The curse of the ART teammate
October 15, 2009 18 Comments
Being at a driver at ART Grand Prix is the best place to be as a GP2 driver… if you are their #1 driver that is. ART has been characterized by being the top team in the category (except during its inexplicably bad 2007 season), so the best drivers and their healthy budgets have always flocked to it.
Yet ART, as all other GP2 teams should be (but aren’t), is a business. And with this vision, they have a clear objective in mind every season. What this can translate to, is betting for the success of the “#1 driver” of the team, even if it means having a clear favorite.
At ART, this has been a clear reality in 4 out of its 5 years in GP2. Of these 4 years/drivers, 3 have been GP2 champions and they are all in F1. This sounds like a good corporate policy for the team, though the downside is the desperate situation for the team’s #2 driver. Looking down the list of these drivers during 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009 we see some pretty good racers.
First, Alex Premat, one of the most impressive GP2 drivers in my memory, whose only fault was to be #2 at ART for 2 years. He is now solidly placed with Audi Sport, but his single-seater days are probably behind him. Second, Luca Filippi, eternal GP2 promise who has never quite fulfilled his potential, but who should have enjoyed strong results in 2008. He was completely overshadowed on the track and in the paddock by Romain Grosjean – to the point where he left the team early. Finally, Pastor Maldonado, my pick for 2009 GP2 champ had a terrible season (for his standards) and has effectively put big question marks regarding his future as a single-seater driver.
This is by no means a criticism of ART. It is impossible to argue with their success and their commitment to a strategy and vision. If I was a GP2 team owner and had the same driver draw, I can’t say I would do any differently.
For me the only question going into the 2010 season is: Who will dare be the teammate of Jules Bianchi?