The GP2 season passed it’s half way mark, as the championship had its Races 11 and 12 in Germany, at Nürburgring. The championship has 22 races in total which means there is still a long way to go, before the championship is decided, and anything can still happen. Nothing is certain in this series, and it’s one of those reasons what makes it so interesting. Young talents are fighting for the title, and fighting for positions on the track head to head, to show that they have enough potential to get to the next level, Formula 1. Sometimes this eagerness leads into amazing moves on the track, and sometimes it leads to unfortunate accidents. This is what makes GP2 a great series to follow. As the season passed the halfway mark, there will be quite a long break before the championship continues in Hungary. It’s a good time to review what has happened during the season so far.
There were things to discuss about the stewards, straight from the first qualifying session of the year. Johnny Cecotto was driving his qualifying lap and Sam Bird was going slowly in front of him. Bird didn’t block Cecotto on purpose and wasn’t badly on his way, but Cecotto was furious at Bird for ruining his qualifying lap, by being on the front. Cecotto turned his car straight into Bird’s and forced him to go off the track. This situation was an embarrassing one for both the fans, and the drivers, and the stewards took the situation to investigation. FIA punished Cecotto by excluding his qualifying result, making him to start from the back of the grid for the first race of the season. Bird was also punished for impeding Cecotto’s lap and he received a three place grid penalty. Bird was really angry about his penalty, while many people suggested a race ban for Cecotto, but it didn’t happen. Thankfully it wasn’t the only thing to make the qualifying interesting. The session itself was very competitive as the top 3 Coletti, Calado and Nasr were all packed with a difference of 0,008 seconds.
The first race of the year was won by Fabio Leimer who did great job during the pre-season testing. He had a good fight with Stefano Coletti until the last laps of the race. Coletti had started the race from pole and lead the race, as Leimer got to the 2nd place while Nasr and Calado were battling hard for position, when Calado forced Nasr out of the track. Coletti had struggled with his tyres before his first pitstop, and Leimer was closing on him. The battle continued after the pitstops and with only 4 laps left, Leimer was able to make the move for the lead. Coletti was struggling with his tyres again and James Calado was able to catch Coletti and get past him for 2nd place. Nasr was also closing on Coletti, but in the end there wasn’t enough laps for him to make the move. Leimer won and had Calado and Coletti as his podium company while Nasr was right behind on 4th.
Coletti struggled in the first race, but it all turned around in Sunday’s race, as Coletti was able the catch the lead, from his 6th position on the grid. Calado was again aggressive on the start, While on Saturday’s race he forced Nasr off the track, but this time, he ended up breaking too late into a corner, went off the track, lost control and crashed into Leimer, who in turn hit Sam Bird’s car. Bird and Calado had to retire the race, but Leimer was still able to continue. Calado apologized for the incident, after the race and was handed a 10 position grid penalty for the next race for causing a collision. Coletti was leading the race and Nasr was putting pressure on him until the end, but once again there wasn’t enough laps for Nasr. Coletti won, Nasr was 2nd and one of the 2013’s rookies, Mitch Evans, got his first podium in the series.
After Malaysia the series went to Bahrain and Fabio Leimer started strongly straight from the practice session and took pole position for Saturday’s race, with a one second gap to the second place Marcus Ericsson. Ericsson had a struggle, as he stalled his car on the start of the warm up lap. He lost his great starting position, and he had to start the race from the pitlane. Driving standards were questioned once again as Caterham driver Sergio Canamasas pushed Calado off the track. Canamasas was punished with a drive through penalty. Leimer continued with the strong form and won the race before Coletti and Alexander Rossi. For a third race in a row Nasr was in a position to hunt for the podium, until the very last lap, and this time he lost to Rossi only with 0.4 seconds. A closer finish awaited on Sunday.
