The 2015 Formula 1 season may already be well underway, but its premier feeder championship, GP2, is only just about to burst back into life this weekend in Bahrain following the winter break.
Once again, the series promises to provide some of the closest, toughest and most entertaining racing in 2015 as F1’s stars of tomorrow look to prove their worth out on track.
The championship is once again filled with drivers that have already been tipped as future greats, whilst others will be hoping to make a name for themselves in 2015.
As per 2014, MotorSportsTalk will be providing comprehensive coverage of the championship. For those who are new to GP2, or to simply give a handy reminder to fans of the series, here is our complete season preview and primer.
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.
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 turbocharged 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:
1. Pierre Gasly (France)
2. Alex Lynn (Great Britain)
3. Julian Leal (Colombia)
4. Marco Sorensen (Denmark)
ART Grand Prix
5. Stoffel Vandoorne (Belgium)
6. Nobuharu Matsushita (Japan)
7. Jordan King (Great Britain)
8. Alexander Rossi (United States of America)
9. Mitch Evans (New Zealand)
10. Artem Markelov (Russia)
11. Raffaele Marciello (Italy)
12. Rene Binder (Austria)
14. Arthur Pic (France)
15. Rio Haryanto (Indonesia)
16. Sergio Canamasas (Spain)
17. Daniel de Jong (Netherlands)
18. Sergey Sirotkin (Russia)
19. Robert Visoiu (Romania)
20. Andre Negrao (Brazil)
21. Norman Nato (France)
Status Grand Prix
22. Marlon Stockinger (Philippines)
23. Richie Stanaway (New Zealand)
Hilmer Motorsport (missing first race in Bahrain)
26. Nathanael Berthon (France)
27. Zoel Amberg (Switzerland)
1. Bahrain 17-19 April
2. Spain 8-10 May
3. Monaco 21-23 May
4. Austria 19-21 June
5. Great Britain 3-5 July
6. Hungary 24-26 July
7. Belgium 21-23 August
8. Italy 4-6 September
9. Russia 9-11 October
10. Abu Dhabi 27-29 November
The round supporting the German Grand Prix was cancelled, but may yet be replaced by another event.
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.
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
Vandoorne enjoyed the best season for a rookie in GP2 in five years last season, scoring more points than any other driver in the second half of the season. Had it not been for a difficult run of form between Bahrain and Austria, he would most probably have challenge Jolyon Palmer for the title. McLaren’s Eric Boullier wants to keep his junior driver in GP2 for another year so he can win it before coming to F1 as “the boss” – and he heads into the new season as the favorite to do exactly that.
Marciello is a member of Ferrari’s Driver Academy, and proved that with his pace throughout 2014. His win at Spa was particularly outstanding, but it proved to be the highlight of an inconsistent campaign. The Italian’s move to Trident has turned a few heads, given that it seems to be a step down from Racing Engineering, but he knows that a bid for the title is necessary if he is to move up to F1 next season.
After coming close to making his F1 debut last year, Rossi (pictured) is back for a third season in GP2 and appears to be one of the title contenders. Now with Racing Engineering, the American driver will want to add to his solitary win in GP2 and give himself a boost ahead of a possible ride with Haas F1 Team in 2016.
Gasly begins his first full season in GP2 this weekend with DAMS, and is set to be another title contender. The Red Bull junior driver has impressed in every series he has raced in, finishing second in last year’s Formula Renault 3.5 championship behind Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr. DAMS is the defending champion team, and could take the Frenchman all the way in 2015.
Alongside Gasly at DAMS is British driver Alex Lynn, who enters GP2 as the winner of last year’s GP3 Series. Lynn is combining his commitments with a reserve role at Williams Martini Racing in F1, but hopes to prove that the decision to cut ties with Red Bull and its junior programme was the right one in 2015 with DAMS.
Also look out for: Mitch Evans, Arthur Pic, Sergey Sirotkin, Marco Sorensen