F1 teams’ junior drivers to battle for 2014 GP2 title

2014 GP2 season preview

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Once it seemed as though winning the GP2 championship, or even finishing runner-up, was a ticket to a seat in Formula One.

But that hasn’t been the case in recent seasons. Fabio Leimer and Davide Valsecchi were both spurned by teams after their GP2 title wins in the last two seasons. Valsecchi couldn’t even get Lotus to give him two races in their car at the end of last season when the opportunity arose, despite ostensibly being their third driver.

GP2 drivers who have made the transition recently did so more for the backing they brought rather than the promise they showed. But the arrival of some highly exciting new talents into the series may change that.

Ferrari, McLaren and Williams have placed the latest products of their driver development programmes in the championship, Force India are taking an interest via Hilmer and Caterham maintain a presence in the sport as well.

Even so the depth of quality in the field has been sapped by the loss of other impressive talents from recent seasons including James Calado, Tom Dillman, Sam Bird and Robin Frijns. Meanwhile other drivers who showed conspicuously less promise head into their second, third or even fourth years.

As it begins its tenth season this weekend GP2 needs to reaffirm its place as a competition between the best young stars of the future, rather than a parade of the most competent pay drivers.

Teams and drivers

RT Russian Time – 1. Mitch Evans/2. Artem Markelov

Mitch Evans – the 2012 GP3 champion – embarks on his second season in GP2 having moved to reigning champions Russian Time. Driving for Arden last year he beat proven race winning team mate Johnny Cecotto Jnr and picked up four podiums. Generally finding himself towards the top of the testing times, Evans is one to watch.

Having finished second in German Formula Three last year, Artem Markelov is making the leap to GP2. He has failed to match Evans so far in testing but the team will hoping for some solid finishes.

Carlin – 3. Felipe Nasr/4. Julian Leal

Alongside his reserve role at Williams, Felipe Nasr will embark on his third full season in GP2 and his second with Carlin. He is still looking for that elusive first victory after scoring points in 16 of the 22 races last season, including six podiums. Testing has shown he should be towards the front again this season.

Julian Leal moves to his fourth different team in as many seasons. F1 teams generally prefer drivers who attain success quickly in GP2, and he will have to produce something spectacular to get noticed. He has been close to Nasr in testing and could find himself closer to the front this year.

Racing Engineering – 5. Raffaele Marciello/6. Stefano Coletti

Reigning European Formula Three champion Raffaele Marciello has the backing of Ferrari’s Driver Academy, making him one of the most anticipated rookie arrivals in the field. He takes over Leimer’s championship-winning car, so expectations will be high.

No one could have predicted the fall from grace that befell Stefano Coletti during 2013. Leading by 24 points after three wins the first eight eight races, Coletti only featured in the points once in the remaining rounds. Having moved to the team who produced the last champion he’ll be hoping to fight at the front again, but testing has been similar to his team mate – quick, but inconsistent.

DAMS – 7. Jolyon Palmer/8. Stephane Richelmi

Jolyon Palmer is another fourth-year driver in yet another different team. DAMS have produced Champions such as Romain Grosjean and Davide Valsecchi but had a lacklustre season with Marcus Ericsson last year. Palmer came on strong in 2013 with two wins, and testing has suggested he should be a championship contender.

Stephane Richelmi enters his third full season in GP2 and his second with DAMS. Richelmi took a second place in Britain and several other strong points finishes but Palmer appears to have an edge on him based on their testing pace.

ART – 9. Takuya Izawa/10. Stoffel Vandoorne

ART’s alignment with McLaren – they also run their MP4-12C GT3 cars – has led to the surprise arrival of 29-year-old Takuya Izawa in their team this year. He enjoys backing from Honda, McLaren’s future engine supplier, and has spent the last few seasons racing in Super GT and Formula Nippon with limited success.

