Archives for posts with tag: GP2 Series

The Durango 95 purred away real horrorshow...

Just when you thought you’d seen the last of bizarrely far-fetched F1 bids, this week’s news that Durango has applied for the vacant 13th grid slot for 2011 should have you spitting out your cornflakes.

For all of you fellow Stanley Kubrick fans, I’m afraid to inform you that the Durango of which we speak is not the Durango of “A Clockwork Orange” fame. The Durango 95 car stolen by Alex and his droogs in the movie was, in fact, an M-505 Adams Brothers Probe 16, of which only three were ever made.

No, the Durango of which we speak is the Italian former GP2, F3000 and Endurance team which has, in its past, achieved a relative level of success.

Why then, should I consider this bid to be somewhat fanciful? After all, isn’t GP2 supposed to provide the future of F1? Well yes, it is… only, Durango is no longer a part of GP2 having been forced out of the championship when it ran out of cash.

Durango’s fall from grace last year hit its peak on September 5th, when Il Gazzettino reported that Durango was being investigated for criminal tax evasion and fraud, and that it had been using a system of companies which constantly changed their names to issue bills with inflated figures in order to reduce costs and lower the payable tax. Indeed, it was claimed in Il Gazzettino that the system put in place at Durango had seen unreported revenue of more than €12 million, false invoicing amounting to €11 million, unpaid tax of €3 million and a reduction of base tax to the tune of €16 million. All of this came, so the article said, at the end of a one year investigation.

Durango’s time in GP2 was not short of controversy. From as early as Imola 2006 the team was in hot water for contravening regulations by manufacturing their own parts rather than using Dallara’s spec equipment. In Imola it was only the car’s skirts that were the issue, but when Lucas di Grassi’s rear wing fell off at Silverstone later that same season, Durango was excluded from the weekend and sent packing from the paddock after it was discovered the team had sought to cut corners by conducting a botch repair job on structural parts of the car, rather than returning those parts to Dallara for an official repair.

Talk of Durango’s corner cutting came to the fore once again just last season when Stefano Coletti was involved in a huge shunt at Spa, when his GP2/08 went straight on at Eau Rouge. A paddock insider that weekend whispered to me that Coletti’s steering column had “snapped like a piece of balsa wood,” although I could find no evidence to substantiate this claim from anyone at GP2 or Dallara.

When the championship arrived at Monza for the next race however, Durango only had one car at its disposal and there were two contrasting reasons given for this, depending on who you spoke to: namely that Durango didn’t have the money to repair the car, or that the car was so littered with botch repairs that Dallara had impounded it as being too unsafe to use. Again, I found it impossible to find an “on the record” response as to which of these was the accurate version of events but rumours that it was the latter refused to disappear.

The team was ultimately forced out of that weekend and did not race at all.

Stefano Coletti - Spa 2009 © GP2 Media Service

Durango missed the final two rounds of the 2009 Main Series, missed the entirety of the 2009/2010 GP2 Asia series and will not compete in the 2010 Main GP2 Series. They have, however, found the funds to launch an F1 team… or so Durango’s boss Ivone Pinton told the team’s website.

“After the mishaps of last season we went into action full force to seek new partners for our racing activities. It did not take long to realize that the interest could be raised only when there was talk of Formula 1, therefore we have pushed in this direction and today I can say that, enter the maximum formula, we have the support of two large international groups. So while remaining with their feet on the ground, because for now it is only a serious attempt, I would say that after working many years to train future champions, now is the time to work hard to push to the top as the Durango team. ”

While I understand that it might be easier to drum up support for an F1 effort than a GP2 effort owing to the much higher levels of exposure in F1, what I do not understand is how a team which could not make a go of GP2 could even consider that they have what it takes to make a go of F1. After the USF1 debacle, and the StefanGP mess, the FIA will likely be wary of any and all 2011 proposals, and the due diligence on Durango is likely to be even more extensive than on most, given the very public financial issues which affected the squad so recently. Plus I’m pretty sure that if the team has found some money, then the first knock on their door is going to come from GP2 for unpaid bills and the serious fines that they will be contractually obliged to pay for two missed races and two entire missed championships.

Formula 1 cannot afford any more embarrassment from new teams falling by the wayside. That Campos / Hispania made it to the grid is nothing short of a miracle, and the aforementioned USF1 / StefanGP balls up did little for the sport’s image. As such, I wonder how seriously Durango’s bid will be taken.

