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With only 4 races left, GP2’s 2013 season has reached the time I can make some predictions for the final results after Singapore and Abu Dhabi.
First of all I have to look at this year’s in/out driver Robin Frijns. He proved he can win, although Hilmer was undoubtedly a good environment for him. However, given all I had heard from earlier years about how good he was I was disappointed that he wasn’t always at the sharp end of the field. Combine that with Sauber recently dropping him and I can’t see him making the final step into the top flight.
Fabio Leimer goes into the final four races with a 6-point lead. He had a mixed weekend in Malaysia, winning the feature race from 4th, then dropping from 8th to 12th on Sunday as he ran out of tyres. This was followed by a dominant pole-to-flag win on Saturday in Bahrain, again with nothing at all from the sprint race. To be fair he only lost one place this time, 9th not yielding points on Sunday. Spain and Monaco were the low point for him, scoring nothing across 2 weekends which appeared on the surface to end his title hunt early as Coletti continued his early-season form. A 4th place in Britain on Saturday focused him again, followed by the same result on Saturday in Germany. He scraped a podium on Sunday, following that with identical results in Hungary. Belgium saw the fourth consecutive feature race where he came 4th, the sprint race handing him a further 6 points. A win on the hallowed Monza tarmac completed the comeback, followed by a points finish on Sunday and his first fastest lap of the season. If this form continues he should take the title, but an F1 drive might be hard to come by.
Sam Bird had a slower start to the season, taking 7th and the fastest lap in Malaysia on Saturday and nothing further on Sunday. Sunday became a favourite for Russian Time as well as Sam as he took his and the team’s first win in Bahrain. Spain was a barren weekend for him, but Monaco’s feature race yielded a victory, as did Silverstone. Sunday saw a top 5 finish as well, although Germany could only return a single point from Sunday. Hungary was the last of the difficult weekends so far, a single point from each race bringing the haul to 3 points from the last 4 races before Belgium allowed pole and the win, albeit at the cost of anything from Sunday. Pole and 2nd followed in the Italian feature race, complete with the fastest lap. 4th on Sunday completed a decent recovery, putting him 2nd overall going into the final 4 races. Unfortunately for Bird, while I can see him beating Leimer through consistency, an F1 drive is unlikely to follow unless Mercedes get him a Friday seat at Williams – especially with Williams looking to forge a link with a GP2 team already.
Stefano Coletti came into the season dominantly, taking the first pole of the year for Rapax. He made the podium and then fought back from 6th to win on Sunday, taking the fastest lap in the process. Coletti was the early pacesetter, taking 2nd and 3rd in Bahrain followed by 4th and a sprint victory – complete with fastest lap – in Spain. Monaco saw him 6th on Saturday and winning on Sunday, both times with the fastest lap. By this point in the season, the expected championship contender Markus Ericsson had only 4 points compared to Coletti’s 120. Few would have predicted that the tables would turn from this point to the extent that only 15 more points would come by the close in Monza – 3rd place in Germany giving the only other score of the year. Coletti is unlikely now to take the title but needs to up his game again to hold 3rd. Nasr is only 5 points behind, after all.
Felipe Nasr came into 2013 having never won a GP2 race. As we leave Monza, this is still very much the case but consistency is the key here. He took 4th and 2nd in Malaysia, followed by identical results in Bahrain – note his 2nd to Bird in Bahrain on Sunday was almost a dead heat – before Spain gave him 2nd and 3rd. he reverted to the traditional 4th place in the Monaco feature race, taking the same place in the sprint race. All a poor British weekend could offer him was 7th place on Sunday – no other points were available. He was then 9th and 4th in Germany. Thus far no fastest laps or pole positions had come his way, nor were they to do so before the end of the European season as Hungary gave him 3rd and 5th, followed by a single Sunday point in Hungary and nothing at all in an Italian weekend where everything that could go wrong, went wrong. I’ve never seen a GP2 engine blow before, until Nasr did it spectacularly. His consistency, as I said before, is the key to his chances but the title is out of reach in my mind now. He should be able to clear Coletti, but we will see how well each perform in Singapore and Abu Dhabi.
