Teams assemble drivers for two-day Jerez test
26 September 2011
The GP2 Series finale and prize-giving celebrations may be only just two weeks ago, but already it's back to work for the teams as they prepare for November's GP2 Final race and also embark on a winter program of development in preparation for the 2012 season - which will see GP2 and GP2 Asia merged into one series.
The teams will have two days of testing at the 4.428km Circuito de Jerez on 28-29 September, and are keen to try out different drivers as well as new technical developments.
The iSport International team has already announced that they will run 2011 GP2 driver Jolyon Palmer and Auto GP's Carlos Iaconelli on the Wednesday, and F3 driver Tom Dillmann and Formula Renault 3.5's Nathanael Berthon on the Thursday.
"We will be running a driver evaluation program with all drivers, running through qualifying simulations and full fuel race simulations to get a good idea of their strengths and weaknesses," said iSport's chief engineer Gavin Jones. "It will be the first time at Jerez with the new car and Pirelli hard tyres, so will be a good challenge for the team and drivers to find the best set-up to produce the fastest times."
Palmer will also test for the GP2 championship-winning team Barwa Addax on the Thursday, and said that the two days were "a great chance to develop, learn and prove my potential, and I am grateful to both teams for providing the opportunity to join them."
The 20-year-old British driver ran a full rookie season in GP2 this year with Arden, and his former team mate for the year - Josef Kral - will be trying out one of the Trident Racing cars on Wednesday. He'll relinquish the car to former iSport driver Sam Bird on the Thursday, while former Rapax driver Julian Leal gets to run in the other Trident car on both days.
"We're really satisfied with our driver line-up for the test at Jerez," said Luca Zerbini, Trident's managing director, adding that having three drivers already experienced in GP2 "will allow us to complete a huge amount of work in the two days."
Zerbini added that he planned to run a different, younger slate of drivers for the next scheduled test session in Barcelona. "We plan to have also some younger racers looking to make their championship approach," he confirmed. "We'll keep following our tradition of relying on the talent of promising youngsters."
As for Arden, they have called up GP3 and Formula 3 Euro Series' Nigel Melker for the Jerez test session. The 20-year-old from the Netherlands said that he was looking forward to working with Arden and that "I really like the mentality of the team."
Arden's links to F1 through team founder Christian Horner - who runs the Red Bull Racing team - clearly appeal to him: "For me it's a logical step to go to the GP2 series and eventually try to get into the F1. But first I need to have a lot of experience. For me there is no doubt, I know that I can do it and it's just a matter of patience and time."
Meanwhile Racing Engineering - who can claim Jerez in southwestern Spain as their home circuit, as they are headquartered at nearby Sanlúcar de Barrameda - have opted to mix experienced GP2 hands Fabio Leimer and Rodolfo Gonzalez with British driver Rupert Svendsen-Cook, who is looking to move up from two successful years in the British F3 Championship that have seen him take three wins and nine podiums with the Carlin team.
Former Rapax driver Leimer will run on both days of testing, while Gonzalez (who this season competed for Trident) will take the other car on Wednesday only, leaving Svendsen-Cook with test duties on the Thursday. Racing Engineering's driver combination of Christian Vietoris and Dani Close delivered third place in the 2011 GP2 championship, and Vietoris was the season's last winner in the sprint race at Monza.
Over at Ocean Racing Technology, four drivers have been lined up for the test sessions, with Antonio Felix da Costa, James Calado and Yuki Shiraishi lined up for runs along with Stephane Richelmi, who made his GP2 debut in the last round at Monza substituting for the injured Stefano Coletti in the Trident #21.
"I know I will learn a lot during these tests," said Richelmi. "I do not know the Jerez circuit and so this week will be totally new, both in terms of the car and the track."
Antonio Felix da Costa had already driven for Ocean back in 2009. He's coming off races in Formula Three Euroseries and GP3, and now has his eyes on a full-time feeder series seat. "The goal is to gather as much information as possible regarding the car, because our ambition is to take part in the GP2 Series in 2012," he confirmed.
James Calado was the runner up in this year's GP3 series, and said he was eager to get his hands on a GP2 car. "It's definitely a very different car from the GP3 Series car," he said. "I am eager to drive the GP2 Series car for the first time. I will be on the track for two days and so I will have the time I need to adapt to the power and braking. My objective is to be fast throughout the tests, but my priority is to learn the car and figure out its behavior."
It's also a new experience for Japanese Formula Challenge driver Yuki Shiraishi, who confesses that "It will be the first time that I will be taking the wheel of such a powerful car ... This test is a big challenge, but my objective is to race in GP3 or F3."
Ocean team owners Tiago Monteiro and Jose Guedes confirmed that the test was as much about trying out new driver talent as it was about the cars. "The objective of these tests is to determine which drivers will be part of the team in 2012," they confirmed. "But also to experiment with several technical solutions that we generally did not get a chance to test in the regular season."
There will be a further two-day test session in Barcelona on 19-20 October ahead of the GP2 Final, which will support the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi on 11-13 November.