The drivers of GP2’s first ten seasons: Part one


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Today is the tenth anniversary of the first GP2 championship race. Nico Rosberg was one of the four future F1 drivers in the field, and since then more than 40 have graduated to Formula One, including eight of the current field.

But for many more drivers GP2 was the closest they came to racing at the top flight. Among them were many great talents who learned the hard was that there are only a tiny number of F1 seats to go around.

Drivers from 39 different countries have competed in the F1 feeder series and 65 of them won races in the championship’s first decade. And although none of the last three champions have made it into F1 yet, 17.3% of drivers who started a GP2 race have.

But what happened to those who didn’t make it to the top? In this six-part series by @SamVanPut we’ll discover what happened to more than 100 drivers who competed in the man GP2 series but didn’t make it onto a grand prix grid.

Filipe Albuquerque

Portugal, 2007, 4 starts, 0 points
A star in karting, Albuquerque finished no lower than third in all his season entries from 1998 to 2002. His time in GP2 was brief, however, as was a spell in Formula Renault 3.5 where he also made just four starts. He shone while representing Portugal in the short-lived A1 Grand Prix series, finishing third in the 2008-09 season. He also took a surprise victory in the 2010 Race of Champions.

Albuquerque forged close links with Audi, first driving for them in Italy and then in 2011 with a place in the Belgian Audi Club Blancpain team, with whom he took third overall. He also started 20 races in the DTM for them before progressing to endurance racing in America. He won on his first appearance in the Daytona 24 Hours in 2013, and returned the following year to take fifth place. In 2014 he also finished second overall in the European Le Mans series for Jota Sport. Last season also saw him make his Le Mans debut, but team mate Marco Bonanomi crashed the car before Albuquerque got behind the wheel in the race.

Daniel Abt

Germany, 2013-2014, 42 starts, 38 points
Although Abt finished second in his rookie GP3 year he never managed to impress in GP2: two years saw him record a best finish of eleventh. Moving on from GP2 Abt now plies his trade in Formula E, but aside from a single fastest lap in Uruguay it yet yet to give him the success he’s looking for. Abt will also race for WEC team Rebellion Racing this year.

Mikhail Aleshin

Russia, 2007, 2011, 10 starts, 3 points
The 2010 Formula Renault 3.5 champion made a sporadic entry into GP2 and failed to complete a whole season. He eventually returned to the Renault championship before heading to America to race IndyCars. Although he was the top-scoring rookie in last year’s championship his season ended with a nasty crash at Fontana which left him hospitalised.

Juan Cruz Alvarez

Argentina, 2005, 23 starts, 4.5 points
Not one of GP2’s brightest talents, Alvarez was left without a seat after racing in the first season of the championship. He did not race at all during the 2006 season, and the following year returned to Argentina to race in the Top Race V6 Championship. He has remained there ever since scoring a handful of wins and podiums.

Michael Ammermuller

Germany, 2006-2007, 27 starts, 1 win, 3 podiums, 26 points
Ammermuller impressed by winning his second GP2 start, and his ties with Red Bull seemed to mark him out as a future F1 racer. But he never got any further than being a test driver in 2007. He then made something of a backward step to the International Formula Master championship, where he finished third overall in the 2008. He became a Porsche driver in 2012 and has since finished a best of third in the 2013 Supercup and second in the Carrera Cup Germany.

Vladimir Arabadzhiev

Bulgaria, 2010, 16 starts, 0 points
Bulgaria has had few representatives at international level and Arabadzhiev is their only driver to have raced in GP2. Three times champion in the Bulgarian Championship ICC from 2005 to 2007 and Bulgarian Champion KZ2 in 2009, Arabadzhiev never finished higher than ninth in a GP2 car. In 2011 he resumed karting in Bulgaria.

Can Artam

Turkey, 2005, 23 starts, 2 points
Turkey’s addition to the Formula One world championship calendar in 2005 promised to inspire a new generation of racers in the region. Can Artam was one of the first to make a move, and following an unpromising season in Formula 3000 his sole GP2 campaign produced a best result of seventh at Monaco. This appears to have been the end of his international racing career, although he is tutoring the next wave of Turkish racers at the Motorsport Academy by Can Artam.

Marko Asmer

Estonia, 2008, 13 starts, 0 points
Estonia’s most impressive racing talent of recent years took an emphatic win in the 2007 British F3 championship, winning half of the 22 races. Unfortunately a lack of funding stymied his progress in GP2. Despite gaining a test role at BMW Sauber in 2008 he did not gain a race seat and went on to become test driver in the SuperLeague Formula. He even returned to F3 in 2011, racing at Pau and in the Macau Grand Prix. Asmer now races GT cars and took fifth at this year’s Dubai 24 Hours.