James Calado was expected to be at the sharp end this year but the car never quite seemed to be where an ART should be. Teammate Abt was crippled by an apparently underperforming engine, but Calado managed to take 2nd on Saturday in Malaysia to kick off the year well, although nothing came of his Sunday drive. Bahrain was a poor weekend, 6 points the total haul as his first Sunday points arrived. Spain was a wasted weekend for him, Monaco yielding two 5th place finishes before Silverstone saw him finish first 9th, then 3rd as the only Brit on the Sunday podium. Germany saw something of a resurgence, taking a pair of 2nd places and the fastest lap on Sunday. However, Hungary saw a total of 6 points come his way as the car once again seemed lost. Belgium saw a win with fastest lap on Sunday, but only 8th on Saturday meaning his pole position made a huge difference on Sunday. In Italy all he could manage was 6th on Saturday. He is the only driver with a very good chance of being in F1 next year, having already run an FP1 for Force India in Monza, presumably taking the same role for the rest of the year. I do wonder if it will prevent him climbing higher than 5th overall, however.
Tom Dillmann heads an incredibly tight fight for 6th as we leave Europe, despite a scoreless weekend in Malaysia and only 12 points from Bahrain where his teammate won. He scored 10 points in Spain, making up for Bird’s poor weekend but failed to score in Monaco. Saturday at Silverstone gave him 3rd and a fastest lap, although the Sunday race only yielded 6th. Germany was worse: 8th on Saturday and nowhere on Sunday. He took the Saturday pole in Hungary but couldn’t convert it into a race position, although a 5th and fastest lap in Belgium helped. 3rd and 5th in Monza put him onto 84 points, well behind the top 5 but ahead of the rest of the field, if only by a single point. F1 for now isn’t an option, in my opinion.
Richelmi and Ericsson combine to make the DAMS team, reigning champions from the past 2 years who now seem to have taken on the wrong drivers to further their winning streak. After 8 races, lead driver Ericsson only had 4 points from Spain’s pole position while Richelmi had 15, along with 2 scoreless weekends. Silverstone gave Ericsson 5 points and Richelmi a further 18, leaving them on 9 and 33 points respectively but well off the sharp end of the field. Victory and fastest lap on Saturday in Germany was the start of Ericsson’s too-late recovery, while Richelmi took pole and finished 5th. Sunday was a waste for the team. Hungary gave 28 points to Ericsson and 10 to Richelmi, the two getting closer in the standings now. Ericsson’s last score was on Saturday in Belgium, taking 2nd while Richelmi finished 7th, dropping from 2nd to 4th on the Sunday grid. 4th was also available to Richelmi on Saturday in Italy, bringing him to 82 points and leaving Ericsson on 83. Neither can take the title but they can mix it up with the frontrunners if the cars feel up to it. I can’t see an F1 seat for either driver in 2014, or at all for that matter.
Focusing now on the teams’ championship, let’s go from back to front. Venezuela GP Lazarus have scraped only 12 points this year, taking a point in Malaysia, an impressive 10 in the traditionally mixed up Monaco weekend and their final European point with a 10th in Italy. They remain as I have always seen them: a weak team, there to make up the numbers but occasionally doing a Minardi and bringing in genuine talent. This year the talent didn’t come through.
Addax failed to score until Spain, taking their first couple of points from the feature race. They then managed an impressive Silverstone weekend, taking 18 points from the round before sneaking a 7th place in Italy to reach 22 points. They rank similarly to Lazarus in my view, with little purpose beyond making up the numbers, in spite of a promising pair of drivers.
