The GP2 Series championship, rebranded as the FIA Formula 2 championship, starts this week-end in Bahrain. It is time to state the different challenges of this season.
Since 2012 and Romain Grosjean, no GP2 Series champion has managed to go straight away to F1 despite the untold promise made by the creation of GP2 as the last stage before F1. GP2 drivers suffered from the reputation of unconscious drivers as showed by Grosjean himself or Pastor Maldonado. This common idea led to a shift in the source of F1 rookies to Formula Renault 3.5 like Daniel Ricciardo or Kevin Magnussen.
Then, Red Bull changed the game first with Daniil Kvyat in 2014 and then, more radically, with Max Verstappen in 2015 by going straight to F1 without going to one of the two main junior series. Despite the death of the Formula Renault 3.5 championship, GP2 Series kept going into its crisis with no F1 driver in 2017 directly promoted from the 2016 GP2 season (that was before the Giovinazzi/Wehrlein gate).
By rebranding the series to FIA Formula 2, the FIA wants to set a new dynamic for the road to F1 from national F4 series. This logical route tends to kills the satellites championship -such as GP3– and could be the best way to avoid jumps from F3 to F1.
Teams and Drivers:
Ten teams are committed into the series for this 2017 season with two drivers each.
Prema Racing: Charles Leclerc (1) & Antonio Fuoco (2)
Prema Racing was last year’s big surprise in their maiden year as they claimed the driver, the team and the rookie title with a 1-2 in the championship. For this season, Prema starts with an unseen status of favourite in F2 with two rookies: Charles Leclerc, reigning GP3 champion, and Antonio Fuoco, third of that same championship. The challenge is double for the drivers who have to prove Ferrari that they are ready to get to F1 next year.
Racing Engineering: Louis Delétraz (3) & Gustav Malja (4)
For a few years now, Racing Engineering appears as the constant outsider which manages to beat historic teams in GP2. This season, the Spanish team decided to trust the reigning runner-up of the Formula V8 3.5 championship Louis Delétraz, and Gustav Malja who claimed several podiums last year with Rapax. If the drivers’ championship seems complicated to claim, Racing Engineering could be the perfect referee again for the championship.
Russian Time: Luca Ghiotto (5) & Artem Markelov (6)
Russian Time has been growing stronger since their internal restructuration in 2014. Today, the team is the third force in the championship and does not hide it’s team’s championship ambitions like in 2013 with Sam Bird and Tom Dillmann. Artem Markelov, as strong team member, reached a new learning curve last year when he claimed his first win and Luca Ghiotto, runner-up of the 2015 GP3 championship, wants to prove his true speed in a faster car than the one he had last year.
ART Grand Prix: Nobuharu Matushita (7) and Alexander Albon (8)
Despite a strong domination in GP3, the 2016 GP2 season did not go as planned for the French team which had the reigning team and driver titles. The repeated mistakes of Nobuharu Matsushita and Sergey Sirotkin overshadowed a promising season as proved by the third place in the drivers’ championship of Sergey Sirotkin. ART GP will try to bounce back with Matsushita in for a third year and Alex Albon, the revelation of the GP3 championship as he finished runner-up with the French team.
DAMS: Oliver Rowland (9) & Nicholas Latifi (10)
Just like ART GP, DAMS went through a difficult season last year despite three victories for Alex Lynn. The French team had to settle for a fifth place in the team championship partly due to the lack of performance of Nicholas Latifi who got a second chance for this year. Oliver Rowland, the last Formula Renault 3.5 champion, leaves MP Motorsport on a good dynamic which might help him to race for the win this season.
Campos Racing: Ralph Boschung (11) & Stefano Coletti* (12)
With only one victory last year, Campos also suffered from the good dynamics coming from the other teams. Furthermore, after Jagonya Ayam’s departure, Campos find itself in a difficult situation with only one driver confirmed for the 2017 season in the name of Ralph Boschung, GP3 race winner. For the first event of the season, the Monegasque driver Stefano Coletti returns to GP2/F2 after two years away.
MP Motorsport: Sérgio Sette Câmara (14) & Jordan King (15)
The Dutch team had its best season to date last year thanks to the duo Rowland/De Jong. This year, MP Motorsport will intend to keep this momentum with the former member of the Red Bull Junior Team and F3 Masters winner Sergio Sette Câmara and Jordan King who leaves Racing Engineering for his third year in the series.
Trident: Nabil Jeffri (16) & Sergio Canamasas* (17)
Last year, Luca Ghiotto was the only driver who brought back solid points with the cruel lack of performance of his teammate Philo Paz Armand. Today, the Malaysian Nabil Jeffri is the only driver confirmed for the whole season while Sergio Canamasas, despite having done the full programme of winter testing and taking part into the first race of the season, has not been confirmed for the whole season.
Rapax: Nyck de Vries (18) and Johnny Cecotto (19)
After a good 2015 campaigned with Sergey Sirotkin, Rapax had a much more complicated 2016 season with Gustav Malja and Arthur Pic. However, winter testing proved that Nyck De Vries had a good pace on the car and should be able to fight in the top with his teammate, veteran Johnny Cecotto who starts his 9th season in GP2/F2.
Pertamina Arden: Norman Nato (20) & Sean Gelael (21)
For this year, Arden will benefit from the financial support of Jagonya Ayam brought by Sean Gelael in order to climb up into the hierarchy. Frenchman Norman Nato returns to his first GP2 team to continue after his good season with Racing Engineering.
The 2017 calendar has four changes compared to the 2016 calendar: the Sepang week-end has been cancelled due to financial reasons and will be replaced by Bahrain which returns to the calendar. With the cancellation of the German Grand Prix, F2 will have its stand-alone event in Jerez in October alongside GP3.
|14-16/04||Bahrain Grand Prix||Iternational circuit of Sakhir|
|12-14/05||Spanish Grand Prix||Circuito de Catalunya (Barcelone-Montmélo)|
|25-27/05||Monaco Grand Prix||Monte-Carlo|
|23-25/06||Grand Prix of Azerbaïdjan||Circuit of Baku|
|07-09/07||Austrian Grand Prix||Red Bull Ring (Spielberg)|
|14-16/07||British Grand Prix||Silverstone|
|28-30/07||Hungary Grand Prix||Hungaroring (Budapest)|
|25-27/08||Belgian Grand Prix||Spa-Francorchamps|
|01-03/09||Italian Grand Prix||Autodromo nazionale di Monza|
|06-08/10||Stand-alone event||Jerez de la Frontera|
|24-26/11||Abu Dhabi Grand Prix||Yas Marina|