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GP2, GP3 and Formula Renault 3.5 mid-season round-up

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Just as Formula 1 is breaking for summer at the moment, its feeder series are doing the same. The shutdown gives all involved in motorsport a chance to take a break and refresh ahead of the second half of the season, and in the junior series, it is just as important.

Following on from our in-depth mid-season Formula 1 review, here is a brief look at how things are standing in its three main feeder championships ahead of the second half of the year.


The GP2 Series has been dominated by one man in 2014: Jolyon Palmer. The 23-year-old British driver has scored points in every race so far this season, and has qualified outside of the top two on just one occasion. With two wins and six further podium finishes to his name, Palmer has moved into a 43 point lead at the top of the standings with four rounds and eight races remaining.

The only driver that appears to stand any chance of stopping Palmer from winning the title is Carlin’s Felipe Nasr. The Brazilian driver is balancing his GP2 campaign with a reserve role at Williams, and after so many years of being the bridesmaid, he finally claimed his first victory in Spain earlier this year. Two other wins have followed, but he still faces an uphill struggle to beat Palmer to the title.

McLaren junior Stoffel Vandoorne has had a mixed first half-season in GP2, winning two races to make up for a five race run without points. He has been the top rookie of 2014, although Campos driver Arthur Pic could also stake a claim to that moniker after making an impressive start following his move from Formula Renault 3.5. Ferrari junior Raffaele Marciello has shown signs of pace, but has often come unstuck on race day and suffered from some hard luck.

For the American drivers on the grid, it hasn’t been a great year so far. Alexander Rossi is currently without a seat following his move away from Caterham, but he does hope to secure a place for the remainder of the season after joining Marussia F1 Team as a reserve driver. Conor Daly has been luckless (to put it nicely), but finally scored some much-deserved points in Hungary.


In a flurry of déjà vu from 2013, a Red Bull junior looks set to win this year’s GP3 championship. British racer Alex Lynn joined the brand at the beginning of the year as a member of its junior programme, and he has flourished in his debut GP3 season after a successful year in the FIA F3 European Championship in 2013.

The Briton currently leads New Zealand’s Richie Stanaway by 31 points with eight races to go, with Jimmy Eriksson and Emil Bernstorff in third and fourth place respectively. German starlet Marvin Kirchhofer currently ranks fifth, whilst Dean Stoneman, Jann Mardenborough and Patric Niederhauser are the other race winners in a very open season.

Lynn’s lead is by no means secure, such is the unpredictable nature of the GP3 championship, but he is the favorite to win the title before a likely move up to GP2 in 2015.

Formula Renault 3.5

The Formula Renault 3.5 title looks to be heading the way of yet another Red Bull junior in the shape of Spain’s Carlos Sainz Jr. The son of the rally legend Carlos Sr., the DAMS driver is 39 points clear of Roberto Merhi at the top of the standings, and has won five races so far this year.

Just in case Red Bull needed yet another successful junior driver, series rookie Pierre Gasly is enjoying a very impressive debut season, currently sitting third in the standings, although he is yet to win a race. Sauber junior Sergey Sirotkin is fifth in the championship with one race win to his name, as he looks to secure a full-time seat with the Swiss team in 2015.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series field with fifth-placed Helio Castroneves.

Helio Castroneves, No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet

  • 2014: 2nd Place, 1 Win, 3 Poles, 6 Podiums, 7 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 282 Laps Led, 5.7 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 5th Place, Best Finish 2nd, 4 Poles, 5 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 198 Laps Led, 4.9 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish

Much as you’d write about his fellow countryman and longtime friend and rival Tony Kanaan, age hasn’t slowed Helio Castroneves, but it’s instead fueled continued success. And while Castroneves went winless for only the second time (2011) in his illustrious 16-year career with Team Penske, he wasn’t down on performance.

Now 40, Castroneves continued to have several shining moments in 2015, which was particularly important to do to stand out against defending champion Will Power, this year’s primary title contender Juan Pablo Montoya and new driver Simon Pagenaud.