Sunday’s race in Bahrain started with a mess in the middle field, as Rio Hariyanto and Marcus Ericsson had a collision, and so did Alexander Rossi and Fabio Leimer. Tom Dillmann was the man to start from pole and kept his lead, but soon got passed by his teammate Sam Bird. Dillmann didn’t have a good pace and Coletti was the next man to make a move on him, soon followed by Nasr. From the early laps it started to look like Bird was going to cruise for an easy win, but in the last laps the Britt started to lose some pace. The tyres started to loose grip, which meant Coletti and Nasr were closing on him. Coletti started to face difficulties soon too and Nasr was able to pass the Monegasque as he went wide on the last corner with only two laps left. Nasr was hunting Bird’s lead and Coletti had a hard time to stay on the track with his tyres. Coming to the last corner on the last lap, Nasr tried to overtake Bird and was right next to him on the finish line. It was so close finish that it couldn’t have been much closer: Bird won the race being only 0,080 seconds in front of Nasr. This was the closest ever finish in the history of GP2. Coletti managed to fight to the podium, even though he lost his grip from the tyres. Leimer finished 9th which meant that he had won two races, while finishing without points in two. It started to look like the championship fight was going to be between Coletti, Leimer and Nasr.
The first four races of the year confirmed that the Pirelli tyres were going to play a big role in the GP2 series this year and are a big part of race strategy, just as in Formula 1 today. This will help the GP2 drivers to prepare very well for the future, as they have already experienced the dedicate compound in the history of Formula 1 in recent times, the Tires. Pirelli uses the same compounds in the GP2 series as in F1, but the compounds specially selected for an event might differ a bit. For example, in Nürburgring, the Formula 1 teams had soft and medium compounds for use, while GP2 teams had super soft and medium. The reason for this is that tyre strategies, are much different in GP2 than in F1. In GP2, only in Saturday’s race everyone needs to make a pitstop. Also, the drivers don’t need to use both the tyre compounds available during the race, which makes another difference. On Sunday’s race pitstops aren’t necessary, and drivers are allowed to get through the race, with the compound they have started the race. The drivers who know the art of managing the tyres, gain a lot of advantage, and in Sunday’s sprint race, it’s really important thing to do, if you want to fight for the positions until the end.
Sunday’s race in Spain went with a less drama until the last few laps. Cecotto started from pole, but lost positions as he went wide on the first corner. Coletti, Frjins and Nasr were the top 3 after the first lap, and it stayed until the end of the race. Behind the top 3 was where the real action took place in the last laps, as Cecotto and Canamasas were fighting for a position. Canamasas tried to pass Cecotto, but then Cecotto made a questionable move which forced Canamasas off the track. This was very similar to the move Cecotto made with Bird during the qualifying in Malaysia. The move was clearly against the rules, but the stewards weren’t keen for an investigation. It should have been investigated, especially as the same driver had made the same move earlier. Canamasas’ luck faded during the day, as he tried to avoid a contact with Cecotto, Rio Hariyanto crashed into the back of his car. Canamasas continued his race without his rear wing thereby losing positions, and it wasn’t the most intelligent decision either.
The 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 champion Robin Frjins was strong during the weekend and clinched a great victory with his Hilmer Motorsport team on Saturday, and scored a third place on the Sunday’s race. It was a great start to the season for those two new teams on the grid, Hilmer Motorsport and Russian Time as both the teams managed to win a race during the early season. Frjins also was a positive surprise, as he was called for a drive in Bahrain and he had to bring the desired budget to continue the season. He still was able to win his third race of the series, and really proved his talent to the team.
As you might have noticed so far, the GP2 series is very eventful. Monaco has been an amazing place for an unpredictable racing on any calendar. What happens, when the two eventful combinations gettogether? Surely something was going to happen, right? Yes. You are definitely right.
Cecotto started from pole position for the first race in Monaco, and had his teammate Mitch Evans starting next to him. When the lights went off, Cecotto had a bad start and Evans went onto the lead. Cecotto went way too fast into the first corner and there was no way he could have made the first corner and he crashed. This caused a pile-up and a traffic jam to the first corner. Only couple of drivers managed to get through and it was unbelieveable, but was also quite a comical view. The race was stopped without any single lap completed and the marshalls started to clean up the first corner. Surprisingly, many drivers were able to get into the restart, as they were allowed to make possible repairs for the car. Marshalls helped to push start a couple of cars, which was another rare view. When the mess was cleaned, the race was on again. There was no drama on the restart and it was very difficult to overtake on the track. The biggest position changes were made during the pit stops. Bird won the race ahead of Evans, Kevin Ceccon, Nasr, Calado and Coletti. The stewards took the first lap incident under investigation and decided to give a race ban for Cecotto for the Sunday’s race.