McLaren had an embarrassment of riches in their Young Driver Programme last year as Stoffel Vandoorne finished runner-up to Kevin Magnussen in his first year of Formula Renault 3.5. Can he achieve a similar feat in GP2? Testing times have not indicated as much so far, but with access to McLaren’s impressive driver training resources expect him to make rapid progress.

Hilmer – 11. Daniel Abt/12. Facu Regalia

Daniel Abt moves to Hilmer needing to make a quantum leap forward after a disappointing debut season. While team mate James Calado won twice on his way to third in the championship, Abt only scored twice and languished down in 22nd. He has shown better pace in testing and could be a candidate for regular points finishes.

Facu Regalia also moves to Hilmer from ART, however he has come from the GP3 series, where in his first full season he was runner-up to Daniil Kvyat. He doesn’t appear to have quite got up to speed with the more powerful car just yet.

Rapax – 14. Adrian Quaife-Hobbs/15. Simon Trummer

Adrian Quaife-Hobbs will enter his second season, now with his third different team. He switched from MP to Hilmer in the middle of last year after the latter proved considerably more competitive, despite a podium and three other points finishes in the MP car. Meanwhile his Hilmer stint resulted in a further podium and a debut win in the Italian sprint race. However it has so far looked unlikely from the testing times that Quaife-Hobbs will get anywhere near that kind of performance, finding himself generally towards the back.

In his third season of GP2 Simon Trummer will not have to do much to improve on his meagre career points total of 24 to date and highest finish of sixth. So far there’s been little indication he might to do so.

Arden – 16. Rene Binder/17. Andre Negrao

Arden should represent a step forward for Rene Binder as he seeks his first podium finish. Just three points scores in 2013 left him 23rd in the championship, despite finishing every race he started. Expect another season in the midfield.

Andre Negrao is another to make his debut in the championship this season having switched from Formula Renault 3.5. In his three years in FR3.5 Negrao struggled, picking up just two podiums, however he clearly improved from year to year.

EQ8 Caterham – 18. Rio Haryanto/19. Alexander Rossi

Rio Haryanto struggled in a poorly performing Addax car in 2013 with just four points finishes, despite a strong outing at Silverstone that resulted in a podium. Now with Caterham – who have looked strong in testing – Haryanto needs to prove he can be a contender.

Alexander Rossi made his debut in the Bahrain round of the championship last season for Caterham and immediately impressed with a podium finish. A proven race-winner in GP3, Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2, and with close ties to the Caterham F1 team by being their test and reserve driver, Rossi must be hoping to claim the title and stake a claim to a place in F1. His lap times were positive in both tests and if the Bahrain session was anything to go by it may well be Haryanto vs Rossi in the opening round – they were four tenths clear of their nearest rivals, an unusual margin for a GP2 field.

MP Motorsport – 20. Daniel de Jong/21. Jon Lancaster

Daniel de Jong remains with MP for a second full season. He has scored just twice in GP2 so far and so far it seems the best he might hope for this year is a few more points finishes.

Jon Lancaster showed considerably more promise in the other MP car during testing. Not having a contract may have spurred him on but Lancaster was easily consistently the best during testing, finishing third in Abu Dhabi and fourth in Bahrain. He has an opportunity to build upon the two wins already to his name and make a bid for the title.

Trident – 22. Axcil Jefferies/23. Johnny Cecotto

Like Lancaster, Axcil Jefferies was another who tested without having a contract but was confirmed early on Wednesday morning to be driving the Trident car in Bahrain. Finding him at the bottom of the testing timesheets is no surprise given his lack of previous experience, and it will be a tough year and a steep learning curve for Jefferies, who is Zimbabwe’s first driver at this level of motorsport.

Alongside him will be Johnny Cecotto Jnr, whose name has all-too-often been mentioned in exasperated terms while describing his latest driving standards violation. Last year’s escapades included running Sam Bird off the road during Malaysia qualifying and being excluded from the Monaco sprint race after causing a 14 car pile-up at turn one during the feature event. Not unlike countryman Pastor Maldonado, Cecotto has interspersed his woeful moments at the wheel with impressive turns of speed. His dominant 2012 Monaco victory is one example, and testing gave some hope we might see more of the ‘quick Cecotto’ and less of ‘liability Cecotto’ this year.

