It’s day two of Badger’s advent calendar, and whilst we could have looked at number two drivers, Jenson Button’s two victories for McLaren or the amount of times Christian Klien embarrassed Bruno Senna we’ve instead looked to the future: this is Badger’s review of the 2010 GP2 Series championship.
GP2 2010 was one of the most predictable the series has seen. By mid-season we all knew full well who was going to win the title, as one man romped to win after win whilst the rest of the field struggled to build momentum. Still, there was plenty to keep us interested – here’s how it happened.
Pole at the opening round in Spain went to Jules Bianchi, seemingly confirming many people’s belief that the young Frenchman would follow in the footsteps of fellow ART drivers Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Hulkenberg by taking the title in his rookie year.
But, rather surprisingly, Jules didn’t win a race all season – despite taking two more poles – and never looked in the title battle. Not that he was a letdown: he’s still on Ferrari’s books and the future remains full of possibilities for young Bianchi.
The first feature race was won by another Frenchman, Arden’s Charles Pic. An impressive debut, but his season never hit those heights again. Like Bianchi though he’ll be back in 2011 and could still break in to F1 in the next few years. The lad might need a haircut first though…
Things really got going at round two, Monaco, where Mexican hotshoe Sergio Perez began to show everyone – not least Peter Sauber – that he (and his hefty sponsorship kitty) deserved a place in F1. He survived three safety car periods to win in style, defeating eventual champ Pastor Maldonado. Pastor’s a real Monaco master, so Sergio’s win was doubly impressive.
But this might have spurred Maldonado on as he now took centre stage. At the next race in Turkey he would take his first feature race win of the season, following which he’d win every main event until the penultimate race in Italy – by which time he’d already wrapped up he title.
First came Turkey, where Pastor beat polesitter Davide Valsecchi – who was perhaps the biggest disappointment of 2010 – away from the line and never looked back, taking a dominant win by nearly 20 seconds. Next up was Valencia. Here Perez was on pole, but a chaotic start saw the Mexican eliminated through no fault of his own. Maldonado swept through to win, again without any real challenge.
Silverstone and Hockenheim kept up the pattern: Maldonado started second in both – to Bianchi in Britain and Pic in Germany – and both times leapfrogged the polesitting French driver off the line. Two more wins.
Hungary and Belgium showed that the Venezuelan is as lucky as he is quick . At the Hungaroring poleman Sam Bird and second placed starter Valsecchi both failed to get away from the dummy grid, giving Maldonado a clean run to turn one. Win number five followed. At Spa Jerome d’Ambrosio led but broke down whilst seemingly heading for victory, handing yet another win to Pastor.
And so to Italy, where he took the title despite ending up in the wall at Parabolica. Perez was his only remaining challenger, and a DNF for him settled the championship in Pastor’s favour.
The Monza race was won by Sam Bird, an impressive drive from a man who endured a very bad streak of luck this season. He deserves a better crack next year, but with Esteban Gutierrez replacing him at ART you worry he might struggle to find a team as capable as the French squad.
The season finale in Abu Dhabi – a ludicrous nine weeks after Monza – saw a convincing win for Perez, thus sewing up runner-up spot in the standings. Binachi ended up third with Dani Clos, Bird and Oliver Turvey all close behind.
There were reverse-grid feature race wins for Swiss racer Fabio Leimer (Barcelona), Sweden’s Marcus Ericsson (Valencia) and Chrsitian Vietoris (Monza) – the latter of which saw Christian make up four places off the grid to lead in to turn one. All will need to make victories a regular occurance next year but at least they know how to win in GP2. Badger favourite Giacomo Ricci also got a sprint race win, taking victory in Hungary, but found himself without a drive for the next event at Spa. Motor racing is a funny sport.
So Pastor was the star, using his vast GP2 experience to easily claim the title – albeit at the fourth time of asking. Now’s he’s landed himself one of the best seats available during the 2010-11 off-season, rocking up at Williams alongside Rubens Barrichello. But, if Badger is wholly honest, he’s not the long-term man to bet on from the class of 2010. Look to the lightning quick Perez or the Ferrari-favoured Bianchi to make a mark on F1 in the next decade.
Next season’s GP2 campaign sees a brand new car, canceling out the advantage of long-time series competitors, and new teams in British powerhouse Carlin and Tony Fernandes’ Team Air Asia. Bianchi is the (very) early favourite, and the Frenchman knows he needs to take the title to live up to his big billing and keep the Ferrari bosses interested. No pressure there then.
Expect plenty more GP2 coverage – starting with February’s Asia Series – throughout 2011.