.

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