Venezuela GP Lazarus – 24. Nathanael Berthon/25. Conor Daly

Nathanael Berthon impressed in his debut season taking two podiums for Racing Engineering but struggled for Trident last year, scoring just twice. A switch to Venezuela GP hardly promises to be a significant step fowards.

Conor Daly was the third driver to run in testing without a contract and like Lancaster it was confirmed at the 11th hour he will race in Bahrain. Daly drove in the opening round only last season for Hilmer – scoring two points – before returning to GP3. A debut season with Lazarus probably won’t yield the results he wants but gives him an opportunity to potentially outshine the car and get himself noticed.

Campos – 26. Arthur Pic/27. Kimiya Sato

Campos make a return to the series after taking the team back from Addax – who took it over in 2008 – after the latter quit the sport following five seasons of mixed fortunes. Arthur Pic – younger brother of Lotus F1 test driver Charles – makes his GP2 debut following three adequate seasons in Formula Renault 3.5 in which he took a win and two further podiums.

There’s another familiar surname in the second car, but Kimiya Sato is no relation to Formula One turned IndyCar racer Takuma. Sato raced in the Auto GP World Series in 2013 finishing runner-up to Vittorio Ghirelli. Like his team mate Sato has been in the midfield and towards the back during testing leaving everyone guessing as to where Campos will end up on their return.

Spotter’s guide


GP2 will follow Formula One in racing in Austria and Russia’s new street circuit this season. However these new rounds come at the expense at the Malaysian and Singapore rounds of the championship.

Rule changes

2013 was set to be the final year that GP2 used the Dallara GP2/11 chassis following the end of it’s three year cycle after it was brought in at the start of 2011. Series organisers have instead decided to keep it for another three year cycle however in order to cut costs.

The second and slightly more significant change – brought about to better prepare drivers for Formula One – is regarding the tyres. Drivers must now use both the ‘prime’ and the ‘option’ during the feature race whereas in previous seasons drivers had been allowed to use the compounds whenever they liked.

Testing Times

Abu Dhabi

PosDriverTeamBest TimeGapLaps
1Jolyon PalmerDAMS1:49.126152
2Mitch EvansRT Russian Time1:49.292+0.166121
3Jon Lancaster*MP Motorsport1:49.653+0.527125
4Stephane RichelmiDAMS1:49.756+0.630157
5Daniel AbtHilmer1:49.777+0.651126
6Stoffel VandoorneART1:49.790+0.664174
7Johnny CecottoTrident1:49.880+0.754105
8Felipe NasrCarlin1:49.896+0.770151
9Stefano ColettiRacing Engineering1:49.963+0.837134
10Alexander RossiEQ8 Caterham1:50.018+0.892177
11Arthur PicCampos1:50.204+1.078143
12Takuya IzawaART1:50.219+1.093183
13Andre NegraoArden1:50.241+1.115129
14Rio HaryantoEQ8 Caterham1:50.256+1.130167
15Raffaele MarcielloRacing Engineering1:50.261+1.135162
16Daniel de JongMP Motorsport1:50.265+1.13975
17Facu RegaliaHilmer1:50.289+1.163121
18Rene BinderArden1:50.496+1.370127
19Julian LealCarlin1:50.541+1.415135
20Kimiya SatoCampos1:50.748+1.622162
21Artem MarkelovRT Russian Time1:50.925+1.799159
22Conor Daly*Venezuela GP Lazarus1:50.933+1.80776
23Nathanael BerthonVenezuela GP Lazarus1:51.026+1.90091
24Simon TrummerRapax1:51.043+1.917130
25Axcil Jefferies*Trident1:51.300+2.174131
26Adrian Quaife-HobbsRapax1:51.401+2.275110

*Not signed to a team at the time of the test.


