Monaco preview #2

Little new information has come up regarding the identity of who will fill Trident and DPR seats that are currently being raced “for free” by Davide Rigon and Giacomo Ricci.   Rumours had surfaced on the arrival of Hamad Al Fardan and/or James Jakes, but we’ll have to wait until qualifying on Thursday to see who will be in those seats.

Apart from this, not much to comment regarding GP2 teams. The extreme silence on this front is very worrying, and only the drivers have been in the news these past days – some for their comments and others for their appearance at the Portimao F3000 race.

One comment in this sense is that Monaco will be a good test for drivers from the “bad” teams. Monaco is a driver’s circuit and the differences between the teams (if you believe they exist) are minimized at this type of track. Past winners and their teams:

  • 2005:  Adam Carroll – Super Nova
  • 2006:  Lewis Hamilton – ART
  • 2007:  Pastor Maldonado – Trident
  • 2008 feature:  Bruno Senna – iSport
  • 2008 sprint: Mike Conway – Trident

Statistics support this theory, with Trident surprisingly being the team with the most GP2 wins at Monaco – a “GP2 backmarker” according to our analysis.

2009 will also have 2 races, and my money is on Maldonado to win the Saturday feature race.  Sunday could prove a nice surprise for a strong top-10 driver, such as Dani Clos, Alvaro Parente, Luca Filippi or Diego Nunes.   Only a couple days to find out…

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GP2 trap explained… Alguersuari also fell for it

II have received many comments regarding the post on Alvaro Parente and what I called the “GP2 trap”.

The GP2 trap is when a competitive driver (such as Parente) begins to deeply believe that the lack of pace he suffers is due to the team and not to his driving. This belief is further strengthened when the driver thinks…. “if I was at ART (or iSport or Barwa….) I would be winning races.”

We all know GP2 has different levels of teams and I have written extensively on why that is and why it is now a vicious cycle that is killing the so-called “GP2 backmarkers”. If you are a driver and you find yourself there then you must internalize several things:

  • If you’re not in a “top team” ask yourself why.  Is it because I’m not good enough? Because I don’t have enough budget? Because I was too late?
  • If you’re not in a “top team” what should you do? Complain and whine?  Blame all my troubles on the team?

Bottom line, if you find yourself in an Ocean or Super Nova, you’d better take the opportunity of being in GP2 and make the most of it.  I pick on Alvaro Parente because he’s a talented driver and he has the chance of making Ocean a top team in just one year.   If Monteiro knows his team is slow, then he needs to handle it in-house with Alvaro and keep Alvaro away from these comments, which will just end up making things worst for the image of ORT.

Another who fell in this trap is British F3 champ Jaime Alguersuari.  Highly protected by his family’s interests yet highly supported by Red Bull cash, Jaime did not go to GP2 but preferred to race in the World Series by Renault (category created and now managed by his father).  So far, so good.  Only problem is that Jaime openly said he did not go to GP2 because there were no seats in the “best teams”.  Come on!!  You want me to believe an F3 champ with Red Bull cash could not find a seat at iSport or Racing Engineering?   I think it’s highly unlikely.

He was either too late on deciding, had no intentions on ever going or is scared of how vicious GP2 can be for a young champ like himself.  Take your pick….

….or maybe we should as Dr. Marko?

GP2 guys at Portimao

This afternoon’s F3000 race at Portimao had 4 current GP2 drivers on the grid.  That would make for some rather bland news, except for the fact that the total grid was made up of 11 drivers!

I will not go ahead and criticize the sad state of F3000 (this is a GP2 blog), but just comment that even with the arrival of Party Poker as a series sponsor and a 2010 GP2 drive as an incentive, this category is failing to find its place in the current motorsports sector.

What I will comment on is the presence of these 4 drivers:  Maldonado, Herck, Rodriguez and Nunes.   A simple question… what the heck are you doing there?  If you want to learn the Portimao track there are better ways to do it.  If you were there to fill in at Coloni’s sad show, then at least I hope you got paid for it.  I’m glad at least Maldonado won the race.

But the bottom line is a message (though a weak one for now), that GP2 drivers are looking for track time.  With in-season tests banned for 2009, drivers with the budget or the connections to get 500+ BHP single-seaters are doing so, regardless of how crappy the category or the show.   Should GP2 allow for open testing, and not restricted like it is today?

Parente falls in the “GP2 trap”

I was very surprised to read in the online edition of Autosport the comments from Alvaro Parente saying his team, Ocean Racing Technology, “lacks pace”.

I’m sorry, Alvaro, but you have fallen victim of the “GP2 trap”, blaming the team for your lack of speed.  In a category such as GP2, where all cars use the same chassis, engine and tyres, you cannot openly place the responsibility of a crappy weekend on your team.  Bottom line, if your team “lacks pace” you lack pace.

Knowing well that Ocean is the ex-BCN squad, and blaming this legacy for your mediocre weekend doesn’t speak very highly of you and your loyalty as a driver.

Main comments to highlight:

  • “The pace was not that impressive”
  • “So I think we are missing general pace, and we’ll have to see why that is because we’re not right there. For sure we have to improve.”
  • “For Saturday’s race I had the car to finish sixth. No better.”

If I was Tiago Monteiro or Jose Guedes, I would pull my fellow countryman aside and pull on his ears.  What are you talking about, Alvaro??  Maybe you mean your lack of pace or saying I have to improve.  GP2 is a driver’s category, and the fact that you are too slow may mean 2 things:  you suck as a race driver or you suck as a race setup driver.

