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2014 GP2 Series season preview and primer

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As Formula 1 steals the limelight and often overshadows all other motorsport events that take place at the track on a race weekend, its premier feeder series – GP2 – has a great reputation and prestige within the sport’s community. Since its inception back in 2005, the series has produced 25 F1 drivers, including 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton, race winners Nico Rosberg and Pastor Maldonado, plus the likes of Romain Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg, Kamui Kobayashi and Heikki Kovalainen.

2014 sees the series enter its tenth season, and with a number of highly exciting drivers entering the championship, the stage is set for a classic season of GP2 racing. Who will follow in the footsteps of Fabio Leimer and clinch the title this year?

WHAT IS GP2?

GP2 emerged from the old International F3000 series back in 2005, and has since been the direct feeder series to Formula 1, although drivers have been known to graduate from Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2’s own feeder series, GP3. Many of the teams in F1 do have major interests in GP2 with junior teams and drivers, as it is the perfect training ground for them under the wing of the sport.

GP2 perfectly prepares drivers for life in Formula 1 as they are part of the grand prix weekend. Each GP2 round supports its respective grand prix, meaning that the drivers get to use the exact same facilities and circuits. The series also gets great exposure by being an integral part of the grand prix weekend, being broadcast all over the world and in front of the baying crowds that flock to some of F1’s best-attended races.

THE CAR

In order to make the racing as competitive as possible, all drivers race with identical chassis, engines and tires in GP2.

The current car, the GP2/11, was designed by Dallara and is fitted with a four litre V8 engine (larger and louder than in F1, where V6s are used), generating up to 612 BHP. It will be used until 2016 to keep costs down.

The GP2/11 can do 0-60 in 2.9 seconds and is capable of a top speed of 206mph. This may be the ‘feeder series’, but a GP2 car is no slouch. The car must also pass a Formula One crash test and be up to F1 standards in all areas of safety.

Pirelli tires are a standard for all teams racing in GP2, just as they are in Formula 1. Furthermore, teams have the same compounds that are used in F1: super-soft, soft, medium, hard, intermediate and wet.

THE DRIVERS AND TEAMS

Here is the grid for the 2014 GP2 Series season:

RT RUSSIAN TIME
Mitch Evans NZL
Artem Markelov RUS

Carlin
Felipe Nasr BRA
Julian Leal COL

Racing Engineering
Raffaele Marciello ITA
Stefano Coletti MON

DAMS
Jolyon Palmer GBR
Stephane Richelmi MON

ART Grand Prix
Stoffel Vandoorne BEL
Takuya Izawa JPN

Hilmer Motorsport
Daniel Abt GER
Facu Regalia ARG

Rapax
Adrian Quaife-Hobbs GBR
Simon Trummer SUI

Arden International
Rene Binder AUT
Andre Negrao BRA

EQ8 Caterham Racing
Rio Haryanto INO
Alexander Rossi USA

MP Motorsport
Daniel de Jong NED
Jon Lancaster GBR

Trident Racing
Axcil Jefferies ZIM
Johnny Cecotto Jr. VEN

Venezuelan GP Lazarus
Conor Daly USA
Nathanael Berthon FRA

Campos Racing
Arthur Pic FRA
Kimiya Sato JPN

THE CALENDAR

1. Bahrain 4-6 April
2. Spain 9-11 May
3. Monaco 22-24 May
4. Austria 20-22 June
5. Great Britain 4-6 July
6. Germany 18-20 July
7. Hungary 25-27 July
8. Belgium 22-24 August
9. Italy 5-7 September
10. Russia 10-12 October
11. Abu Dhabi 21-23 November

THE RACE WEEKEND

The typical GP2 race weekend fits around the proceedings of Formula 1. On the Friday of each race, there will be a free practice session lasting 45 minutes, and then a 30 minute qualifying session. The grid for the feature race is formed from these results.

On Saturday, the feature race sees drivers race over a distance of 170km (140km for Monaco) and, like in Formula 1, they must make a pit stop and use both compounds of tire. Points are awarded in the same way as Formula 1 (without double points in Abu Dhabi).

On Sunday, the top eight finishers in the feature race are reversed to form the grid for the sprint race (i.e. finishing P8 in the feature race gets you pole for the sprint race).

The sprint race is run over a reduced distance of 120km (100km for Monaco), and points are awarded on a smaller scale (15 for P1, 12 for P2, 10 for P3, right the way down to one point for P8.

Points are also awarded for pole position and the fastest lap in each race.

DRIVERS TO WATCH

Raffaele Marciello
Marciello is widely considered to be Italy’s next great racing hope, and is the leading star in Ferrari’s driver academy. Known as “Lello”, he won last year’s FIA Formula 3 European Championship and now makes the step up with the team that took Fabio Leimer to last year’s title, Racing Engineering. He also raced up against NBCSN’s very own Will Buxton in the Florida Winter Series, and is a definite star for the future.

Stoffel Vandoorne
Just as Marciello is Ferrari’s great hope, Vandoorne is at the top of McLaren’s junior programme. The Belgian youngster finished as runner-up to Kevin Magnussen in Formula Renault 3.5 last season, and he is now chasing the GP2 title at the first attempt with ART. With Jenson Button approaching the end of his career, Vandoorne could be his direct successor, and a strong rookie year in GP2 certainly would help his chances of moving into F1 soon.

Felipe Nasr
Brazilian driver Felipe Nasr enters his third year in GP2 this season, and he is certainly one of the title favorites after finishing fourth in last year’s championship despite not winning a race. He will be balancing his campaign with a test driver role at Williams.