PosDriverTeamBest TimeGapLaps
1Rio HaryantoEQ8 Caterham1:39.129166
2Alexander RossiEQ8 Caterham1:39.173+0.044174
3Julian LealCarlin1:39.538+0.409141
4Jon Lancaster*MP Motorsport1:39.647+0.518146
5Raffaele MarcielloRacing Engineering1:39.704+0.575156
6Felipe NasrCarlin1:39.829+0.700146
7Jolyon PalmerDAMS1:39.854+0.725160
8Mitch EvansRT Russian Time1:39.870+0.741136
9Stoffel VandoorneART1:39.913+0.784214
10Daniel AbtHilmer1:39.931+0.802129
11Stephane RichelmiDAMS1:40.045+0.916160
12Rene BinderArden1:40.126+0.997137
13Kimiya SatoCampos1:40.154+1.025165
14Nathanael BerthonVenezuela GP Lazarus1:40.190+1.061135
15Artem MarkelovRT Russian Time1:40.191+1.062153
16Conor Daly*Venezuela GP Lazarus1:40.223+1.094145
17Adrian Quaife-HobbsRapax1:40.250+1.121141
18Andre NegraoArden1:40.314+1.185139
19Facu RegaliaHilmer1:40.446+1.317155
20Simon TrummerRapax1:40.474+1.345155
21Daniel de JongMP Motorsport1:40.508+1.379114
22Stefano ColettiRacing Engineering1:40.529+1.400127
23Takuya IzawaART1:40.678+1.549207
24Johnny CecottoTrident1:40.779+1.650109
25Arthur PicCampos1:40.840+1.711155
26Vittorio Ghirelli*Trident1:40.976+1.84774
27Axcil Jefferies*Trident1:42.670+3.54144

*Not signed to a team at the time of the test.

Following GP2

You can follow GP2 on F1 Fanatic Live during the races this year.

We also have a dedicated group and forum for GP2 fans:

And you can find tweets from all of the GP2 teams on drivers on Twitter here:

In the UK, GP2 will be broadcast live on the Sky Sports F1 channel in 2014.

Over to you

What do you think of the strength of this year’s GP2 field? Who’s your tip for the title – and a future in F1?

Have your say in the comments.


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    38 comments on “F1 teams’ junior drivers to battle for 2014 GP2 title”

    1. I hope for Ferrari’s sake Marciello has a good season, they must be desperate to get a young, fast and promising Italian into the car within the next couple of years. It would be great to see. I think Stoffel and Evans will have a great season, they would be my favourites for the championship.

      1. “I hope for Ferrari’s sake Marciello has a good season, they must be desperate to get a young, fast and promising Italian into the car within the next couple of years”.

        I thought he was Swiss? What part/region of Italy does he come from?

        1. Probably the bit that is now in Switzerland. Indeed – him or Fuoco seem like their best chance of getting an Italian in the car. I expect him to be promoted to Marussia when Kimi retires (and Bianchi or Hulk/Vettel is chosen as a replacement).. but lets wait and see how he gets on in GP2 (and how that would affect Luca Baldisserri’s judgements).

          Impressive amount of laps in testing by ART and Caterham behind them – well needed given the lack of running in the season. Maybe that means these two teams will be stronger this year. The top drivers should adapt well to GP2 but the lack of power steering means it can sometimes take a while to adapt or lead to series regulars doing better than raw talents.

    2. Chris (@tophercheese21)
      3rd April 2014, 13:02

      I still can’t believe how reckless some of the incidents that Cecotto was involved in and caused. He makes Maldonado look like a saint.

      1. Some people said Grosjean/Maldonado was the ultimate crash team (then it happened at Lotus).. imagine if Maldonado and Cecotto paired up for a Team Venezuela!

