The GP2 Asia series is to be folded into the main GP2 series starting with the 2012 season, organisers have confirmed.
GP2 series CEO Bruno Michel confirmed the merger of the two series on Tuesday, explaining that the two series had already moved so close together in terms of driver and team participation that separation was no longer sensible and a merger was the obvious step forward.
"In 2011, almost eighty-five percent of the drivers who did the Asia Series this season are taking part of the European Series as we are using the GP2/11 car in both categories," he explained. "This year also marked the fact that for the first time the same thirteen teams entered both Series. We talked to them and we decided that it was logical to have one single Series from 2012."
GP2 Asia had a troubled 2011 season through no fault of its own, after political unrest in Bahrain led to the last-minute cancellation of two of the three scheduled rounds leading to the abrupt curtailment of the season, with the second and final round of the year eventually taking place at the distinctly non-Asian venue of Imola.
Although the victim of events beyond its control, the problems did affect the GP2 Asia 'brand' and left it looking rather like the unloved poor relation in the motorsports line-up, which led to strong rumours that it would be folded into the main GP2 series that have been now been confirmed.
GP2 was originally created in 2005 as a "feeder series" and support race to the European rounds of F1. As Bernie Ecclestone pushed for more Grands Prix in the Middle East and Asia, the GP2 Asia brand was created to follow the F1 expansion into those markets. However the growth has not gone as well as hoped with GP2 Asia having to stage stand-alone events away from F1 weekends, and this year's calendar saw the GP2 season limited to just Yas Marina at Abu Dhabi and the ill-starred Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir.
Hopes that the GP2 Asia series would offer opportunities for more teams and drivers to participate in GP2 overall have also declined, as teams and drivers have come to see running in the Asia races to be a necessary pre-cursor to mounting a GP2 Europe campaign in terms of gathering data and experience.
Instead, most onlookers were simply left confused about the two different GP2 brands, a situation that undermined both series and which has led to the decision to consolidate all the races into a single, stronger and more cohesive championship that will also last for a longer period over the year alongside a greater variety of F1 Grand Prix events.
GP2 organisers said that they would "announce the 2012 calendar and the number of rounds at a later date."
"The merger will definitely help drivers gain even more experience on F1 circuits throughout the world and will make the Series even more attractive and competitive," said Bruno Michel.
Before the merger formally takes place, organisers have announced that a single weekend 2011 GP2 Final event will be held on November 12-13 in Abu Dhabi as a special support event to the F1 Grand Prix at the venue.