Post-race evaluations: Belgian GP

Evals Spa GP top 6

evals Spa GP rest

Evals Spa GP bott 4

Note:  Zuber and Razia (Coloni) did not participate in the Spa weekend due to the impounding of their cars.  Perera was (unjustly) excluded due to the 107% rule.

GP2 Asia (or GP2 Middle East) returns… why?

Many who have been reading this post know well my complete opposition to the whole GP2 Asia concept.   Starting with this post I wrote several entries regarding the devastating effect of this series on the teams and the image of GP2 as a business.   Mainly, almost no Asian drivers took part, the top GP2 teams didn’t take the category too seriously and team economics were shattered by its structure.

I had the firm hope that Bruno Michel would see the light and would be able to accept that GP2 Asia was a flawed concept, and that in today’s economy it would be a good idea to put this idea to sleep.  Yet I now read in most magazines that GP2 Asia is back… though it should be called GP2 Middle East.  Please, explain to me why…

The calendar will consist of:

– Oct 23-24  Test – Abu Dhabi

– Oct 31-Nov 1  Race – Abu Dhabi (with F1)

– Feb 5-6  Race – Abu Dhabi

– Feb 26-27 Race – Bahrain

– TBD  Race – Bahrain (with F1)

* a fifth race at Losail circuit in Qatar is still pending confirmation and according to Autosport magazine would be slotted in between the 2 Abu Dhabi races

Comments about this preliminary calendar:

  • First race sounds nice… inaugurating a new racetrack, F1 support race, the works.  It is only 1 month after the season-ending race at Portimao which is OK, but it is 2 months away from today.  How many teams have a GP2 roster set-up?  How many teams have GP2 drivers signed?  Looks like a time crunch to begin with.
  • Depending on when the F1 race at Bahrain is (rumor is it will now open the 2010 season)  we will have a 4-race “top series” calendar spread over 5-6 months!  Sounds like a product without a market to me….
  • Hmmm… where is Dubai?

For me, the bottom line is that the organizers are preaching a reduced-cost series by grouping all races in the Middle East.  Autosport says:  “Asian circuits that have featured in previous seasons, such as Sentul and Sepang, have disappeared in an effort to reduce transportation costs.” Fair enough, but my question is:  reduce transportation costs for who?  GP2 cars were housed in a Dubai storage facility and then moved around by the organization, so the main reduction will be for them.  Yes, teams will be able to charge lower rates for racing to drivers, but the impact will be minimal.  Will spares be cheaper?  Will Mecachrome reduce its fees?  Will the organization travel lightly and more efficiently?

GP2 Asia is expensive because its structure is modeled after GP2.   No matter if the cars are racing in Sentul or Bahrain, the underlying weight of the whole organization is still there.

My recommendation is to call to the end of GP2 Asia, selling the cars off to private owners or to an entrepreneur willing to put together a championship, and let the drivers and/or teams go if they have the sporting or economic incentive to do so – much like what happened with the old F3000 and Enzo Coloni’s Euroseries.

One question still remains:  Which teams will go to GP2 Asia?  Will they still feel the pressure to take part in this off-season experiment?

I believe we will see more than one team stand up and say “no thanks…!”

What’s cooking over at Trident?

The announcement by Trident of the signing of Bulgarian driver Plamen Kralev for the GP2 Asia season makes me believe that something is cooking over at Maurizio Salvadori’s team.

The fact that a bankrupt team is looking to the devastatingly destructive Asia season as a way to save their current cash problems is a good example of how difficult it is to do business in this category today.  Salvadori has probably thrown in the towel on the GP2 Main season and is looking to the (yet to be confirmed!) Asia season for partial salvation.  He’s probably commanding a sufficient amount to cover for a seat and part of the other – hedging his risk for Asia.

Question is, though, how does a backmarker team sign a driver today vs the fully available seats at ART, iSport, Arden, Barwa…. etc?   Is Salvadori finally putting together a deal to save the team with some Eastern European cash?

The important point is that the fight for survival continues for teams like Trident and Durango, even if it means ironically turning to the devastating GP2 Asia Series for a lifeline…  Let’s see if this sparks a flurry of Asia deals in the coming weeks.

Post-race evaluations: European GP

Evals Valencia GP top 6

evals Valencia GP rest

Evals Valencia GP bott 4

Vitaly’s last chance

With Grosjean out of the picture, Vitaly Petrov remains as the sole challenger to Nico Hulkenberg’s impressive mid-season push to the top of the standings.  Valencia will be the Russian’s last opportunity to opt for the 2009 GP2 crown.

With an 18 point lead and 3 races to go after Valencia, this will have to be the time to step up and meet his promised level of performance.  Vitaly has shown a good evolution in GP2, but this should be his championship year.  Who knows if next year he will be in F1 or somewhere else, but regardless he should be the top contender with Romain gone to Renault.

Yes, Lucas DiGrassi is only 1 point behind Vitaly, but he is subject to different kinds of pressures.  He is a “career” GP2 driver and now comfortably under Briatore’s wing.  No matter what he does, he will be regarded as a solid driver and not winning in 2009 will be another good result in an otherwise linear, stable and completely unimpressive single-seater career.

Everyone else is out of the picture..

Mystery #2 solved: Coletti in at Durango

Great news.  According to Italiaracing, Stefano Coletti, F3 Euroseries race winner and front runner will step into Davide Valsecchi’s seat at Durango.  A welcome breath of fresh air that will begin to setup the driver field for 2010.  Coletti, along with many F3 colleagues are the immediate future for GP2, and his arrival to the series – even if only for 1-2 races – is a sign that the category is still relevant.

Not sure of the finances behind the deal yet, but for Pinton and Durango a much better move than to put in James Jakes or the many other names that have been thrown around in the past month.   Bottom line – if Jakes would have wanted to be racing this year, be it GP2 or any other series, he would be there already.

Mystery #1 solved

Well, now we know that the Barwa seat was “owned” by RDD, and that Davide Valsecchi will get his chance.  Let’s see if he can improve now that he’s in a “better team” and help Barwa win the team championship.

Let’s see what deal Ivone Pinton at Durango and Briatore have worked out.  A new driver is needed at the Italian team and it surely won’t come from the “open market” as it is completely dry.

If the Filippi-Van der Garde-Senna story doesn’t make sense, maybe Durango will be awarded with another RDD driver, such as Charles Pic – who should be interested in stepping up to GP2 after his lukewarm WSR season.