    3. I don’t see the point in following GP2 any longer. For a start, it is far too expensive for many drivers to compete. However if you can get to GP2 and then go on to be successful in the series, then unless you’ve got buckets of money then there is no chance to progress into F1.

      The reason I’m not watching GP2 is not because of GP2, it’s because of the lack of opportunities for young drivers to progress into F1.

      1. The actual racing though is normally very good.. Often better than F1 (especially if compared to the two races so far this year).. I agree though, that it is no longer the “go to route” into Formula 1.. And with a number of good talent absent this year, I don’t see it re-claiming that crown any time soon.

    4. Rooting for Alex Rossi and Mitch Evans this year !

    5. Image links seems broken?

      1. … and Go Stoffel!

          1. Nice! Thank you Keith!

          2. Brilliant – great pics @keithcollantine. And thanks for the quick turnaround in fixing the links (as ever).

      2. Yes, definitely broken.
        The links are like this:
        and the attachment ID should probably be somewhere in the 70,000 range. It’s not a simple error – I tried manually changing the numbers a bit, but didn’t find the pages I was looking for.
        I hope Keith updates the links – I wanted a good look at the Carlin car.

        1. @tribaltalker – How this one? http://www.paddockscout.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/nasr-carlin.jpg

          Unfortunately I can’t get in to edit the article so can’t try and correct the issue, but there’s plenty of decent images of the car on Google images :)

    6. I really haven’t followed GP2 apart from watching a race or two last year. Does anyone suggest the series? I really have limited background on it

      1. The racing is usually pretty good but as @georgeod said, the talent pool is terrible except for a handful of drivers (Stoffel, Evans, Marciello, Rossi). Should be fun to watch those drivers i mentioned plus they are still running V8’s so the sound is good, although its a bit generic compared to last years F1.

        1. If it’s the V8 sound any one tunes in for, they’ll be disappointed.. The engines are a marked difference to the last Formula’s V8 in terms of tuning and peak RPM, and don’t sound anywhere near as good, unfortunately.

          1. But atleast they sound better then the new f1 cars.

    7. On the weekends it will run alongside F1 i think i’ll be more excited for this series tbh. I know the field’s not as strong as it has been, but the chance to see the next left-field talent rise to the top, as well as Cecotto’s crazy capers, will be more entertaining than the negativity and gimmickry of its big brother.

      I’d watch Renault 3.5 instead due to the general consensus that its driver pool is of a higher level, but the 2012 introduction of DRS soured the entire thing for me. GP3 will also be interesting to watch to see where Mardenborough’s talent level is at now.

    8. ever since i saw the nurburgring race in person, i’ve been following the gp2 and gp3 really closely. last year was especially interesting for me to see, because there was a swiss guy fighting for the title! this year, i’m rooting for rossi. i think he’s definately a candidate for the title this year. i also support conor daly (i like americans doing international single-seater racing, they kind of stand out of the rest of american drivers) but since he’s with lazarus, i can only hope a better team picks him up next year or in the middle of the season.

    9. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
      3rd April 2014, 16:13

      2014 is a litmus test for GP2. In the shape of Vandoorne and Marciello, GP2 has two serene talents who should go unchallenged by the resident Nasr, Palmer and Rossi. And yet, in the past three years the eventual champion has had over three seasons worth of experience before taking the title, and therefore, if GP2 is to wrangle the status of #1 feeder series to Formula 1 back from Formula Renault 3.5, the prevalence of talent over experience must be established. It is vital also, for the very survival of GP2, that the known talent of Mitch Evans and Daniel Abt shine through more brightly in their first year compared with their somewhat lackluster first years.

      That said, GP2 is well placed in the modern world of F1, with the comparable handling, torque and traction characteristics of the Dallara GP2/11 chassis giving young drivers a presumably similar sensation to driving a modern F1 car, and therefore it is essential that the success we have from Kvyat and Magnussen in the first two races in F1 translate in young success in GP2 so it does not become a retirement home for well-backed drivers lacking in talent.