When we have seen the likes of Prodrive, Lola and Epsilon passed over in favour of unknown entities which failed to make the grade, you can see why Durango would chance their arm. What have they got to lose?

But in all honesty you’d have to say that, regardless of the financial partners they might have got on board, so incredible does a Durango bid for F1 seem that it almost makes StefanGP look like a serious operation.

GP2 parc ferme... why not full of F1 liveries?

Just a quickie to follow on from the post I wrote this morning… because when I was at GP2 myself and Marco Codello came up with a concept which we never thought would really ever see the light of day, but which we thought would be a great tribute to the series… and with the GP2/05 now being decomissioned, I thought I would share it with you.

The concept was simple… bring back all the boys who graduated to F1 through GP2 and put them back in GP2 cars. Now that the GP2/05 is out of regular use, and seeing as all the boys drove them at one time or another, they’d be perfect.

We’d do a one off show day at, let’s say, Jerez. Nice technical track, the boys all know it well from F1 testing, and GP2’s been there for a good few years testing itself so the teams would have good data at their disposal.

Each GP2 car would be painted in the livery of the F1 team for whom the driver now races, or in a livery of the drivers’ choice if they no longer race in F1.

We have a morning of testing, with a half hour proper GP2 quali before lunch.

The afternoon would then consist of two short races (15 or so laps) with TOTAL reverse grid from quali for the second race.

Can you imagine it? 17 GP2 graduates, 11 of them current F1 drivers, in identical cars, all gunning it to prove once and for all who was the best GP2 driver of all time? If you wanted to make it up to a full grid of 26, you could always bring back Franck Montagny and Allan McNish who developed the original car and a hand picked selection of GP2 race winners to add to the mix. And of course, you’d have to bring back the most succesful driver in GP2 history who was cruelly overlooked by F1: the legend that is Giorgio Pantano.

Fans could come and watch, and ticket sales could go to charity.

As we agreed at the time, it was a lovely idea, but not one we’d ever realistically ever see. Would the F1 teams allow their boys back into GP2 cars for a one off weekend? Would the F1 boys stake their reputations on it? Who would win the argument over which engineers they had… I can’t see Rosberg, Hamilton, Grosjean and Hulkenberg agreeing over which two would get to be back with ART. Although I think the ART boys could probably manage four cars pretty effectively.

Funnily enough, I think the majority of GP2 graduates would actually really enjoy it. We’d get to see the battles we never experienced because of the generational divide and give the GP2/05 a bloody good send off at the same time.

I know it won’t ever happen… but I just thought you might like to know that the idea had, at the very least, been discussed.

The first GP2 car is taken for its shake down run by Franck Montagny. 20 July 2004

This weekend saw the motorsport world bid a fond farewell to a car which has formed the bedrock of the careers of half the current F1 grid, as the original GP2 Series car completed its final race.

The GP2/05, designed by Dallara, powered by a 4l V8 Renault engine assembled and maintained by Mecachrome and run on Bridgestone Potenza tyres (grooved for its first season in 2005) made its track debut in July 2004 at Circuit Paul Ricard when Frank Montagny gave it its initial shakedown. Over the next few months, he and Allan McNish conducted the development work on the car which would race in the very first season of the GP2 Series when it was launched in 2005.

Despite some very public problems in its debut weekend at the San Marino Grand Prix (namely the electronics going haywire in practice and the brakes wearing out in the first race), the racing was exciting and the competition fierce. Brembo had heard rumours of the inadequacies of the initial brake supplier and had brought enough brake pads and discs for the entire field to Imola, storing them in a truck in a nearby carpark. When the problems arose in the first race, a Brembo representative asked the series organisers if they fancied switching supplier. They did. With reliability issues pretty much resolved with Mecachrome a few races into the season, GP2 established itself as unmissable racing.

Nico Rosberg was crowned the first champion in 2005, beating Heikki Kovalainen and Scott Speed to the crown and all three were promoted to Formula 1, starting a trend which has seen 17 drivers promoted to an active F1 seat since the championship began.