Christian Bakkerud

Denmark, 2007-2008, 19 starts, 0 points
Tragically, Bakkerud lost his life in a road car accident three years after his last GP2 start in 2008. Lewis Hamilton and the HRT team were among those who made tributes to the Danish driver at the following F1 race in Singapore. Bakkerud had a tough time in GP2, posting 12 DNFs from 19 starts. In 2009 and 2010 he attempted a shot at Le Mans finishing ninth in 2009 for the German Kolles team, then retired to become an import manager at a shipping company.

Sam Bird

UK, 2010-2011, 2013, 59 starts, 4 poles, 6 wins, 14 podiums, 274 points
Outright championship success persistently eluded Bird and it was the same in GP2: fifth in 2010, sixth in 2011. After that he switched to Formula Renault 3.5 to campaign their new-generation cars. Result: third. However Bird became a regular at the wheel of a Mercedes in testing, and returned to GP2 to claim second overall with the hastily-formed Russian Time squad in 2013. He then progressed to sports cars, racing for AF Corse in the World Endurance Championship last year and scoring pole at Le Mans. In 2015 he moved up the ladder into a LMP2 seat with G-Drive racing. He is also a competitive force in Formula E and won the championship’s second race in Malaysia.

Yelmer Buurman

The Netherlands, 2008, 10 starts, 1 podium, 5 points
Although he didn’t contest a full season of GP2, Buurman nevertheless took a podium finish and went on to enjoy success in the now-defunct Superleague Formula. Buurman then made a successful transition to sports car racing, claiming third in the 2012 GT1 Championship with four wins and another four podiums. His achievements since then include second in the GT3 class in the 2013 Nurburgring 24 Hours and third in the Blancpain Endurance series with the Marc VDS team. He began 2015 with victory in the Dubai 24 Hours for Black Falcon 2.

James Calado

UK, 2012-2013, 46 starts, 2 poles, 4 wins, 14 podiums, 312 points
Calado looked like a very strong F1 prospect after taking two wins in his rookie GP2 season in 2012. He placed third overall this following year, racking up 312 points over a total of 46 starts in those two seasons. He also had five outings for Force India in F1 practice sessions, but never progressed any further than that. Calado quickly made the switch to the World Endurance Championship with AF Corse and although his year was win-less he finished on the podium more often than not last year and remains with the Ferrari squad this year.

Sergio Campana

Italy, 2013-2014, 6 starts, 0 points
Six attempts at GP2 with a best result of 15, both times at the Italian round. During the 2013-2014 seasons he mainly had his focus on Auto GP, winning three races and coming third overall in the 2013 season for Ibiza Racing Team.

Adam Carroll

UK, 2005-2008,2011, 72 starts, 1 pole, 5 wins, 14 podiums, 129 points
Stepping up to the new GP2 championship in 2005 as British F3 runner-up, BAR test driver Carroll immediately impressed with a trio of wins. He failed to sustain that forward momentum after a move to Racing Engineering and endured a win-less 2006 campaign, but when he returned with Giancarlo Fisichella’s team the following year he added two more wins and ended the year seventh despite missing the first five races. Since his departure from GP2 he has sampled DTM, IndyCar and A1 Grand Prix cars, enjoying notable success in the latter where he took Ireland to the 2008-09 title. He now races in the British GT championship driving a Ferrari 458 Italia GT3.

Kevin Ceccon

Italy, 2011, 2013, 19 starts, 1 podium, 28 points
Kevin Ceccon won the second Auto GP championship in 2011 while also starting eight races for Coloni’s GP2 outfit. Confounding the hierarchy of F1’s junior championships he then stepped down to GP3, back up to GP2 in 2013 and then back to GP3 once more. The only point of consistency was his indifferent performance in both categories, though he did grab a second place in the 2013 Monaco GP2 feature race which was only partly due to a first-lap pile-up – he’d qualified fifth. Ceccon remains in GP3 with Arden this year.

Johnny Cecotto Jnr

Venezuela, 2009-2014, 103 starts, 3 poles, 4 wins, 8 podiums, 291 points
One of only two drivers to surpass a century of GP2 starts, Cecotto’s wayward driving infuriated many of his rivals yet too often drew only mild sanctions from the stewards. Having arrived in the championship in 2009 a breakthrough success came at Monaco three years later. However at the same venue in 2013 he earned a suspension when he was judged responsible for starting a major first-lap crash. Last year he finally seemed to have settled down, and a pair of wins and consistent points-scoring saw him end the season fifth overall. He’s tested for Toro Rosso and Force India, but does not yet seem likely to emulate his father by gaining a place in F1.