I think Parente needs to breathe in deeply, erase his rage for the crash that took him out from a brilliant race on Saturday and regroup for Monaco next week.   This is not F1, companheiro…

Monaco preview #1

Depending on how GP2 Asia debts are handled (or pardoned) by the GP2 Gods, Monaco may prove to be the beginning of the end for several teams.  I was probably too generous in my May 4th post predicting when teams would run out of cash, underestimating the impact of the devastating Asia Series and the insufficient cash entering the teams.

Remember that most teams actually receive only part of the cash from drivers at this stage in the season, normally split into 2 or 3 payments.  The risk of a driver not paying his installments, or on the cash-in  being insufficient, could be too much to bear for many teams in this current climate.

Not helping in this situation is the mind-boggling replacement part costs presented to teams this past weekend.  GP2 is pushing simple spares at exorbitant prices, adding more and more wood to the already vivid financial fire that many teams are facing.   The uproar among the GP2 teams was significant, though their pleas as usual will go ignored and unanswered by those “in charge”.   With this philosophy and vision, they will simply accelerate the demise of those teams in trouble – which could be what their ultimate goal is:

trident logoFirst in line is Trident, which regardless of the Sonangol cash brought in by Teixeira is facing its final days as a GP2 team.  Rumours of Hamad Al Fardan jumping on board could save the team, though the Bahraini driver’s budget could serve for little more than delay the inevitable.  Trident’s problems are deep, dragged on from at least 2 seasons of a terrible cash management and vision.  If you recall, Trident started off well in their 2006 season, with Bruni winning a couple of races.  Since then, Trident has raced paying drivers:  Kohei Hirate (Toyota driver), Mike Conway (Honda driver) and Ho-Pin Tung.  Even with this, today they find themselves in the worst financial situation of all, having thrown away their “brand equity” and falling to the pits of GP2.  Some, with very specific detail, would say – as Alan Greenspan would say – it is the result of irrational exhuberance…. Time will be the judge of this.

durango logoDurango joins the rank of troubled teams, with Ivone Pinton searching for buyers left and right.    Pinton is an experienced team owner and his situation, in my opinion, is more strategic than financial.  Pinton knows it’s a good time to look for buyers.  His sporting situation will not improve with Valsecchi underperforming and Panciatici adapting to GP2, so he wants to step to the front of the line, cutting in ahead of Trident, DPR or Coloni.  He has suffered through some up and down seasons before, but he is probably sure his team will not be in the Top 5 any time soon.   A string of mediocre results from average-to-poor drivers (Valerio, García, Puglisi, Chandhok, Hernández) has not helped his case.  He may feel it’s too late and that a radical change is needed.

DPR logo

The DPR situation is a bit different.  As we have written and many have posted comments on, André Herck has no financial problems and can weather this storm.  We can’t forget, though, that Herck is also a successful businessman and this GP2 team will be no exception.  Rumour is he could be driving this team into the ground, increasing his already heavy losses, arriving at a stalemate with the GP2 organization.   Could make sense, since this would be a way to survive his terrible sporting situation, renegotiate and come up with a breath of fresh air from this mess.  If he wants to change his team’s direction, he could start by putting James Jakes in his second car – the only driver left with budget and some ability to aim for Top 10 finishes.

After this brief analysis, question is:  what would happen if Trident can’t be at the Turkish GP at the beginning of June?

1. Will Bruno Michel pay for his expenses?  Hmmmmm… no.  If you don’t pay, you get fined – and instead of helping, Michel will charge €40k per car not on the grid, even if the debt is now approaching €1 million.

2. Is any F3/WSR team waiting for an opportunity to join GP2?   I doubt Prema, Epsilon Euskadi, Mucke, Manor or Carlin are sitting on the sidelines at this point.  No one is willing to bet their own cash, and the lack of sponsors and drivers at this stage of the season and economy make for a general lack of interest.

Monaco will be the perfect setting for these backmarkers to show their cards…

Post-race evaluations – Spanish GP

My first full driver evaluations, after this weekend’s Spanish GP.   Format is:  Rate and comment on Top 6 and Bottom 4 drivers.  Look forward to hearing comments on content and design.Evals Spain GP top 6

eval Spain GP rest

Evals Spain GP bott 4

Quick comments on Spanish GP

Tomorrow I will post my full impressions on this weekend’s race, I wanted to make a couple of quick comments.

The superiority of Barwa Addax in race 1 was somewhat insulting.  I heard all sorts of mumblings and conspiracy theories about the Agag-Briatore-Bernie connection, but for now I think it is too early for such comments.   Truth is, drivers like DiGrassi and Maldonado did their best to not fight for wins this weekend.

DiGrassi seemed to suffer from stagefright as was consistently slow at race pace.  Like I have said many times before, DiGrassi – the eternal runner-up – seems to lack that winner’s hunger.  Is the “favorite” tag too much pressure for him?

Pastor was his usual inconsistent self, making for great spectator racing but in detriment of his points tally.  He’s still my championship favorite, but he needs to start being less spectacular and more effective.  Lucky for him his favorite track, Monaco, is next.

Apart from these, impressive performance from Mortara and D’Ambrosio, who started to show his quality towards the end of last season and solidified it with a strong GP2 Asia run.   For Mortara, I hope the Italian media does not start to destroy him with rumours on him being the next Italian star.

Tomorrow, a detailed driver-by-driver evaluation and some insider comments on GP2 budgets.