THREE TAKEAWAYS: GP2’s 2017 Preparations
After eleven rounds, 22 races and several sessions of testing, the GP2 season is now officially over, bringing European racing to a close for another year.
The season ended with three days of post-season testing at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, with two different sessions in each day separated by a ‘lunch’ break.
Spectacularly, no driver led more than one session, with Nobuharu Matsushita (day one, morning), Raffaele Marciello (day one, afternoon), Oliver Rowland (day two, morning), Alexander Albon (day two, afternoon), Jordan King (day three, morning) and Nicholas Latifi (day three, afternoon) all leading sessions.
DRIVERS IN TESTING
Some different drivers, either confirmed for the 2017 season or not having any plans, took part during the tests. Some participation could give the smallest of speculation to work with when trying to think of possible drivers on the 2017 grid.
Antonio Giovinazzi (day one only) and Sean Gelael both took part for Arden International despite the latter driver finishing runner-up last season. The duo shares a sponsor (Jagonya Ayam) and has worked together in the World Endurance Championship in 2016, so a move to full-time sportscar racing may be a possibility if they do not remain in the series.
Luca Ghiotto (Arden), Jordan King (MP), Oliver Rowland (DAMS), Gustav Malja (Racing Engineering) changed teams for particular sessions and got a feeling for different cars.
Sporadic GP3 racers Chris Hoher (Russian Time) and Mahaveer Raghunathan (MP) took part, while Egor Orudzhev got mileage with Pertamina Campos Racing after finishing 2016 in third place in the Formula V8 3.5 championship for Arden. Daniel Juncadella, a former Force India F1 test driver and Mercedes DTM touring car racer also got some time in Campos’ car.
GP3 drivers Albon (at ART), Alex Palou (Campos) and Nyck de Vries (McLaren junior driver at Rapax) took part in particular sessions, with Albon shining to finish the second day on top.
It would not be a surprise to see some of these names race in the series in future.
The session was the first opportunity for drivers under contract for 2017 to prepare their plans.
MP Motorsport’s Sergio Sette-Camara and Prema Racing’s Charles Leclerc and Antonio Fuoco took their first laps in their new cars ahead of 2017.
The two Prema Racing drivers continued in the footsteps of the team’s championship challengers from 2016 and stood out after submitting very competitive lap times.
Leclerc finished day one in fifth place before improving to third at the end of day two. Fuoco was behind his former championship rival in 15th on the first day before joining Leclerc in the top ten on day two in ninth.
The Italian finally got ahead of the Monegasque driver on the final day, finishing in sixth, one position ahead of his teammate. With the same chassis being used next season, these lap times could be an indication of two drivers who dominate the next championship battle.
Sette-Camara had a tougher time. He was disqualified from the afternoon results on the first day after his car finished the session under the weight limits. The final pair of afternoon sessions saw him finish in 15th twice as he gets to grips with the different feeling of the GP2 car compared to the European Formula Three car he has raced in the last two seasons.
BAHRAIN AND SINGAPORE RETURNS?
As thoughts now turn to the 13th season of GP2 next year, it looks like the series may be heading back to Bahrain and Singapore in 2017, according to a schedule on Russian Time’s website.
A race in Bahrain is typically guaranteed on the calendar, but the series did not run at the Sahkir International Circuit in 2016 after it moved position to the second round of the Formula One season. The most recent series instead started at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain in May.
The Bahrain round is moving to the third round in 2017 in F1 and has been named as the next track GP2 is visiting, with the date of 15-16 April.
Singapore is also apparently set to return in September after a four-year absence. The last GP2 racing at the Marina Bay Street Circuit happened in 2013.
The German and Malaysian rounds that were on the 2016 schedule have dropped out after just a recent one-year stint on the calendar. The Formula One paddock is not visiting Germany in 2017, but a trip to Kuala Lumpur is set to occur on the first weekend of October.
Official schedules for the GP2 and GP3 Series are traditionally released at the start of the year.
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