Top 10 GP2 Driver of the Year 2011:
24 (Asia), 89 (Europe)
1st (Asia), 1st (Europe)
Well, of course it's Romain Grosjean as number one in the poll - who else could it possibly have been? If the purpose of GP2 is to find the F1 stars of the future, then there was really only one possible answer this year.
In Grosjean's case it's not a case of this year's success launching so much as re
-launching his F1 career, of course. He was snapped up midseason by Renault F1 in 2009 while competing in his second GP2 season, but the Grand Prix ride disappeared seven races later at the end of the season when he was displaced by one of his former GP2 rivals, Vitaly Petrov.
A year in the wilderness in AutoGP and FIA GT1 saw him drift back to GP2, and to unfinished business. He'd missed out on a chance of winning the series in 2009 (he still came fourth despite missing the final 8 of 20 races while on F1 duty) and it was nagging at him. Moreover, it presented a possible outside chance for him to find his way back to F1 - if he won the title and really, really shone in the process. No pressure, then!
He started off with second place in the GP2 Asia feature race at Abu Dhabi and a win in the Imola feature, but didn't score in either sprint race; it was just enough to narrowly beat Jules Bianchi to the Asia title in a series truncated by political unrest in the Middle East. It was one job done, but had been rather too close for comfort - not really good enough if he was to pull off that impressive eye-catching sweep he needed.
But then Grosjean moved up a gear, and when the European series got underway he won immediately at Turkey, the first of five victories during the season; add to that five third place finishes and three four places, and his consistency of strong results did indeed wipe the floor with the competition. He ended up 35pts ahead of the runner-up - the margin of victory itself being a score that would have been good enough for 7th place.
Even before the end of the season there were clear indications that Renault were looking in Grosjean's direction, and finally in the post-season the confirmation came - Grosjean was back in F1, effectively replacing the man who had ousted him from the team at the end of 2009, Petrov. Romain's "Mission: Impossible" had indeed been accomplished - in the finest and most impressive way possible.
Top 10 GP2 Driver of the Year 2011 results: 2nd-10th
2. Jules Bianchi
3. Esteban Gutiérrez
4. Luca Filippi
5. Charles Pic
6. Marcus Ericsson
7. Sam Bird
8. Giedo Van Der Garde
9. Tom Dillmann
10. Luiz Razia