Dani Clos

Spain, 2009-2013, 73 starts, 1 pole, 1 win, 9 podiums, 123 points
Dreams die slowly: three years after HRT collapsed, Dani Clos still has their logo on his website. He came close to becoming racing for the Spanish team, making half-a-dozen practice appearances for them in 2012 before the team folded. Clos got his GP2 campaign off to a promising start by winning in his first season in 2010 with another Spanish outfit, Racing Engineering. But his second season with them was much less successful and despite making 73 starts he never added a second win. In 2014 he took part in the final two round of the Formula Acceleration 1 series, taking second in the last race.

Mike Conway

UK, 2007-2008, 43 starts, 1 win, 2 podiums, 39 points
After taking successive British Formula Renault 2.0 and F3 titles, Conway stepped up to GP2 with Super Nova in 2007. A sole win with Trident followed in 2008, but he turned his attention Stateside the year after. Driving for the Dreyer and Reinbold IndyCar team Conway shone on road courses, taking third on his first visit to swooping Sonoma.

The following year he suffered back and leg injuries in a horrific crash at Indianapolis, but when he returned to the championship in 2011 a breakthrough win soon came on the streets of Long Beach. However a second major crash at Indianapolis in 2012, and the experience of seeing the terrible crash which claimed Dan Wheldon’s life the year before, led Conway to step back from racing on IndyCar’s ovals. He continued to win on road and street courses in 2013 and 2014, but a career in sports car racing has now taken over.

Conway made one-off appearances in the Australian V8 Supercar Championship and Scirocco R China Masters Challenge at Macau, but a 2013 campaign in G-Drive Racing’s LMP2 car brought four wins and another two podiums en route to third in the championship. That led to an offer from Toyota, and after three impressive outings last year he is now a full-time driver for the World Endurance Champions, though that has meant scrapping his plans to race for Dragon in Formula E.

Fabrizio Crestani

Italy, 2010, 2012-2013, 23 starts, 1 point
Had an unsuccessful dual campaign in GP2 and Auto GP in 2010. The following year he concentrated on GP2 with Lazarus, and in 2012 returned with their GP2 team. He opened his account with a point for tenth at Sepang – then never added to it. Crestani did a handful of races in both categories in 2013 without any success, and appears to have stopped racing since.

Conor Daly

USA, 2013-2014, 20 starts, 4 points
Conor Daly, the 2010 Star Mazda champion, came to Europe to become a Formula One racer like his father Derek. After surviving a terrifying GP3 crash in 2012 he finished third the following year. But his struggles with the Lazarus team in 2014 did not come as a great surprise: he recorded a best of seventh in Hungary. Heading back to America to race in the United Sportscar Championship, Daly began the year with third place for Performance Tech Motorsports at the Sebring 12 Hours and has also dabbled in IndyCars.

This series will continue next week.


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    37 comments on “The drivers of GP2’s first ten seasons: Part one”

    1. Great article series! Thanks for the hard work, looking forward to the next!

    2. @keithcollantine No! Pedro De La Rosa was already the first Spaniard ever to race in a Spanish car for HRT in 2012, so Dani Clos wouldn’t have been. :)

      1. @mashiat Good point (and that was my mistake) – have changed it.

        1. @keithcollantine Also, Rosberg is one of four later F1 driver from the 2005 grid, not three (Piquet, Speed, Kovalainen).

    3. Simon (@weeniebeenie)
      23rd April 2015, 13:34

      Crikey, I wouldn’t want to imagine Cecotto Jnr in F1. Anyone not familiar with him that thought Maldonado was dangerous and crash prone would be in for a surprise.

      1. @weeniebeenie In fairness to Cecotto Jnr, After he got a race ban after a turn 1 crash at Monaco in 2013 he came back much more mature & far less crash prone.
        It was a bit like Grosjean after his 1 race F1 ban in 2012, It made him think more & he stopped making stupid errors.

        At the start of last year he also got married which according to Will Buxton matured him even more & I can’t recall him getting into any silly accidents last year, He did show a lot of speed though.
        I think thats the unfortunate thing, Cecotto Jnr did have a ton of speed & there were times when he literally blew everyone else away & dominated races, But he’s only remembered for some of the silly errors he made.

    4. Nice to see the list headed by Alburquerque, another great Portuguese talent that failed to make the big step.
      I can’t put my finger why Portuguese drivers fail to reach the higher category, it would make F1 even more interesting for me.