Alexander Rossi
As the only American driver to hold an FIA superlicense, Rossi is the nation’s best hope of a home driver in the near future. Having impressed during testing with Caterham Racing, he will be keen on mounting a serious title challenge this year after finishing as top rookie last time around.

Conor Daly
After a difficult winter, Daly secured a seat with Venezuela GP Lazarus just a few days ago, but he is geared up for the new GP2 season. After racing in GP3 last year and finishing the championship in third place, Conor – alongside Alexander Rossi – will be looking to give the US fans something to shout about in GP2 this season.

Also look out for: Mitch Evans, Stefano Coletti, Takuya Izawa, Arthur Pic.

Helmut Marko: Modern-day F1 drivers are overpaid

xxxx during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on June 19, 2015 in Spielberg, Austria.
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Red Bull Racing team advisor Helmut Marko believes that modern-day Formula 1 drivers are overpaid due to the reduced risk and easier driving conditions they experience.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel are two of the highest-paid drivers on the grid in 2016, earning upwards of $30 million per year from their teams.

However, Marko believes that drivers in F1 are overpaid as there is now a reduced risk of suffering a fatal accident, and that with the cars being easier to drive, their worth has decreased.

“Basically, the drivers of today are definitely overpaid for two reasons,” Marko told Sport Bild in Germany.

“Firstly, there is only a small risk that serious accidents can result in injury or even be fatal.

“Secondly, young top talent like [Max] Verstappen or [Pascal] Wehrlein can take the modern car and straight away easily do 100 laps without tiring.

“Previously you had even a Vettel have to take breaks because he was not used to the high centrifugal forces. This means that the cars are easier to drive. The drivers must do less.”

Wolff: Wehrlein, Ocon deserve Formula 1 roles

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 23:  Pascal Wehrlein of Germany and Mercedes GP drives during Formula One testing at the Red Bull Ring on June 23, 2015 in Spielberg, Austria.  (Photo by Andrew Hone/Getty Images)
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Mercedes AMG Petronas team boss Toto Wolff believes that junior talents Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon have both earned their roles in Formula 1 for the 2016 season “on merit”.

Wehrlein will make his grand prix debut in 2016 with Manor Racing after winning the DTM title for Mercedes last year, becoming the youngest champion in the history of the series.

Ocon has been loaned to Renault Sport F1 Racing for its comeback season, and will work as the team’s reserve driver following his GP3 title success last year.

Wolff feels that both drivers deserve their chance in F1 this year, and also said that Mercedes will look to expand its junior program across the course of the season.

“We’re delighted that Pascal and Esteban will tackle a fresh set of challenges in 2016,” Wolff said. “Our aim is to build their experience in the best possible environment and, following positive discussions with our counterparts at Manor and Renault, it became clear that their respective Formula 1 programmes presented ideal opportunities to achieve that.

“It is very pleasing to see young drivers earning their spot in Formula 1 on merit and to see that talent is being rewarded by the system. Pascal and Esteban have proven themselves to be amongst the top young drivers out there – and both come into 2016 as champions of their respective series.

“But they still have plenty to learn and they will be staying humble, with their feet on the ground. This is an important year for them and we will be following their progress with great interest, while also looking to expand our junior program.

“Mercedes-Benz has a strong tradition of developing young racing talent and our eyes are very much open to other promising prospects for the future.”

Social roundup: When Mika Hakkinen met CJ Wilson, and other cool shots

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 15:  Former F1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen is seen during practice for the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit on April 15, 2011 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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What happens when you put a McLaren P1 owned by baseball star and CJ Wilson Racing team principal, and occasional driver, CJ Wilson, with two-time F1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen, and you turn them loose at The Thermal Club for a track day?

Pure awesomeness.

Of course there’s other cars besides the McLaren and hockey legend, Teemu Selanne, was also on site.

This really isn’t a post so much that needs words, but one that does need proper photos and noise.

The CJWR pairing of Marc Miller and Daniel Burkett, who drive the No. 33 One Capital/Motor Oil Matters Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport dubbed “Darth Cayman” in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, have been coaching and driving at an event this weekend out at The Thermal Club, a luxury race track in California.

See a mix of photos and videos below:

Ecclestone gives Monza until end of February to resolve F1 future

MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 06:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates on the podium next to Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari after winning the Formula One Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 6, 2015 in Monza, Italy.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone has given officials at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza until the end of February to resolve the future of the Italian Grand Prix.

Monza has hosted the Italian Grand Prix for all but one year since 1950 when the F1 world championship was formed, establishing itself as one of the series’ most historic and legendary venues.

However, its future has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months following a cut in the amount of tax relief that the race receives by the Italian government.

Ecclestone said back in November that he had “no doubts” the race would remain on the calendar and extend its contract beyond the end of 2016 when it expires.

However, the 85-year-old has now cast fresh doubt on the race in an interview with Reuters, giving the circuit until the end of February to resolve its future.

“It’s Italian. A lot of conversations at the moment and not much action,” Ecclestone said.

“They said to me a few months ago: ‘Everything is sorted out, we know exactly where we are and it’s all agreed and no dramas.’

“And now I heard yesterday it’s become very political… They’ll get on with it. Or not. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Nothing we can do about it.

“The only people that can sort this out are the people that are currently involved in Italy. They can take as long as they like, provided it’s by the end of this month.”

The 2016 Italian Grand Prix is set to take place at Monza on September 4.