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


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@Samvanput looks at the careers of another 20 drivers who raced in F1 feeder series GP2 but didn’t make it all the way to the top.

Paolo Nocera

Italy, 2008, 2 starts, 0 points
The 2007 Italian Formula Three champion tried to move up a level the following year. But a single GP2 weekend with BCN and a handful of Formula Renault 3.5 races was all he managed, and he hasn’t been heard from since.

Diego Nunes

Brazil, 2008-2009, 40 starts, 11 points
Twice a winner in GP2 Asia, Nunes wasn’t able to scale the same heights in the main championship. He peaked with third place in the sprint race at Spa in 2009, while team mate to race-winner Giedo van der Garde at iSport. Since then he’s returned to Brazil’s vibrant domestic racing scene to compete in Stock Cars, but his victory at Curitiba at the end of his first season has so far been a one-off.

Fabio Onidi

Italy, 2012, 24 starts, 13 points
Seldom a front-runner in Formula BMW or Formula Renault 2.0, Onidi was pipped to the Euroseries 3000 crown by Nicolas Prost by two points in 2008. He remained in the series the following year, finishing third, and continued as it morphed into Auto GP. By 2012 he was ready for GP2 with Coloni, but spent most of the year out of the points. He then traded in his nine years of single-seater experience for a career in GTs: he dopve for AF Corse in the FIA GT series in 2013, then joined Bhaitech in the Blancpain Sprint Series finishing 14th overall.

Jolyon Palmer

UK, Champion, 2011-2014, 84 starts, 4 poles, 7 wins, 19 podiums, 473 points
Not yet an F1 driver, but well-placed to make the switch. The reigning champion, son of eighties F1 racer turned British circuit mogul Jonathan Palmer, enjoyed his father’s backing while progressing through championships such as Formula Palmer Audi and Formula Two. Runner-up in the latter in 2010, after that came a four-year stint in GP2 which eventually brought him championship success. He tested for Force India and then joined Lotus as a reserve driver for this season, and has already driven the team’s current car in three practice sessions.

Nelson Panciatici

France, 2009, 16 starts, 0 points
Spent three years racing two-litre Formula Renault cars before a single year in F3 – finishing second in the Spanish championship – after which he jumped into GP2 with Durango. Sixteen point-less races followed, whereupon his season came to an end in unusual circumstances. Team mate Stefano Coletti suffered a huge crash at Spa and was set to take over Panciactici’s chassis for the following race. But Coletti, still suffering the effects of his crash, withdrew from the event, leading Durango to pull out of the race entirely and the subsequent round as well. Panciatici moved on to Formula Renault 3.5, but a podium finish in the first round of his second season proved a false dawn – it was his only visit to the rostrum. The following year he turned up in the field for the Monte Carlo Rally, but sports cars proved his real career destination, and with not a little success. From 2012 to 2014 he competed in the 24 hours of Le Mans for LMP2 team Signatech, scoring a class third in 2014, and he took back-to-back European Le Mans LMP2 titles in the past two seasons. He has a more extensive WEC programme with Signatech this year.

Alvaro Parente

Portugal, 2008-2011, 56 starts, 1 pole, 2 wins, 9 podiums, 85 points
Parente’s career had real momentum behind it when he arrived in GP2 with Super Nova in 2008 as the reigning Formula Renault 3.5 champion and 2005 British F3 title holder. Big things were expected, and when he opened his account with victory at the Circuit de Catalunya it seemed he was ready to deliver them. But he quickly fell into a slump, with a succession of poor qualifying performance condemning him to low-scoring weekends, and he ended the year eighth in the standings. After a handful of starts for Coloni the following year – and three victories in Superleague Formula – Parente reappeared in GP2 with Racing Engineering as a substitute for Christian Vietoris, taking second at Monaco. Parente spent much of the rest of the year with Carlin but had little to show for it. Since then he has been a highly active GT driver, winning races in the Blancpain series and in Britain. He continues in the former this year, as well as International GT Open, and has dabbled in Brazilian Stock Cars.

Milos Pavlovic

Serbia, 2008, 3 starts, 0 points
Serbia’s only GP2 driver arrived in the series with the 2002 Italian F3 and 2004 Nissan World Series Light titles under his belt and off the back of third place in the 2007 Formula Renault 3.5 championship with two wins. However he only made three starts for BCN before being abruptly replaced – having qualified in Monaco he was then dropped before the feature race. Following a largely fruitless year in Formula Two – two podiums from 16 races – and a year away, Pavlovic entered the GT1 World Championship. Last November he won the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe championship, sealing the title with team mate Edoardo Piscopo at Sepang after four wins in 12 races.