Sunday’s race went ahead without a bigger drama, and Stefano Coletti made a dream come true, by winning a race on his home streets. He started the race from 3rd, managed to get 2nd place on the start and took the lead couple of laps later from Quaiffe-Hobbs who had started from pole and finished the race in the 2nd place. Evans took another podium place of the weekend by finishing 3rd, as Nasr was 4th and Calado 5th.
After Monaco there was a one month break from GP2, as the next race was going to be the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and it was a weekend to make things a bit more interesting in the championship. Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr battled for the lead after the start of Saturday’s race. Nasr tried to pass Ericsson, but the Swede pushed him off the track. On the next corner Nasr was able to make his move, but Sam Bird already had an advantage from the battling duo, and went onto the race lead. A slight touch with Ericsson caused some damage to Nasr’s car, and after his pitstop, Nasr started to lose many positions on the track. He had to retire from the race and it was the first time he ended without the points. Things looked good for Coletti as he was hunting for another great result and his main rival was out of the race . What could possibly go wrong?
Coletti was running in 3rd place on the race, when Fabio Leimer started to challenge him for the position. Leimer tried to make a move on Coletti, but instead he touched Coletti’s car and Coletti went off the track. It was the race over for the Monegasque, and for the first time both of the championship leaders were out of the race. Sam Bird won his home race and made a big jump forward on the championship standings.
As Coletti and Nasr were out of the race on Saturday, this meant the duo needed to start from the back of the grid for Sunday’s race. Both drivers made their way up on the field, as after the first lap, Coletti was already 10th and Nasr 12th. Safety Car came to the track as Daniel Abt had a spin and his car was stopped dangerously in the middle of the track. This helped Coletti and Nasr as the field was packed. Jolyon Palmer and Sergio Canamasas were fighting for positions, but Canamasas broke his front wing when defending from Palmer and went into the pits to change the wing. These two went head to head later on again as Canamasas had dropped to the back and was going to get lapped by Palmer. Canamasas didn’t let Palmer to pass and there should have been blue flags for Canamasas. Palmer tried to overtake Canamasas but the Caterham driver didn’t give any space and both drivers went off the track. Canamasas was able to continue the race, but Palmer had to retire. Canamasas was punished with a 10 second stop-and-go penalty for causing a collision. Jon Lancaster won the race which meant that both the GP2 races at Silverstone were won by a British driver. Nasr managed to get himself up to 7th place and took some points, but Coletti didn’t get any points from the race with his 10th position.
In Germany, Coletti was back to the podium with his 3rd place, with an amazing finish as he battled with Frins, Leimer and Richelmi until the chequered flag, and pushed himself to the podium place. Nasr meanwhile didn’t have a great race on Saturday. The Brazilian made his pitstop very early and it didn’t work out. In the final laps of the race, he started to lose positions as his tyres were out of the optimum range, and he ended the race with 9th position. Sunday was a better one for Nasr and he managed to recover to 4th position, while Coletti had a struggle during the whole race and dropped positions, finishing the race in 18th position.
The championship leaders, Monegasque Stefano Coletti and Brazilian Felipe Nasr have both been very consistent this season. Coletti had 3 victories already this season, and has surprised with his good pace this year, and is 27 points in front of Nasr on the championship standings. Coletti has also finished 3 races without points, while Nasr has been out of the points only once. British Sam Bird is third on the points and also has 3 victories at this part of the season like Coletti. Bird was able to reduce his points gap to the leaders at Silverstone when both Coletti and Nasr had difficult races. Leimer is on the 4th place and is also closing to the top 3, which makes the 2nd part of the season very interesting. Coletti wants to continue strong, to keep the gap to Nasr and Bird, while Nasr knows he needs to be consistent, and needs to start winning races, to catch up with Coletti’s points lead. Carlin is on the top of the Team’s standings, even though the team hasn’t won any race during this early season, and is the only team who has collected points from every race so far with at least one driver.
The second part of the season will play a big part in both drivers and team championships and anything can still happen as this series is so close and competitive. You can be sure about one thing, every race leaves you with something to talk about, and this is what makes GP2 a special racing series, as it’s also the best way for young drivers to get closer to their dream, Formula 1.
Written by: Sini Salminen