Castroneves scored four pole positions and boasted a 4.9 averaging starting position, second in the field to Power, which was very impressive to note. His run of form from Texas through Milwaukee, capturing three podiums in four races, was his best race stretch this season. Additional highlights included back-to-back runner-up results in the NOLA lottery and then on pure pace at Long Beach.

The month of May must though be viewed as a disappointment. Castroneves played a role in the first corner mess at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and got a points penalty (although the number was dropped) as a result. Then he endured another Indianapolis 500 where he was not the out-and-out fastest car in the Penske brigade. While Montoya and Power were dueling for the win and Pagenaud had speed to burn all month, Castroneves’ lone moment of note came with his accident in practice, which mercifully he emerged unscathed from.

As ever though, fifth in this field owed to his consistency and dogged determination to succeed. Castroneves has ended top-five in seven of the last eight seasons since the IRL/Champ Car merger in 2008 and if it wasn’t for Dixon’s top-three run hogging the headlines, we’d probably appreciate Castroneves even more so. As long as he’s continually competitive, he’s still worthy at Team Penske.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Graham Rahal

Graham Rahal
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MotorSportsTalk continues its driver-by-driver review of the field in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series.

Next up is fourth-placed Graham Rahal, who had a career year.

Graham Rahal, No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

  • 2014: 19th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 4th, 1 Podium, 2 Top-5, 4 Top-10s, 28 Laps Led, 14.4 Avg. Start, 15.0 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 4th Place, 2 Wins, Best Start 5th, 6 Podiums, 8 Top-5, 10 Top-10s, 76 Laps Led, 11.0 Avg Start, 8.5 Avg. Finish

Formula 1 fans will remember the miraculous, shock rise of Brawn GP, which didn’t even exist as a team until mere weeks before the 2009 Australian Grand Prix having risen from the demise of the former Honda factory team, and then promptly proceeded to stomp the field en route to winning both the Driver’s and Constructor’s World Championships that season.

It’s the best racing comparison in recent years – or perhaps any year – for what was done at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2015, courtesy of a career year from Graham Rahal, an instant chemistry renewal with the people father Bobby put in place, and the fact Bobby himself stepped back this year to allow his team’s key players to shine through.

Because quite simply, after finishes of 18th and 19th the last two seasons, no one in their right mind had Rahal winning races and contending for a championship this season.

It’s hard to say specifically which point was most important, because all played dividends. Bobby Rahal moved off the pit box, and actually missed a fair number of races this year, which allowed Graham and team manager Ricardo Nault to gel with Nault on the radio and pretty much running the team on the whole. Then there were the three key crewmember additions: Eddie Jones moving over to be lead engineer on the No. 15 car was clutch, as was Rahal getting the opportunity to reunite with Martin Pare and work for the first time with Mike Talbott. The addition of damper ace Stuart Kenworthy was not covered much this year, but undoubtedly a big help. Sponsor Steak ‘n Shake’s arrival also brought a wealth of attention.

And then there were the drives in the races themselves. Perhaps strangely, Rahal had a tough qualifying average – only 11th – but it was the best for a Honda driver this year. The strategy calls from RLL were damn near perfect all year and Rahal seized every opportunity at his disposal, be it his wins at Fontana and Mid-Ohio, his recovery at Iowa, and his numerous other podiums throughout the year. His charge to second at Barber stands out as one of the drives of the year.

Call Fontana lucky if you will, and he was fortunate to avoid a penalty for leaving with the fuel buckeye, but even so he still could have come back given where the race was at that point. And being on the receiving end of two ill-advised taps from Tristan Vautier and Sebastien Bourdais at Pocono and Sonoma, respectively, cost him huge results and huge points – the net effect of three races.

The single-car title charge was one of the stories of the year, even beyond Scott Dixon’s championship comeback and Juan Pablo Montoya’s consistent-until-Sonoma season. Rahal re-established his credentials on track if people had forgotten what he was capable of; additionally, he reaffirmed his status as one of racing’s best people with his work in the Justin Wilson memorial auction after that tragedy. It was truly a ’15 to remember for the driver of the No. 15 car.