For the record, they are: Nico Rosberg, Heikki Kovalainen, Scott Speed, Alexandre Premat (F1 Practice Session), Nelson Piquet, Ernesto Viso (F1 Practice Session), Lewis Hamilton, Timo Glock, Lucas di Grassi, Vitaly Petrov, Kazuki Nakajima, Bruno Senna, Karun Chandhok, Sebastien Buemi, Romain Grosjean, Kamui Kobayashi and Nico Hulkenberg.

Of those 17, 11 remain in Formula 1 in 2010.

It would also be remiss to forget the tens of drivers who have received positions as test drivers at F1 teams, be it on a season-long contract or simply a one-off test, as a result of their results in GP2.

And all of them, without exception, have raced the GP2/05. For while the original car raced in the main series for three years, creating champions out of Rosberg, Hamilton and Glock, the car was then shipped off to Asia to compete in the GP2 Asia Series between 2008 and 2010. There simply isn’t a driver to have been promoted from GP2 to Formula 1 who has not competed in a field of GP2/05s.

The car, which was designed around a concept of ground effect rather than over reliance on body aerodynamics, was created not only with the specific intention of training the future drivers of F1, but to provide overtaking and an exciting show. Even today it remains fast and relevant. Despite racing with a detuned engine in the Asia series, its laptimes on its final weekend weren’t far off those being set by the new teams in F1… not bad for a six year old racer.

With its Main Series replacement, the GP2/08, due to be used in Asia for the 2010/2011 championship when its own replacement (GP2/11) is unveiled for the 2011 Main Series, Sunday was thus the last time we’ll see the 05 race. It has given us six seasons of racing which I and many colleagues will never forget. It has also stood the test of time, providing a safe racing environment throughout its life.

But, alas, after 94 races, six champions and some of the best racing I’ve ever seen, the GP2/05 will race no more. Whether they are to become museum pieces or sit in the teams’ factories is, as yet, unclear. But if anyone’s thinking of holding a track day with one, please let me know… I’d move heaven and earth to get into one, even if it was for just the one lap.

I hope that wherever they end up, they take pride of place. Because without them, today’s F1 grid wouldn’t contain half the talent it does.

The GP2/05 Champions

Nico Rosberg - 2005 Champion

Lewis Hamilton - 2006 Champion

Timo Glock - 2007 Champion

Romain Grosjean - 2008 Asia Champion

Kamui Kobayashi - 2008/2009 Asia Champion

Davide Valsecchi - 2009/2010 Asia Champion

Following yesterday’s announcement, I’ve had some lovely messages from you guys and quite a few messages asking what my plans are with regard to the gigs I’ve had over the past few seasons. So I thought I’d just write a quick piece to fill you all in on my plans for the year ahead.

Working for SPEED is a tremendous honour and its a job I can’t wait to sink my teeth into. The guys over in the States have been very understanding about the fact I’m about to become a father, and they’ve given me the first few races off to be with my wife and new baby. As such, I’m due to make my debut on SPEED in Shanghai.

I want to make sure that I give 100% to my new role, and as such I have handed in my notice at GPWeek. I have had the most amazing two years at GPWeek and have taken enormous pride in watching it grow from a concept to a popular and well-read weekly magazine receiving 10 million page hits at its peak in 2009. I want to thank Keith, Chris and all the guys at the magazine for the best couple of seasons and to wish them well for the future, and I hope I’ll still be able to write bits and bobs for them over the season.

I will, however, continue in my role as commentator for FOM on the world feed of the GP2 Asia and GP2 Main Series in 2010. It’s a job which combines well with my new role at SPEED, and I can’t wait to see how the F1 feeder series plays out in 2010 in what will be its sixth season of competition. Should be a thriller!

I’ll be continuing with my blog, and updating it as often as I can… I know it’s not as regularly updated as some of the others, but quite frankly I don’t think you need my opinion on every miniscule happening in this sport. I’ll just give you my views on the stuff that interests me and the stuff I’ve delved into to try and find the real story.

Combined with that, I’m still a freelance journo so I hope to pick up bits and bobs throughout the year, such as the two features in the March issue of F1 Racing mag on Massa and Senna which I hope you all enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Thanks to you all for your continued support, and to all of you in the States who are avid SPEED viewers, don’t hesitate to let me know what you love about this sport and what you want to see from me in paddock and I will do my best to search it out for you and bring you the side of the sport that you want to see.

