The first 'global' GP2 Series calendar has been revealed with a dozen rounds taking the teams and drivers to previously untried locations among otherwise familiar stops over seven months.
Eleven rounds will support the F1 world championship, with the remaining event being a standalone where GP2 will have centre stage. Two new venues have been added to the schedule, Sepang and Singapore, with the rest of the championship visiting circuits which have become mainstays over the past seven years. The two new venues will open and close the championship, kicking off in Malaysia on 23 March and closing on the streets of Marina Bay on 23 September. Although Sepang has previously featured on the GP2 Asia schedule, it is the first time that it has appeared in the main series, following the merger of the two championships at the end of 2011.
The biggest question mark hanging over the calendar centres on rounds two and three, with a double-header scheduled for Bahrain over back-to-back weekends in late April. The second of these, over 26-28 April, is the lone standalone event on the schedule and brings the 'flyaway' opening portion of the calendar to an end before the series returns to Europe, starting with Barcelona over 11-13 May. However, following the scenes of unrest which caused this year's GP2 Asia rounds in Bahrain to be abandoned, competitors will no doubt be waiting to assess the political situation in the country.
From the Circuit de Catalunya, the series continues in Monaco two weeks later, before a short break heralds the main part of the year, starting in Valencia and taking in three events - Silverstone, Hockenheim and Budapest - during July, before the summer hiatus. After that, the run-in to the title begins at Spa-Francorchamps, before visiting Monza a week later, and concluding with GP2's maiden appearance in Singapore.
“GP2 being the natural and logical path to F1, it is imperative that our calendar carries as many F1 tracks as possible, including tracks outside Europe, which is why we added Bahrain, Sepang and Singapore this season," series CEO Bruno Michel commented, "However, the series has also to remain affordable, therefore we did not want to add more overseas circuits.
“Racing on eleven F1 tracks in 2012 with a car close to F1 in performance and using the same tyres, GP2 drivers will gain as much experience as possible which will enable them to be immediately competitive in the next category as previously demonstrated by all our graduates. We have also made sure that we remain affordable by working together with our partners in order to keep down freight and spare parts costs.
“I am glad that we will be going back to Kuala Lumpur: we've seen during the Asia Series some very exciting races there. It is a splendid venue to open a new chapter of our series which includes new sporting regulations. We've always raced in Bahrain since the inception of our series – Nico Rosberg won both races in 2005. We will close our season in Singapore. It will be the first time ever that our series goes there. It is very exciting!”
In addition to the twelve rounds, two pre-season test sessions, at Jerez de la Frontera and Barcelona, also appeared on the published schedule, which reads as follows:
Feb 28-March 1 Jerez de la Frontera Spain
March 6-8 Barcelona Spain
March 23-25 Sepang
April 20-22 Sakhir
April 26-28 Sakhir
May 11-13 Barcelona
May 24-26 Monaco
June 22-24 Valencia
July 6-8 Silverstone
July 20-22 Hockenheim
July 27-29 Hungaroring
August 31-Sept 2 Spa-Francorchamps
Sept 7-9 Monza
Sept 21-23 Singapore
Dates in italics are tests