Franck Perera

France, 2006, 2009, 26 starts, 1 podium, 8 points
Having been the rookie champion in the F3 Euroseries in 2004, Perera finished fourth the following year amid some serious opposition: Lewis Hamilton took the title ahead of Adrian Sutil and Lucas di Grassi, with Sebastian Vettel fifth. In 2006, as well as testing for Toyota’s F1 team, Perera entered GP2 with DAMS. Second at Monaco was the highlight of his year, after which he briefly headed to America where he finished second in the 2007 Atlantic championship and made three IndyCar starts. But he soon returned to Europe where, following a brief return to GP2 with DPR, he switched to GTs. He won the opening round of this year’s European Le Mans Series GTC class at Silverstone.

Clivio Piccione

Monaco, 2005-2006, 44 starts, 1 wins, 3 podiums, 32 starts
Aside from his sole win at the Nurburgring in 2006, the most memorable moment of Clivio Piccione’s GP2 career came when Lewis Hamilton used him in an audacious three-wide pass on Nelson Piquet Jnr heading into Silverstone’s Becketts complex. After racing in Formula Renault 3.5, A1 Grand Prix and Euroseries 3000, Piccione spent two years campaigning a Hexis Aston Martin DB9 in the GT1 World Championship. He’s been out of major competition since 2011.

Eduardo Piscopo

Italy, 2010, 2 starts, 2 points
Now Pavlovic’s Lamborghini team mate, Piscopo’s GP2 career was even shorter. His sole weekend was at Monza with Trident in 2010. The year before he earned a coveted test in a Ferrari Formula One car as a prize for finishing second in the Italian Formula Three championship. His main occupation in 2010 was the Auto GP championship, where he finished second to part-timer Romain Grosjean without winning a single race, before switching to GTs.

Oliver Pla

France, 2005-2007, 35 starts, 2 wins, 2 podiums, 20 points
Won the sprint races at Silverstone and Hockenheim in GP2’s first season, both thanks to reverse-grid poles, but a string of retirements confined him to 13th in the points. Another sprint race pole position was on the cards the following year in Spain but he was disqualified when his car was found to be underweight. He quickly found success in sports car racing, however, taking the European Le Mans Series LMP2 title in 2009 driving a Ginetta shared with Miguel Pais do Amaral. Remaining in that category in 2013 he raced full-time in the WEC for Oak Racing finishing second overall. This year he will move up to LMP1 with Nissan’s new GTR LM Nismo.

Felix Porteiro

Spain, 2006, 21 starts, 5 points
Four years in the World Series by Renault (previously Nissan) resulted in fifth overall for Porteiro in 2005 with a pair of wins – though it was his team mate Robert Kubica who scooped the title and was in F1 the next year. By then Porteiro was on the GP2 support bill but his sole season with the Spanish Campos team yielded just five points. He then moved into the World Touring Car Championship, winning at Brno in 2007 and at Brands Hatch the following year. The year after that finished second in the Independent class, before moving into GT racing.

Alexandre Premat

France, 2005-2006, 44 starts, 1 pole, 3 wins, 15 podiums, 133 points
Had the misfortune of being Hamilton’s team mate at ART in 2006 – while his rookie team mate grabbed the title Premat was usually left behind, though the pair collided while disputing the lead in Spain. Premat had already exhibited his potential by winning the major F3 Masters and Macau races, and helping France to the inaugural A1 Grand Prix crown with Nicolas Lapierre, so when an F1 test for Spyker failed to lead to a seat Audi snapped him up for their DTM and LMP1 squads. He won the Le Mans Series with them in 2008 but three years later Audi showed him the door after discovering that instead of recuperating from a major crash at Adria as per instructions, Premat had competed in the New York Marathon. Since then he has raced in Australia’s V8 Supercars championship.

Marcello Puglisi

Italy, 2008, 2 starts, 0 points
How many drivers can claim to be champion of a category which was only run once? That was true of Puglisi, who scooped the Formula Master Italia title in 2008. His sole GP2 outing was that year and he did it the hard away, stepping into Davide Valsecch’s vacant cockpit at Durango for the Monaco race weekend. Unsurprisingly he qualified on the back row and finished a lap down in his first race. In 2011 he moved into International GT Open, and the following year he won two races in the GTS class in a Porsche 997.

