Nobuharu Matsushita will remain in the GP2 Series for the 2016 season after agreeing a new deal with defending champions ART Grand Prix.
Matsushita made his GP2 debut in 2015 with ART, racing alongside Stoffel Vandoorne who ultimately won the drivers’ title in record-breaking fashion.
Matsushita finished ninth in the final drivers’ standings with one race win to his name, and is now gunning to battle for the championship in his second year with ART.
“I would like to thank Honda and ART Grand Prix for giving me this opportunity to continue racing in GP2 Series,” Matsushita said.
“ART Grand Prix won the championships last year, and I am so honored to be part of such an amazing team again. As a member of HFDP, Honda Formula Dream Project, aiming to be the top-world-class driver, I will give my best to win the drivers and the team championship in my second GP2 season.”
Matsushita will race alongside Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin at ART in 2016, with the Russian driver moving from Rapax for his sophomore year in the series.
“I am truly delighted to start our third year of partnership together with Honda with this reinforcement of our collaboration,” ART team boss Sebastien Philippe said.
“Nobuharu will partner Sergey Sirotkin in the GP2 Series. He had an incredible year in 2015 when he did not know Europe or the championship, the team and the car, but nevertheless he secured one win, several podiums and made massive improvements all year long.
“As a driver and on a personal level, we have no doubt at all that he has all the assets needed to fight for the title in 2016.”
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.”
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.”
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.
2015 GP2 Series champion and McLaren junior Stoffel Vandoorne has confirmed that he will race in the Japanese Super Formula series this year.
Vandoorne won the GP2 title at the second attempt in 2015, setting new records for points scored and races won with ART Grand Prix.
The Belgian had been tipped to move up to Formula 1 with McLaren should either Jenson Button or Fernando Alonso not race for the team in 2016, only for both to continue.
As champions of GP2 are prohibited from returning to the series, Vandoorne was known to be considering a move into Super Formula after testing a car at the end of last year.
In a post on his Twitter account on Friday, Vandoorne confirmed that he would be joining the Honda-backed Docomo Team Dandelion Racing for the 2016 season.
Vandoorne will go head to head with the likes of Kamui Kobayashi, Narain Karthikeyan, Andre Lotterer and Kazuki Nakajima in 2016, all of whom have tasted success in racing in the past.
The 2016 Super Formula season is set to begin on April 24 at Suzuka.