Who was missing in Abu Dhabi?

Though in general terms the end of season Abu Dhabi tests were not very relevant for many drivers (old car, old tires), it is nonetheless a chance to sit behind the wheel of a 600hp GP2 racecar.    That said, and given the number of seats and days available (96 seats over 4 test days), there were many “current” GP2 drivers missing from this post-season test.

For the fun of it, let’s run down the list of drivers who didn’t make it to the Yas Marina tests:

  • Jules Bianchi –  really didn’t need to be there, especially if there was still any doubt about his physical condition.  With one seat taken by Gutierrez, ART probably asked Jules to sit this one out while they sold the second seat to interested drivers.
  • Davide Valsecchi – his remaining budget was spent on his half-day HRT test.  He will be back in 2011, though I doubt it will be with iSport
  • Giedo van der Garde – focused on his F1 bid, Giedo probably didn’t want to be seen in a GP2 car anymore.  With Maldonado’s confirmation at Williams, his chances are dwindling and we may still see him on the GP2 grid next season.
  • Christian Vietoris – I thought he’d be around for sure.  Fully recovered from his untimely appendicitis, I would have thought Vietoris was anxious for some seat time.  But probably Gravity decided to spend its budget on putting Sims in a GP2.
  • Max Chilton – Though I expected him in Abu Dhabi, his shakedown run with Carlin is indicative of where he’ll be next season.  No reason spending money with other teams.
  • Vladimir Arabadzhiev – After his Lotus F1 run, I thought Vlado would stick around for GP2.  I would be surprised, though, if he’s not in this year’s GP2 Asia grid.
  • Johnny Cecotto – Pretty much the same story as Chilton.  Rumors have been linking him to Air Asia and Lotus for several months now.

All in all, a good number of the 2010 GP2 grid thought it a good idea to stick around for this 4-day test.  Let’s see who ultimately makes it back into the series for next year.

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GP2’s weaknesses in 2010 shining through

With just about 24 hours to the official start of the 2010 GP2 Main season, we are still waiting on any type of confirmation from the 5 teams with seat still up for sale this year.    At this time last year, teams pulled driver from the lists of “usual suspects” to fill up their seats, mainly Davide Rigon, Giacomo Ricci or James Jakes.

Though 2010 looked to potentially be a brighter year financially for these teams, there seems to still be a relevant hangover that is holding back drivers and their backers/sponsors from committing to GP2 this year.  Reasons?  Several come to mind:

First, drivers with any relevant budget (in March GP2-speak that means above €800k) are holding out for the best deal possible.  Though all drivers have a preference of which team they will race with, at the end they just want to be part of the show.  The difference between racing with Coloni, Rapax or Trident is a thin one… only that 2nd Arden seat stands out.

Second, competition is steep this year.  With F3 Euroseries practically dead in the water (what a pity) and Formula Master canceled,  you would think GP2 would emerge victorious.  But instead of re-aligning GP2 and strengthening it, the organization decided to push forward with the GP3 concept.  Today, the value proposition of racing alongside F1, one of GP2’s important selling points, has been diluted by its sister series.   I have already written on my opinion regarding this decision, where the concept is a bit off (too expensive) and the timing is just terrible.

Finally, GP2 has not done enough to bring down budgets to reality.  The world has changed, the economy has changed and the realities of most (not all) drivers and sponsors has changed.  Renault driver development still exists in some way through Gravity, but Honda is gone, Toyota is gone and Red Bull gave up on GP2 in 2009.   The happy spending of the 2005-2008 seasons may never return, and the organization cannot blindly ignore that fact.

GP2’s track record is second to none.  The relevance of the series in F1 is unquestionable.  But coming up with €1.2 million-plus is a daunting task… no matter what success rate the category has.  It’s time for some changes in the thinking and strategy of the organization.

The first test (for the organizers) will come when they decide what to do with the 2011-2016 contracts and the renovation of the current Dallara chassis.  If they want my input, they know where to find me.

Updated: GP2 Jerez Test- Driver lineup

Keeping this post open for the comments…. See full confirmed Jerez list in post above.  Thanks to all for your inputs!  We’ll do it all over again in a month for the Paul Ricard GP2 Main test.  At the end, apparently no Durango.

Confirmed: Loeb to test with DPR at Jerez

Update:  Loeb himself has confirmed on his website that he will be testing with DPR on October 8th.  Thanks Francois for the information….  He also informs us that Loeb will pay €15.000 to DPR for the test – far from the reported €30.000 that Red Bull was going to pay.