Adrian Quaife-Hobbs

UK, 2013-2014, 40 starts, 1 wins, 4 podiums, 86 points
Got into car racing at a young age, winning the T Cars title at 14. A lengthy apprenticeship in Formula Renault 2.0 followed, then two years in GP3, all with little success. However he took the 2012 Auto GP title with five wins, which served as a springboard into GP2. A surprise win at Monza saw him end the year 13th in the championship, a feat he repeated the following year. He then landed a McLaren GT contract for this year and races in the Blancpain Endurance series for VonRyanRacing alongside the likes of Bruno Senna and Shane van Gisbergen.

Gianmarco Raimondo

Canada, 2013, 4 starts, 0 points
Having cut his teeth racing in the now-defunct American Formula BMW championship, Raimondo came to Europe in 2009 and three years later finished runner-up in Euro F3 Open. He had four starts in GP2 for Trident the following year, but was out of a seat in 2014.

Facu Regalia

Argentina, 2014, 8 starts, 0 points
Raced on the F1 support bill as early as 2008 in Formula BMW Europe, then more successfully in GP3 where he was runner-up to Daniil Kvyat in 2013, despite only winning once. He began last year’s GP2 championship with Hilmer but quit the team after eight races saying they weren’t competitive enough. He was set to step into the Formula Renault 3.5 seat at Zeta Corse vacated by Roberto Merhi over the winter, but the deal fell through. Instead he switched to Auto GP and won on his first start in the category earlier this month.

Luiz Razia

Brazil, 2009-2012, 80 starts, 1 pole, 5 wins, 15 podiums, 277 points
Along with Alexander Rossi – who is still racing in the series and hence does not feature on this list – Razia has a strong claim to being the GP2 driver who came closest to securing a Formula One drive, only to miss out. In both cases they almost reached F1 with Marussia, but when Razia’s funding fell through his F1 hopes were shattered, and Jules Bianchi took his place. This was a tough blow for Razia, the 2006 F3 Sudamerica champion, who was runner-up to Davide Valsecchi in 2012 thanks to a quartet of wins. Indy Lights beckoned after his F1 near-miss – he finished fifth in the series last year – and he is now racing Stock Cars in his home country.

Giacomo Ricci

Italy, 2008-2011, 25 starts, 1 win, 2 podiums, 16 points
The 2006 Italian Formula 3000 champion dipped a toe in the GP2 waters in 2008 ahead of a full season the year after. He ended the season with no points, but after continuing with DPR in 2010 he signed off in style with a victory in Hungary. He went on to race in Auto GP for the MLR71 team, where he also served as a manager, a role he now performs at Trident’s GP2 team.

Davide Rigon

Italy, 2009, 2011, 20 starts, 3 points
A champion in Euroseries 3000 and Formula Azzura earlier in his career, Rigon’s GP2 career was curtailed when he was injured in a crash when he was hit from behind by Julian Leal on the pit straight at Istanbul. Although leg injuries kept him out of the season, he had gained the support of Ferrari who have remained behind him ever since. He won last year’s Gulf 12 Hours in an AF Corse-run Ferrari 458 Italia, and already this year has competed in endurance races at Daytona and Bathurst as well as the World Endurance Championship.


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    6 comments on “The drivers of GP2’s first ten seasons: Part four”

    1. Alvaro Parente! I always liked him, as I tend to have a soft spot for the good-but-not-best. I think under the right circumstances he could have gone further, though not beyond an F1 test role. To a lesser extent I would say the same of Quaife-Hobbs, while Piscopo was more unlucky not even to have a real chance at a time when the junior ladder was much less ordered.

      1. Parente is a great driver with no money at all, it drags your career down when money starts to make an impact, that said I have another 20 names on my list, all of them not GP2 former drivers.

    2. I really like this series, it brings back memories of names we used to hear but somehow disappeared. Seems GT / sportscars is scooping up most of those who fail to make it to F1.

      1. @bascb I’m happy there are some who like it. Makes the effort worth the time of both myself but expecially Keith whose been a great aid in this.

    3. Has a woman ever competed in GP2?

      1. I think Alice Powell in GP3 was closest in the ladder?

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