Top 10 GP2 Driver of the Year 2011:
0 (Asia), 52 (Europe)
18th (Asia), 4th (Europe)
You'll be seeing quite a lot of Charles Pic in 2012, as he steps up to F1 with Marussia Racing, confirming once again what a good job GP2 does as a "feeder series" for the premier class of motor sport. It was his two wins and three further second place finishes in GP2 that put him firmly in the sights of the F1 paddock during the season.
It hadn't exactly started promisingly for Pic in the first race of the GP2 Asia mini-season, when Rodolfo Gonzalez launched himself into the air over the back end of Pic's Barwa Addax car on the first lap. Some luck with the safety car and a clever tyre strategy saw Pic manage to rebound to 9th by the end of the race, but that proved to be his best finish of the Asia championship. Not exactly the way he wanted to start his second season in GP2.
But the European season started more promisingly, with points finishes in both races of the Turkey round. And then in Barcelona, a good start and a well-executed pit stop strategy saw him able to leapfrog the polesitter - his Barwa Addax team mate Giedo van der Garde - for the lead, and he then didn't put a foot wrong on his way to the chequered flag. He would win again in 2011 at Monaco, after surviving a sluggish start from pole position in the sprint race to control proceedings from then on ahead of Josef Kral. There were strong second place finishes to come as well at the feature races in German, Hungary and Italy
But he didn't have the most consistent or plain sailing of seasons, even then. Valencia was a total bust with a double retirement; he slid into Luiz Razia at the start of a wet Spa feature race and then in the final sprint race at Monza he missed his braking into the first chicane and rode up the rear-end of Romain Grosjean's DAMS car. He would also get disqualified from the German sprint race for failing to serve a drive-thru penalty in time.
These lapses would prove costly in terms of the final series standings: he finished in fourth place, just one point behind Jules Bianchi in 3rd and two behind championship runner-up Luca Filippi (but significantly, 3ps ahead of his team mate van der Garde). But then with news of his F1 contract coming through, it was all rather moot: he had achieved the more important ambition for the year and would now have a chance to mix it at the top table of motor racing.
Clearly very talented, 2012 will tell us whether Pic perhaps needed another season in GP2 to be the genuine article, or whether he's going to rise to the challenge and blossom in the spotlight.
Top 10 GP2 Driver of the Year 2011 results so far:
6. Marcus Ericsson
7. Sam Bird
8. Giedo Van Der Garde
9. Tom Dillmann
10. Luiz Razia