GP2: it’s the now-dominant F1 feeder series that can lay claim to great racing, exciting young talents and some of the most confusing liveries in the world of motorsport. Not sure what we’re on about? Then listen up – it’s a bit complicated.
The casual fan – indeed, anyone who hadn’t done some digging on the situation – would assume that the green and gold Lotus-livered ART car below was linked to Tony Fernandes’ Team Lotus. After all, they run in the same iconic livery as the F1 squad. That just makes sense.
But actually they’re not connected to Tony’s lot at all. French powerhouse ART now run in green and gold following a sponsorship link-up with Group Lotus, the car company who are also backing Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov’s black and gold Renaults this season. And yes, that is a bit confusing.
But let’s make it even more confusing. Their drivers are Jules Bianchi and Esteban Gutierrez, who both have roles at Formula One teams. Frenchman Bianchi is Ferrari’s reserve driver and the star of their young driver academy, whilst reiging GP3 champion Gutierrez joins fellow Mexican Sergio Perez at Sauber, like Bianchi as reserve. So, during the GP2 season, it will be normal to see these lads race in Team Lotus colours in the morning (despite having no link to Team Lotus) before changing in to their respective F1 team gear and sitting on the pitwall during the F1 race.
Group Lotus fund another GP2 driver in the form of Malaysian Fairuz Fauzy, who is contracted to the Renault F1 as one of their legion of reserve drivers. He races in the black and gold of the main team, or at least wears their colours on his overalls. His car – run by British squad Super Nova – is blue and yellow.
Another of Renault’s reserves, Romain Grosjean, is also in GP2 this season, driving for the DAMS team. They run in the colours Renault sported last year, a yellow and black car with red wing endplates displaying the logos of oil company Total. So that’s an old F1 livery on one of Renault’s former drivers who is now one of their reserve drivers and also competing in GP2. Got that?
If you have let’s try to throw you a little more. Should you spy Romain in the paddock he won’t be distinguishable by his yellow and black overalls. That’s because his racesuit is the green, white and black of Gravity Sports Management, the company run by Renault boss Eric Boullier. Also part of that roster is German Christian Vietoris, though he races in the red and yellow Racing Engineering machine and will also compete in German touring car series the DTM this year for Mercedes.
Remember we mentioned that Lotus ART aren’t linked to the Fernandes-owned F1 team? Well, Tony does have interest in GP2, having launched his own team for 2011. Team Air Asia, as they’re catchily known, will run in their corporate red and white colours, fielding Davide Valsecchi and Luiz Razia. The former ran practice for Team Lotus at Sepang whilst the latter got behind the wheel in China. Both will get further outings in the car later this year, which will involve swapping their usual red and white overalls for the green and gold of their F1 employers.
And Red Bull? They’re not involved, preferring the Renault World Series as the nursery for their drivers. We won’t get in to that now – nor that fact that Lotus colours are on show in Indycar, where ex-F1 man Takuma Sato and KV Racing team-mates Tony Kanaan and EJ Viso sport the yellow and gold – as we think we’ve confused you enough. Here’s the important thing to remember: that green and yellow Lotus-livered ART isn’t linked to the green and yellow F1 team, whose GP2 cars are red and white, but rather the black and gold F1 team, whose old livery is on another car which is driven by a man in green, white and black overalls who used to drive for the F1 team. But don’t confuse him with the other lad in green, white and black who also races a touring car for Mercedes – that would be plain silly.
GP2 kicks off in support of next month’s Turkish Grand Prix. Badger will have extensive coverage of the race to join the 2012 F1 field, including exclusive interviews with Gorsjean and British rising star Sam Bird, as well as a full pre-season driver preview.