Overall, I’m really looking forward to the year… as this lovely Q&A conducted by SPEED will hopefully explain…

SPEED: Joining a well-established broadcast team, what do you hope to bring to the table to establish chemistry with Bob Varsha, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett?

Buxton: First up, I’ve got to admit that I’m just massively excited about the whole thing. It’s a huge honor to be joining the SPEED team, and in particular to be doing so at the start of what could be an incredible era in the history of Formula 1. I’ve been a fan of this sport my whole life and have been lucky enough to work within it for the better part of the past decade. I’d like to think that the passion and enthusiasm I have for F1 has come across in what I’ve done in the past and that those traits will define what I bring to the SPEED team both this year and into the future. Working with Bob, David, Steve and all the guys behind the scenes at SPEED is the sort of opportunity you just don’t get every day. And with F1 back in North America at Montreal, a lot of talk about the return of a US Grand Prix and so many young talented American drivers coming through the ranks, it’s a really great time to be joining SPEED.

SPEED: As the literal “eyes and ears” on the ground at each event for SPEED, what type of storylines attract your attention?

Buxton: F1 is a bit of a soap opera at times. As a journalist it’s what makes the sport such a joy to report on. There’s always something going on in the background, and I won’t shy away from doing my best to get to the heart of every issue. That said, I don’t think that my job at SPEED is simply to report the news. Far from it. As one of the lucky few who can actually get into the F1 paddock, I think that probably my biggest responsibility is to open it all up to the American fans: to invite them in, sit them down, introduce them to a few people and show them what’s going on. It’s the fans that make this sport, so my job is to give them the access they deserve.

SPEED: Are you doing anything specific to prepare for this new role?

Buxton: I am very aware of the size of the shoes I’m stepping into, but it’s a challenge I can’t wait to take on. I’ve watched Peter at work for many years, and over the past few months have gone back over much of what he produced at SPEED. But I’m not Peter, and I think the only way that I can approach this epic opportunity is to just be myself and bring SPEED’s viewers the side of the sport that I see and that I love. When you look at the majority of driver line-ups on the grid, it’s clear that there’s a new generation sweeping through Formula 1. There’s a vibrancy brought about by a set of people I’ve worked with both in junior formulas and in F1 for many years and with whom I believe I share much in common. It’s a new sport, with a bunch of young drivers who aren’t afraid to speak their minds and tell it like it is. We’re due for an insane season and the start of an incredible new era of competition. I’m really looking forward to being a part of it all on SPEED.

Me, very happy with the announcement of my new job at SPEED.
Photo c/o Drew Gibson

Someone’s got a new job… Me! (Oh, and if you can’t tell from the press release, I’m really looking forward to it!)

Here’s the press release:

The familiar faces of Bob Varsha, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett once again will lead the SPEED/FOX Sports Formula One broadcast team as SPEED rolls into its 15th year as the exclusive U.S. cable broadcaster of the FIA Formula One World Championship, beginning with live coverage of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 14 at 7:30 a.m. ET. One face, however, will be new to the U.S. viewing audience.

Will Buxton, the 29-year-old founding editor of GPWeek magazine, will report from the grid, replacing Peter Windsor, whose efforts remain focused on his start-up US F1 project.

“First up, I’ve got to admit that I’m just massively excited about the whole thing,” said Buxton, who will join the team shortly after he and wife Emma welcome their first child. “It’s a huge honor to be joining the SPEED team, and in particular to be doing so at the start of what could be an incredible era in the history of Formula 1.

“F1 is a bit of a soap opera at times,” Buxton added. “As a journalist it’s what makes the sport such a joy to report on. There’s always something going on in the background, and I won’t shy away from doing my best to get to the heart of every issue. That said, I don’t think that my job at SPEED is simply to report the news. Far from it. As one of the lucky few who can actually get into the F1 paddock, I think that probably my biggest responsibility is to open it all up to the American fans: to invite them in, sit them down, introduce them to a few people and show them what’s going on. It’s the fans that make this sport, so my job is to give them the access they deserve.”

According to Varsha, the SPEED team is welcoming its newest member with open arms.

“It’s always a good sign when a job interview turns into a ‘bench racing’ session that goes beyond the appointed time,” Varsha said. “That’s what we shared with Will when he visited our SPEED studios. Despite being the youngest member of our lineup, he’s a veteran of television and print with experience of both Formula One and GP2. I look forward to working with him on what should be another thrilling and unpredictable grand prix season.”