      I guess I have to live with Tiago’s Monteiro 3rd place in Indianapolis

      1. @johnmilk I guess the fact that the “do no ill” Da Costa of 2012 did not survive the winter does not improve your mood. A true, pukka star of single seaters ruined by a bankrupt Arden team in 2013 and hidden by a DTM car in 2014.

        1. You are absolutely right @countrygent. And Da Costa was in my opinion the most talented of them all so far. DTM and Formula E will have to do for him this year.

          Now that I think about even does that reach F1 go to small teams. Lamy with minardi and a dying Lotus and Tiago Monteiro with a dying Jordan.

          1. damn you auto-correct. Sorry about that terrible English

      2. @johnmilk I’m not Portuguese, but I’d suggest that it’s the same reason why Asmer and other great talents who don’t come from “traditional” motorsport nations can’t make it: lack of interest equals lack of sponsors. The fact that the least talented Portuguese driver of the 21st century Monteiro made it and even lucked into a podium, while Alvaro Parente, who would run rings around him, hasn’t, is another proof of this

        1. @montreal95 I would agree, but the Portuguese are really enthusiasts when it comes to motorsport, probably only football beats it. I believe the lack of sponsor has another reason, in the end we are a small market to explore.

          However I still believe that a team has more to gain with a talented driver than a paying one, good results will ultimately generate more income, the problem is that teams like Sauber for example don’t need more income, they need it NOW, and that is why so many paying drivers get the chance to get into F1 and talented ones don’t.

          1. @johnmilk Indeed, in F1 era when the CVC vampires drain every last drop of $ from the sport, most teams don’t have cash reserves anymore. They have to live day by day, and that’s how great talents are being lost

          2. Please, grow. Car racing is fueled by hard-currency. No money — No racing.

      3. Indeed. Most people were bullish on Alburquerque but he never made it… He’s a great talent.

    5. Some frustrating tales of talent compromised by a lack of budget, a theme I’m sure will continue across this series. Marko Asmer’s is perhaps the most profound: a genuine F1-grade talent undone by a disjointed and uncompetitive GP2 career with Coloni (then FMS). Estonia, being a small country, can be said to make sponsorship difficult to attract, and this can be said to be a factor in the downturn in prospects of fellow Estonian and F1 tester Kevin Korjus, albeit his failure to capitalize on a competitive Koiranen seat in GP3 was perhaps more important.

      For many Bird would be a candidate for most wasted talent, in spite of his failure to win a championship of any form in his career to date. I disagree: his ability to show enormous speed and dominate and control races is tainted somewhat by his tendency to make errors and get flustered under pressure, as he has often shown in Formula E this year. He has one race and one win under his belt in his 2015 campaign with the Ligier G-Drive LMP2 team in FIA WEC, and we can expect a factory LMP1 drive on its way shortly. For me, that is talent fulfilled.

      1. @countrygent I agree, I think Bird has made the most of his talent, in the same way Chilton and now Stevens have as well. Many might add Ericsson to that list, but I think he’s underperformed since his first F1 test (that Brawn GP001 ^). Maybe Bird has a little more talent, but a little less cash than the other two Brits? Relatively, of course ;) he still went to Millfield..

    6. Great series!

      It seems that talent and money go hand in hand.

      Talent minus money and you’re doomed.

      But money minus talent and you have a chance.

    7. for me personally, not really every follwing the GP2 series, it seems like the series has fizzled out, back in 05/06/07 /08i heard a lot about it, now i dont hear anything. in the meantime i have heard more about Formula Renault 3.5 and even about F3 national series around the world. at least the engines sound better then F1!

      1. WSBR 3.5 has arguably had a more talented field the past few years.

        But having said that the racing in GP2 has been way better than WSBR which is why i’ve always stuck by GP2.

        I’ve always found the racing in WSBR 3.5 to be quite dull & it seems to be worse with the current car which seems to have so much downforce that been able to get close to the car infront is stupidly difficult for a spec series.
        The great thing about what Dallara did with the Gp2 car is that its got enough downforce to get performance but is not so reliant on downforce that following other cars is too hard, Hence why GP2 has always produced great racing.

    8. @keithcollantine

      The only point of consistency was his indifferent performance in both categories

      Erm..Keith, Ceccon finished ninth in GP3 in 2012 in an Ocean International of all things. Even his rivals lauded his performance. With Trident in GP2 the following year, Ceccon was consistently better than Berthon.

      1. @wsrgo True, there’s something there with Ceccon, lets see how he can do with a full season.

