The GP3 Series has unveiled a provisional eight-round calendar of race weekends for 2012, with organisers also hoping to run at Monaco for the first time.
The series will be holding races at the same venues as F1 and GP2 events in Europe during the summer, starting with Barcelona in Spain on May 11-13. The other venues include Valencia, Silverstone, Hockenheim, Budapest and Spa-Francorchamps, with the season finale scheduled for Monza on September 7-9.
"Once again we are very pleased to confirm that the 2012 GP3 season will run alongside F1 and GP2 in Europe," said the CEO of GP3 Bruno Michel. "In such a competitive environment, it is key for young drivers to gain race experience on current F1 tracks."
Whether GP3 gets to compete on the legendary road course in Monaco depends on approval from the local motorsport authority, ASN. GP3 organisers tried to get a Monaco round accepted in 2011, but a lack of space in and around the crowded principality during race weeks meant that it ultimately did not go ahead.
2012 will be the third season of the championship, which is increasingly being seen as the official "junior feeder series" to the main F1 feeder series, GP2, so that together they establish a roadmap for aspiring drivers who want to make it to the top of single-seater open-wheel racing. As GP2 continues to grow (and combines its Europe and Asia seasons for the first time in 2012), the aim for GP3 is to keep alive some of that series' original core values of performance, cost control, entertainment, safety and preparation.
Trident Racing will be competing in GP3 for the first time in 2012, after having reached agreement with the Addax team to take its place in the championship next season. Addax said that they wanted to focus exclusively on their "core activity" of GP2 after clinching the team title in the main feeder series in 2011 with Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic.
"The first two seasons of GP3 have delivered some great racing and have showcased promising talents starting with champions Esteban Gutierrez and Valtteri Bottas, both of whom have already been signed up by F1 teams as reserve drivers," noted Michel, who is also CEO for GP2. "Eleven drivers so far have graduated to GP2 which reaffirms our commitment to preparing young racers for the next step in their careers. Our young series is getting stronger each year and we are expecting 2012 to be just as successful and exciting.”
The series also announced three two-day test sessions to be held before the start of the season at Estoril, Barcelona and Silverstone, with a fourth mid-season on Valencia's Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo Circuit.
2012 provisional calendar
February 21-22 Estoril Portugal (Test)
March 12-13 Barcelona Spain (Test)
April 11-12 Silverstone, Great Britain (Test)
May 11-13 Barcelona
May 24-27 Monte Carlo
Monaco (To be confirmed)
June 14-15 Valencia Spain (Test)
June 22-24 Valencia
July 6-8 Silverstone
July 20-22 Hockenheim
July 27-29 Budapest
Aug 31 - Sep 2 Spa-Francorchamps
September 7-9 Monza
Test dates shown in italics