Buxton, from Great Britain, served as the GP2 press officer from 2004 to the end of the 2007 season, and was sole communications/media representative for 2006 and 2007 He has been covering single-seater racing (F1, GP2, F2 and F3) since 2002.

Westbury Gillett will fill in for Buxton for the first few races of the season.

In 2010, SPEEDtv.com will increase its Formula One offerings, highlighted by a new fantasy game — SPEED Fantasy Racing: GP Edition — and a selection of video clips from practice, qualifying and race coverage. In addition SPEEDtv.com will introduce an enhanced stats package and continue with RaceCast timing and scoring from all sessions, as well as providing Matchett’s popular post-event “Chalk Talk” wrap-ups.

SPEED will air 15 races live, complete with practice and qualifying coverage, and for the fourth year, FOX will air four consecutive events, beginning with the Canadian Grand Prix, using the same on-air team. Practice and qualifying for those four events will be live on SPEED.

For the full release and TV times click here.

Charles Pic c/o GP2 Media Service

Charles Pic will start tomorrow’s GP2 Asia race from pole position after putting on a dazzling display under the floodlights here in Abu Dhabi with a lap of 1:52.497.

The Frenchman, nicknamed “Tooth Pic” by his team owing to the fact he’s really quite skinny, was in inspired form to fend off the challenge posed by the iSport duo of championship leader Davide Valsecchi and Oliver Turvey, to record his first GP2 Asia pole.

Valsecchi perhaps thought pole was his for the taking after his main challenger from practice Luca Filippi retired in the early minutes of the session with an as yet unknown car failure. But the Italian was never allowed a moment to breathe, with Pic, Turvey and the ART duo of Jules Bianchi and Sam Bird all fighting over the top spot in the final minutes.

Valsecchi came close to snatching pole back with his last lap, but ran just a touch wide over the rumble strips at the final corner, and the time he lost saw him slip not just from second, but from the front row as his team-mate Turvey romped to P2 with his final gambit.

Jules Bianchi will start from fourth after a seriously impressive first qualifying outing on a car he’s never driven, on a track he’s never seen, and for the first time at night. Alexander Rossi took fifth ahead of Javier Villa, Bird, Edoardo Piscopo, Giacomo Ricci and Christian Vietoris.

In the end, it was Pic who put together the perfect lap and put a huge smile on the faces of the Arden team, which this weekend races for the first time under a new younger generation of engineers led by Campbell Hobson, after long-time chief of Engineering Mick Cook parted company with the team over the winter. The change in the team’s approach has reaped immediate reward, and deservedly so.

It will be fascinating to see how he handles the pressure of the iSport boys behind him, the speed of the ARTs and the ever impressive Rossi in tomorrow’s race. And keep an eye out for Filippi. Starting from the rear of the grid, the fastest man of the early running will be a man on a mission tomorrow.

Luca Filippi c/o GP2 Media Service

Luca Filippi has handed down a message of clear intent to GP2 Asia Series championship leader Davide Valsecchi by setting the fastest laptime in free practice for this weekend’s second round in Abu Dhabi.

The Italian set his best lap of 1:54.146 with his very last run, to deny compatriot Valsecchi the top spot.

The Yas Marina circuit served an immense challenge to the GP2 Asia drivers this evening, as under the spotlights a thick layer of dust and sand made the track slippery in the early running. That said, everyone seemed able to cope with the tricky conditions. Everyone, that was, except for Alberto Valerio, who made one of his trademark errors and launched his Coloni into the barriers at Turn 19.

His crash brought out the red flags for what seemed like an age as the clock ticked down and the marshals made a meal of extracting his broken car.

When the session got going again with an additional 15 minutes added to the now empty clock, Charles Pic was the man on a mission, setting a brace of top times for Arden. His efforts however soon fell behind the duelling Filippi and Valsecchi who traded fastest laps for the remainder of the session.

Valsecchi thought he’d pipped his countryman to the top time with his last lap of the session, but Filippi, who had made contact with Valsecchi’s iSport team-mate Oliver Turvey with just minutes to run in the session, was already on another flyer and stormed through to take first blood.

Behind the Italians Sam Bird continued his fine form in Abu Dhabi with third, ahead of Pic, Perez, Leimer, debutant Bianchi, Rossi, Van der Garde and Ricci.