      If Palmer fulfills his pre-season status as title favourite and wins the title with DAMS, and if Marciello, Vandoorne, Evans and Abt spend most of their time on the outer reaches of the top ten, then a series ignored by the Red Bull Young Driver Programme and clearly struggling financially in the way they failed to update the GP2/11 chassis after the normal three year had elapsed, might just cease to exist. That would be shame, because probably some of the best racing held on Grand Prix tracks in 2013 were GP2 races…

      1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
        3rd April 2014, 16:15

        *talent of Mitch Evans and Daniel Abt shines through more brightly in their second year

      2. @william-brierty Indeed, and people like Vandoorne switching to GP2 shows that some big F1 teams are serious about backing the sport, it can make the difference. A more global approach, with already many joint events may be better in many ways: training, costs, logistics…

        1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
          3rd April 2014, 22:03

          @spoutnik – FR3.5 was McLaren’s first choice for Vandoorne, which is why they placed him there in 2013, but for 2014 a greater litmus test of his talents will come through fighting against more experienced drivers in GP2 than taking the inevitable title in FR3.5. It was a good decision. The decisions taken by Ferrari and Force India to include GP2 in their young driver programmes are more encouraging, but still, the fact that Red Bull have completely ignored GP2, and that it is a second choice for McLaren is worrying for GP2. However, if the value of experience can be lessened, and with the similarities between GP2 and F1, I see no reason why GP2 can’t weather the storm.

    10. Thanks for a great preview @Bradley Downton

        1. No worries at all @satchelcharge!

          You can also look forward to GP2 race reports throughout the season! :)

          1. Nice ! :)

    11. Aditya (@adityafakhri)
      3rd April 2014, 17:18

      People will talk about Marciello and Vandoorne, but look out for the Caterhams!
      in my opinion, Rossi is the main favourite of this season. I also glad that my countryman Rio is doing good so far against Rossi thus I do hope Rio’s stock can be up higher.
      Can’t wait to see the season begin!

      1. If Rio has a champion mentality, he’ll be match with another top GP2 drivers

    12. I’d put my money on Palmer but Alex Rossi could well be the dark horse here. Didn’t expect Caterham to be so strong in testing! There are some very good drivers in this category, you could argue far better than last year, as some of the younger drivers appear to be a lot more refined than this time last year. It will be interesting to see how Ferrari and McLaren’s youngsters go, and whether Nasr can actually win a race too!

    13. Paul Sainsbury
      3rd April 2014, 18:41

      I’m looking forward to it, especially as we can hear some engines that sound like racing cars, and the driving can often be very entertaining.

    14. Just to have my two cents, my drivers to watch out for this season for the Championship are:
      Jolyon Palmer, Mitch Evans, Jon Lancaster, Alexander Rossi, Rio Haryanto and Felipe Nasr

      Stoffel Vandoorne and Raffaele Marciello should do well, and will probably collect some podiums and possibly wins between them, but with the competition having better cars and being ahead on pace and experience, I think it unlikely they’ll battle for the Championship.

    15. I’ve always wanted to know…if the GP2 cars are identical then are the teams allowed to develop them during the season?

      1. @aimalkhan No they aren’t.

        1. GB (@bgp001ruled)
          4th April 2014, 5:35

          @keithcollantine then what is what the teams actually do? it is practically only playing to be like a F1 team without any depth, isnt it? but i do agree that the fact that all is the same means the talent shines through!

    16. It’s difficult to look beyond Palmer and DAMS, but it’d be folly to rule out Nasr in the Carlin, Evans in the RT and Rossi in the Caterham. Abt with Hilmer looked strong in testing too, as did Lancaster in the MP. Vandoorne with ART might have a good season too, but I think Marciello won’t be quite at the level of these drivers, in his first season in this level, he’s the first Euro F3 champion to be driving in GP2 since Bianchi, another FDA product. The GP2 cars have changed since then, and there are more experienced drivers in possible better setups than Racing Engineering.

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