    9. Nice series of articles started again. Does F1Fanatic proud!

    10. Great article series!

      My top 5 of those above that I’d really like to see what they could do in F1:
      Carroll-mindbogglingly he has never started in F1. what a waste!
      Bird-near the top everywhere he races. Not WDC material IMO but very worthy of F1
      Asmer-If he wasn’t from Estonia he would be at least race winner in F1 by now
      Calado-again lack of funds his only problem
      Albuquerque-same as Asmer, maybe slightly less talented but worthy of a shot

    11. GB (@bgp001ruled)
      24th April 2015, 1:47

      mike conway! i remember him! but not from GP2, but for he, along with ericsson, drove the glorious BGP001 in the young drivers test in 2009!!! apparently non of them has talent…

    12. This will be a great series – as I’m sure many of the drivers I will have forgotten about entirely.

      The ones who always impressed me were those that would jump in mid-season and produce instant results. So for me – the top 3 that didn’t make it to F1 would have to be Alvaro Parente (another Portuguese without funding), Adam Carroll, and Robin Frijns (maybe not too late!)

    13. “The only point of consistency was his indifferent performance in both categories”


      Prity harsh on Ceccon, he clinched the Auto GP title ( 550hp series) a week after his 18th birthday. His to and froe between GP2 and GP3 has always been due to a lack of funds. Since 2011 (his Auto GP title winning year) he has never completed a full season in either series. He did wonders to even get a start up team like Ocean racing Technology GP3 onto the podium (the team folded before the season was out).

      Mid 2013 season only 2 months after scoring a podium for Trident gp2 in Monaco he was reduced to being a spectator for the following 13 months (again due to the lack of funds) and only returned to any form of racing when Jenzer GP3 offered him a drive for the final 4 GP3 rounds of 2014.

      For the first time in his GP2/3 career he has a contract with a team (Arden) to complete the whole season, and I believe that will bring a different level of consistency to his results.

    14. Remember Buurman’s first test, for ART, outpacing next year’s F1 driver Nakajima in a car Nakajima had spent the entire year in. Shame how his time at Arden never panned out.

    15. Morningview66
      24th April 2015, 9:29

      All the real talent that missed F1 seems to have made into the WEC.
      Honestly I was at silverstone the other week and you could make a genuinely better F1 grid from WEC drivers. Aside from some obvious exceptions (hamilton, alonso, vettel, Raikkonen, Ricardo etc.)

    16. Someone who stands out as an interesting story to me looking back at past GP2 drivers in José María López.

      He did the 1st 2 years, Showed flashes of real speed but also some inconsistency & then ended up doing some stock cars racing in south america where he did very well, Got signed to race for USF1 in 2010 before that project turned out to be a joke. Signed for Citroen in the WTCC, Beat his 2 team mates (Ivan Muller & Sebastian Loeb) & won the WTCC championship in his 1st season, He’s also leading the championship after 2 rounds this year.

    17. Albuquerque, Abt, Ammermuller are those who showed promise but failed completely in GP2. I’m always sad to think that just because they put their foot wrong on the last step they have fallen back down the stairs, and I had high hopes Abt would turn around his career using FE as launchpad, but that has been a mirage so far.
      Bird and Calado are those who did well but were overlooked. I think seeing Nasr perform so well these two would be at the very least solid midfielders, Perez-Hulkenberg level.

      1. @fixy Not sure if I’d have Abt at that level, maybe more like Bird. But I agree, both would be solid with enough laps, same for the two above, Ammermueller basically matched Kobayashi in Eurocup FR2.0.

        1. I personally think Abt got a bit lucky in 2012, it wasn’t an exact indication of his abilities. Neither was his first GP2 season. I think he lies somewhere in the middle.

          1. @wsrgo Yes, I agree. Perhaps like how he’s doing in Formula E?

            1. @fastiesty I guess so. The first three years of his single seater carer too. Winning ADAC on his second try, finishing seventh in F3 Euroseries in 2011 (these championships have become significantly more competitive since).

    18. Aleshin wasn’t the leading Indycar rookie prior to Fontana, Carlos Munoz was. Anyway, Aleshin is racing for the SMP team with their new LMP2 car.

    19. Great series, I look forward to the rest.

      Must chime in on Alvarez though. He was widely regarded, along with Hiroki Yoshimoto, as one of the great talents that got away. Juan had a deal in place with the RDD which went sour after a tough first season which lay mainly in the hands of the under-competitive Campos team. Juan was well respected and his talent widely appreciated in the paddock. He’s moving back to Europe this year in the Porsche Cup.

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