(c) Super Nova Racing, 2010
After the second race of the season, Super Nova is very surprisingly the only GP2 team at zero points. Given the trend in the recent past, we would have probably expected DPR, Trident or maybe even Coloni to be bringing up the rear. But the team that finished 3rd last season is now dead-last in the standings, and its 2 drivers are showing serious difficulties to bring the car up into the points any time soon.
It all starts with the gamble taken by David Sears and his team late last year, signing 2 rookies to drive his cars, unlike the team’s strategy in the very recent past.
In 2009, Super Nova had 2 strong veterans: Luca Filippi and Javi Villa. In 2008, promising rookie Alvaro Parente (WSR champ) was joined by series regular Andy Soucek. And in 2007, Filippi and Mike Conway drove for the British team.
Marcus Ericsson comes with a solid CV under his belt, having won the British Formula BMW and Japanese F3 championships and putting in a highly competitive season in British F3 as well. Josef Kral, came in after placing 3rd in a competitive Formula Master season, battling it out with drivers like Alexander Rossi and Fabio Leimer.
So a calculated bet from Sears and Super Nova nonetheless, probably helped by the bleak economic outlook for the 2010 grid when these 2 drivers were signed. Being a top-5 team allows you to pick and choose early in the process, and Sears picked fast drivers with strong bank accounts to race his cars. What surely tipped the balance was that Sears probably saw that experienced drivers with a €1.3 million-plus budget were not too abundant this year, and he made the wise business decision in signing Ericsson and Kral.
Pérez was firmly with Addax, Clos with Racing Engineering and D’Ambrosio with DAMS. His only real options were Giedo, who opted for the “highest” spot possible after his break-up with iSport, Valsecchi, who was very intelligently drafted by Paul Jackson and Pastor Maldonado, who I believe is in for a partial GP2 season waiting for his jump to F1 any day now.
Now Super Nova is not the only team with 2 rookies. ART has Bianchi and Bird, Arden has Pic and Gonzalez and Ocean has Leimer and Chilton. The explanations for all these is quite more simple, though.
ART makes it it’s business to draft in top rookies: Hamilton, Grosjean, Hulkenberg the most renowned. Yes, they are usually paired with a “veteran” (Premat, Filippi, Maldonado), so Bird’s signing was a bit of a surprise. Arden has a strong rookie in Charles Pic, and Gonzalez is there merely because Javi Villa’s negotiations fell through at the final hour. And Ocean has Leimer because he’s Monteiro’s protegé and Chilton who has a strong budget behind him, plus Ocean is not a top-5 team that would have had much to choose from had it held out for other drivers.
So will the Super Nova gamble pay off? The season goes by quickly, and the key now is to keep the energy and intensity within the team at high levels. As rookies in such a demanding category and atmosphere, both Ericsson and Kral are susceptible to giving up, so the team must rally and put in a good show at the Istambul track, where Super Nova has been on the podium before with Adam Carroll, Javi Villa and Luca Filippi. David Sears and the team are in for their toughest GP2 season yet.