MP are the lowest of 2013’s new teams, sitting 11th after Monza. They took their first 7 points in Bahrain, followed by 17 in Monaco as they followed the other two backmarker teams in taking a large haul in the principality. Since Monaco they haven’t made the points again and now sit on 24, looking warily over their shoulder in case Addax manage another couple of points to overhaul them.
Trident may not have to worry about MP but they are unlikely to improve on 10th this year. They took 8 points in Spain to open their account, followed by 20 in Monaco. Hungary’s Saturday race gave them another 4, but Berthon's win and fastest lap gave them an incredible boost on Sunday, although they haven’t scored since. They sit on 49 points and 10th overall, having proved they can show flashes of brilliance but little else.
Caterham underachieved this year. They head to Singapore with only 65 points and 9th place, in spite of having promising youngster Alex Rossi on board. 63 of the team’s points belong to Rossi, the other 2 to the erratic Canamasas who has really dragged the team down this year. They need to find more consistency in future if they want to be taken seriously as a GP2 contender.
I seem to recall the Arden name being a force to be reckoned with in both GP2 and F3000. How the mighty have fallen, as they now sit 8th with 89 points and little chance of moving anywhere on the table. Evans has put in a good show but Cecotto has been more focused on crashing over the year and has let both himself and the team down, similarly to Canamasas at Caterham. Arden need to sort out their drivers as well or they risk becoming a force in the history books and little else.
ART are another team who have fallen away recently, sitting 7th in the championship with 122 points. Aside from Germany, they have scored less then 20 points per meeting and need to sort themselves out for 2014. In their defence, Daniel Abt was seemingly held back for much of the year by a dodgy engine. Having had it changed for Monza we shall see how he performs in the final 4 races.
Hilmer entered the year with no real expectations, a rookie team who pulled just 2 points from the Sunday race in Malaysia and nothing in Bahrain. However, their unexpected 54 points in Spain put them firmly on the map, in spite of nothing at all coming from Monaco. Silverstone yielded another 27 points, then 29 came from Germany before another barren weekend as Hungary took its toll. Belgium and Italy combined gave them another 34 points but it seemed their form dropped off without Frijns there, making me question how good the team really is. Nonetheless they sit 6th going into the final 4 races with 146 points.
Rapax are only 7 points ahead of Hilmer, matching the haul of Sam Bird alone. Still, given the team isn’t one I would normally tout for a title fight I have to admit I am impressed they are in the top 5 at all.
DAMS, as mentioned before, are the shock of the year. Yes they have more as a team than the lead driver at the moment, but only by 6 points. Their last 2 seasons were impressive, this has been a disaster. They will hope they can learn to use the new 2014 car as well as they did with the 2011-13 chassis.
Carlin came into the year with an immediate 32 points, followed by 38 in Bahrain and 35 in Spain. They even managed a steady 20 in Monaco before Britain and Germany gave up only 10 points each and Carlin started to slip. They did pull 46 from Hungary as both Nasr and Palmer did what they could but only 5 points came in Belgium and Nasr’s engine failure in Monza finished the weekend for them without a single point. In theory they could still challenge for the title, but it is a long shot now as the season nears its close.
Racing Engineering started the year with 35 points, followed with 29 then nothing for 3 weekends. Those 3 weekends gave the field the chance to close again and lost them an easy run to the title. They clawed back up the order again by close of play in Monza to sit 2nd with 221 points, only 16 shy of Russian Time but without much chance of the title on the basis of season-long form. They face a fight for 2nd if Carlin stay on form.
Russian Time are not a team I expected to leave until last here until mid-season. They managed 37 points in only their 2nd weekend in the series, although at that point iSport were still helping them out. later in the year they managed 52 points in Britain, Sam Bird coming 1st and 5th in his two home races. Belgium and Hungary were weak weekends but Italy gave them 53 points, putting them firmly back on top heading into the final 4 races, with probably the best driver in the field this year as well in the shape of Bird. If they don’t take the title I will be disappointed, as it has been an incredible year for the team and they deserve it at least as much as anyone else.