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Series CEO looks ahead to 2012

16 September 2011

As the confetti was swept up after the prize giving ceremony and the teams and drivers left Monza nursing more than a few hangovers following a night of well-deserved celebration, one man was already busy thinking about the next phase of the future of GP2.

Series chief executive officer Bruno Michel has two testing sessions to oversee in September and October, ahead of a unique GP2 Final event in Abu Dhabi in November to mark the merging of the GP2 Europe and GP2 Asia series in 2012 - a merger that Michel is clearly looking to.

"With the merging of GP2 Asia and GP2 Series, the main series will become a truly global category which will attract even more partners and generate an even greater interest throughout the globe," he told the GP2 Media Service on Thursday.

Michel also gave some insight into what form the first merged season would take. "We are currently working on the 2012 calendar which will most likely consist of twelve rounds, eight in Europe and four overseas," he confirmed, compared with the nine Europe-only GP2 rounds in 2011.

For Michel, a big challenge will be in ensuring that the changes do not result in spiralling costs that might drive some teams out of the championship as it runs to keep alongside the F1 Grand Prix weekends: "We are working on finding different options in order to control the costs and keep affordable a season on such a complex car and in the F1 environment," he said.

It's also been one of the reasons why Michel and the GP2 series management opted not to introduce some of the new F1 technologies into the series this year which has seen the successful roll-out of a new GP2/11-model race car.

"We considered many new options during the design period of the car, including movable wings or KERS, but decided against them as we felt it was not in keeping with the spirit of our series," said Michel. "Although they could have enhanced the power of our car it could have been an issue safety-wise."

Michel explained that as the official F1 feeder series, GP2 was walking a tightrope between hardware that is as close as possible to F1-standard, while still allowing the individual drivers to shine by themselves and thereby prove their abilities to those watching from the pit wall.

"GP2 has always been about finding the best drivers, period," he said. "Our racing car is an extremely challenging car to drive at the limit, and it is meant to be: when you are one step away from the pinnacle of motor racing, you should be able to race and overtake ... Our aim is to design the car that will be as close as a F1 car in terms of behaviour and thus give the drivers the opportunity to learn how to handle an incredibly complex machine."

He added, "Fans and experts appreciate GP2 because it is pure racing and the best driver always wins ... The F1 teams also appreciate this: they are watching the best young drivers in the world prove themselves in a car as close as possible to the challenge of an F1 car."

And Michel believes that the quality of the drivers who have graduated from GP2 speaks volumes, especially those who have proved themselves worthy champions.

"Romain Grosjean proving himself worthy to sit with our previous champions: hopefully he will soon join the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Timo Glock and Pastor Maldonado in the F1 paddock," he said, pointing out that 11 drivers on the current grid have arrived through GP2, and a total of 45 drivers since 2005. "I'm sure we will see more drivers promoted from GP2 once again next year."

One way or another it seems unlikely that Grosjean or even Fillipi will be back in GP2 in 2012, which means Michel also has to make sure that the stream of talent on which the series relies for its thrills and its credibility keeps on coming - which is what the GP2 Final event in November is all about. Michel is hoping that many of the teams will use the non-championship exhibition event to test out some new talent ahead of preparing their line-ups for next season rather than relying on their existing driver line-ups, and especially wants to see some of the talent from the GP3 Series have a chance to shine.

GP2's tyre supplier and official partner Pirelli has already stepped up to offer a cash enticement to help make that happen, with a prize of 15,000 Euros for the 2011 GP3 Series driver taking part who has the most points at the end of the weekend and a further 10,000 Euros for the second-placed GP3 graduate.

"I hope to see many GP3 graduates show that they are ready for the next step in front of the F1 paddock, and fight for the Pirelli prize money," said Michel, who described the Final as "the perfect opportunity for young drivers and among them GP3 racers to have their first taste of a GP2 race weekend, and prove their worth in front of the F1 paddock and the rest of the GP2 field.

"It will be interesting to see who will be the next generation of young guns fighting in GP2 Series in 2012 or the coming years," he concluded. And it will, because on past performance those will prove to be the stars and the world champions of F1 in turn.

The GP2 test sessions will take place on 28-29 September in Jerez and 19-20 October in Barcelona. The GP2 Final event will support the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi and will be held on 11-13 November at the Yas Marina F1 circuit.


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