After the GP2 Stars and the Survivors, come the 5 other teams that in my estimation will be hard-pressed to finish the 2009 season without incurring serious financial troubles. Apart from the hemorrhage the GP2 Asia Series is causing (to be addressed in a separate future post), these 5 teams are consistently at the bottom and fighting for the budgets (usually partial) of midfield drivers and occasional newcomers with funding.
- FMS/Coloni: Probably the most consistent team in GP2, though unfortunately consistently poor. Apart from a 5th place finish in 2006 with Pantano, they have been 9th or 10th every season. Even after the branding push from Giancarlo Fisichella, the team has failed to raise its game. For 2009 they have GP2 veteran (and eternal promise) Andy Zuber, with a partial season budget that I estimate around €600k – from Dominator yachts. FMS has also signed up well-funded Luiz Razia, who stays “with the family” after contesting the Euroseries 3000 organised by Coloni (though he ran with Ernesto Catella’s team). Razia probably brings in a bit more than Zuber (estimated €800k max), putting FMS about €400-500k shy of a breakeven season. I doubt, Zuber will make it through the season, so I’m sure Enzo Coloni is looking for some cash for mid-season onwards. Maybe F3000 sponsor PartyPoker can fill in the gap?
- Trident: The “newest” team in GP2, joining in 2006, Trident started off strong and has trailed off since then. After winning its 3rd race in GP2 with Gianmaria Bruni, Trident has won a total of 5 races. Trident, along with ART and Arden, is the only team to win at least 1 race in every season it has contested. Regarding 2009, not much to say except that team owner Maurizio Salvadori must be in serious trouble. He has yet to find even 1 funded driver for the season – even a mediocre one. Trident showed up at Paul Ricard with Davide Rigon (great driver, no budget) and Hamad Al Fardan (apparently funded). Al-Fardan seems to have the budget, though something is happening behind the scenes to slow down his confirmation. He is running the GP2 Asia Series with iSport and by now was expected to have a confirmed seat for the Main Series. Maybe budget is an issue for his sponsor, Gulf Finance House, given that the gap between Asia and Main is a substantial amount (between €500k and €700k higher). We’ll have to wait until the tests at Montmelo for an update. 2009 will be a terrible season for Trident economically, and no doubt a top candidate in the “for sale” category.
- Ocean: Even as the only team not to win a GP2 race (under the BCN Competicion banner), Ocean still has better team standings stats than Durango and DPR. Tiago Monteiro will have a rude awakening in the glamorous world of GP2 ownership. Monteiro has yet to announce a title sponsor to support his signing of national talent Alvaro Parente (Galp?). Parente is a GP2 race winner, but lacks the full budget for a GP2 season. Teammate Karun Chandhok, another GP2 veteran is still India’s hope for their next F1 driver. With cash from Punj Lloyd and Amaron, plus maybe a partial budget from Parente – Ocean may reach the €1.2 million mark. Without a title sponsor to kick in at least €600 to 700k, Ocean will find that GP2 is indeed a tough business.
- Durango: An ex-F3000 team, Durango has a long and storied history led by Ivone Pinton, though their trek through GP2 has seen them consistently languish at the bottom. After starting off strong with a win from Clivio Piccione in the feature race at Nurburgring in 2005, Durango has seen few happy days. Except for 2007, when some consistency from Borja Garcia landed the team 8th in the team standings, they have always failed to make the top 10. 2008 ended strong with a win from Davide Valsecchi, driver who is staying on and should be competitive, now backed by Renault’s RDD programme. The second seat is still vacant and was filled by Spanish F3 runner-up Nelson Panciatici. Pending this confirmation, Durango will no doubt have a troubled 2009 season financially. Probably another team to add to the “for sale” list as the season drags on.
- DPR: Though consistently at the back, DPR enjoyed its 15 minutes of fame with 2 wins from Olivier Pla in 2005 (both sprint races). Since then, DPR has suffered through the Direxiv debacle and David Price (the “DP” in DPR) has sold a majority stake to businessman Andre Herck. With son Michael at the wheel of the first car, DPR still has no second driver. Giacomo Ricci filled in at Paul Ricard but I would be surprised to see him piece together a full 2009 budget. DPR will suffer in 2009, though it’s probably not the first year for them.