Top 10 GP2 Driver of the Year 2011:
Super Nova, Coloni
0 (Asia), 54 (Europe)
20th (Asia), 2nd (Europe)
GP2 is usually about the "stars of tomorrow"; but for Luca Filippi, it really looked as though that moment had well and truly passed. After being involved in five seasons of GP2 since 2006 - with his best championship finish being in 5th place in 2009 with Super Nova - it seemed that he was finally done with the series as he turned his attention instead to Auto GP.
But as it turned out, Scuderia Coloni needed a driver for the GP2 Asia outing at Imola when their first choice James Jakes got picked up to race in IndyCar across the Atlantic. And then Filippi got offered a chance by Super Nova to race for them for half a season (before a pre-arranged sponsorship deal would kick in with another driver after Silverstone) that meant he was back in business.
It wasn't exactly a stellar half season for him. Out of the ten races, four ended in retirement, including getting hit by a spinning Johnny Cecotto Jr in the Turkey feature, and then run into by Jules Bianchi on the Spain feature race grid when the Super Nova failed to get underway because of technical gremlins. But for Filippi, at least there was Monaco: a third place in the feature race and a fourth in the sprint were seemingly destined to be his only points before departing the series for good.
And then a funny thing happened on the way to the exit ...
Coloni were back in touch. Their lead driver Davide Rigon had been injured in the first race of the European season and was never able to return; the team had called up teenager Kevin Ceccon from Auto GP to fill in, but by mid-season Ceccon had decided to concentrate on his Auto GP title bid (where his main rival was, as it happened, Filippi) and so Coloni needed someone experienced to take the seat at the Nurburgring.
Filippi stunned everyone by winning the feature race. It was only his third win in GP2 and his first since the final race of 2009. Better yet, he then came third in the sprint race. Small wonder that Coloni were eager to persuade him to stay, and Filippi agreed even though racing at Budapest meant opting out of a conflicting Auto GP round, a decision that ultimately handed that title to Ceccon.
Filippi went on to take three more points positions and two more wins (at Spa and Monza) in a late-season performance that eclipsed even newly-crowned champion Romain Grosjean, and a fifth place in the final race of the year meant that he ended up the season in a stunning second place in the championship just one point ahead of Bianchi. Proof that there is plenty of life yet in the 26-year-old dog!
Top 10 GP2 Driver of the Year 2011 results so far:
5. Charles Pic
6. Marcus Ericsson
7. Sam Bird
8. Giedo Van Der Garde
9. Tom Dillmann
10. Luiz Razia