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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.