The rumor of Sebastien’s Loeb GP2 test with DPR at Jerez seems to be gaining momentum.  Though no “official” motorsports publication has made reference to the news, Frloeb f1ench radio station RMC has broadcast the news and written a piece on its website (thank you Diogo Oliveira and sauber11 for the information). Read more of this post

Montmeló wrap-up… see you at Montmeló

Yesterday’s test at Montmeló wraps up the pre-season testing for the GP2 Main Series.  No more testing, except Friday practice during race weekends.  A few new conclusions to make:

– Alvaro Parente confirms he is very much at ease at this track.  He won his maiden race in GP2 last year here.  Also to note that his performance is a strong testament of the good shape of the BCN Competición cars acquired a couple of months ago.  Could he win Ocean’s first race in GP2 Main?

– Javi Villa continues to show good test form, much like previous years.  Super Nova teammate Luca Filippi has also had a solid pre-season, a start that points for some optimism in David Sears’ team.  Surprise team in 2009?

– The 2 ART drivers (and cars) are not shining as expected.  Both Maldonado and Hulkenberg have been in and out of the top 10, finishing 10th and 17th respectively on the timesheets after all 3 days in Barcelona.  Excessive confidence?

– Lucas DiGrassi is starting off 2009 where he left off 2008.  He is clearly the favourite for the driver’s title and has shown his speed and leadership at both pre-season tests.   Anyone betting against him?  (see the polls on the blog)

-Romain Grosjean doesn’t seem his usual self at Barwa Addax.  Where in 2008 he was the only focus of ART’s attention, to the detriment of Luca Filippi, at Barwa he has to share protagonism with team veteran Vitaly Petrov.  Unhappy already?

-The so-called “GP2 Backmarkers” are just where they should be – at the end, with few exceptions shining through: Parente and Valsecchi who are the only race-winning hope for this group of teams.  Who will not make it to the end of the season?

So we have a bit over a month ahead of us to wait and see these cars in action again at Montmeló, only this time racing for real.  1 seat still available at DPR and 2 seats at Trident.  I will follow closely and comment on rumours regarding who may fill these seats.

Parente’s sponsors

Pictures emerging from Tuesday’s GP2 test at Montmeló show the ORT car driven by Alvaro Parente with some sponsorship:

– Energy drink Soccerade is prominent on the engine cover.  This Icelandic company already supported Alvaro’s 2008 season with Super Nova and continues.  I need to investigate the Portuguese/Brazilian link with this firm, since they have Parente’s fellow countryman Cristiano Ronaldo (aka CR7) as their brand ambassador.  Also, Felipe Massa’s drink bottle is sponsored by Soccerade…. not a coincidence.

– The Portimao circuit is now featured on the sidepods, both on Parente’s and  Karun Chandhok’s car.  ORT is based at Portimao, so it seems fitting that some sorparente-montmelot of alliance comes out of their collective interests.

– Portuguese mobile operator TMN (Portugal Telecom) is just under the cockpit, and may be the Portuguese sponsor that Tiago Monteiro had promised.  By their location on the bodywork, it does not seem like a deal worth much money, though at this stage every little bit helps.

– The red triangle logo just below the cockpit belongs to Delta Cafes, a Portuguese distributor of coffee to restaurants and bars.  Again, the logo size points that it’s not a relevant sponsor, but at least more cash to support Parente’s season.

Maybe with this new blood in the team, Parente’s budget could help ORT approach breakeven for 2009.  Like I said before, Monteiro could be wishing he had waited to take over BCN Competición last November.

Montmeló – Day 1 results

The usual suspects on top of the time sheets at the Barcelona circuit on Day 1 of the final pre-season tests.   Alvaro Parente, winner of the feature race here in 2008 with Super Nova, was fastest in the morning session and ended up with the 2nd fastest time overall.  A good result for Ocean, who no doubt had this type of results in mind when signing up Parente (with a limited budget, no doubt).    Belgian Jerome d’Ambrosio also put it a good showing today, putting his DAMS GP2 ahead of many favourites such as Maldonado, Hulkenberg or Grosjean.  The French Barwa Campos driver had serious problems finding the right setup, completing a total of 46 laps but ending up 19th in both test sessions.

The trend of seeing “temporary drivers” at the bottom continues, with Rigon, Jakes and Teixeira closing out the list (alongside a very slow Luiz Razia).  As opposed to the Paul Ricard test, all these drivers completed a good set of laps – the only exception being DPR’s Jakes during the morning session (8 laps).

Weather in Barcelona tomorrow should be equally good for the teams, as they prepare for the final 2 days of testing.

Summary of Day 1:

1. Lucas DiGrassi: 1’27″471

2. Alvaro Parente: 1’27″733

3. Jerome d’Ambrosio: 1’27″854

4. Vitaly Petrov: 1’27″897

5. Pastor Maldonado: 1’27″936

6. Nico Hulkenberg: 1’27″973

7. Javier Villa: 1’28″036

8. Davide Valsecchi: 1’28″077

9. Roldan Rodriguez: 1’28″123

10. Kamui Kobayashi: 1’28″159