As hinted at by Autosport a while ago, the GP2 and GP2 Asia series are merging. GP2 Asia, which began with a long calendar of races but only managed four this winter (of which only one was in Asia because of the Bahrain uprising), hasn’t really worked out the way the organisers wanted it to. Instead, there will be a single series from 2012 with flyaway races. For the first time in 2011, all thirteen teams who competed in GP2 Asia were the same thirteen who are competing in the main series. The merger is far more practical.
To celebrate this merger, in November at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix there will be a special race weekend for GP2 called the ‘2011 GP2 Final’. The 13 teams will compete for a prize fund while young drivers will get a chance to test the GP2/11 car that has been used this year for the first time.
GP2 Asia has a short history. Only four seasons have ever been run. In 2008, there were five rounds in Dubai, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bahrain and Dubai (again). Lots of familiar names were taking part: Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok for iSport; Romain Grosjean for ART; Vitaly Petrov for Campos; Fairuz Fauzy for Super Nova; Jerome d’Ambrosio and Kamui Kobayashi for DAMS; Sebastien Buemi for Arden; Davide Valsecchi for Durango, and current F2 river Armaan Ebrahim for DPR. Yep, there were two Indian drivers! This is because GP2 Asia at the time wanted each team to have an Asian driver in it.
The first round was totally dominated by Romain Grosjean, who took pole position and both wins. Bruno Senna took second and the fastest lap in the first race, with Andy Soucek third. Fairuz Fauzy scored his first points in a GP2 car in the first race, and came second in ths second race with Karun Chandhok third. In the end, the winner was Grosjean, with Buemi second after a coming second in the final four races, Petrov third, Fauzy fourth, Senna fifth and Kobayashi sixth.
The second season took place over the winter of 2008-2009. It featured Yamamoto, Maldonado and Hulkenberg in ART; Razia in Arden; Petrov and Perez at Barwa Campos; the d’Ambrosio and Kobayashi pairing at DAMS again; van der Garde at iSport; Valsecchi at Durango; Chandhok at Ocean Racing; and Ricardo Teixeira at Trident. Yep, the whole Team Lotus reserve contingent took part.
There were six rounds: China, Dubai, Bahrain, Qatar, Malaysia and Bahrain (again). Eventual winner Kamui Kobayashi started with a second-place finish, and though he only managed two wins altogether he got enough points finishes to beat his teammate Jerome d’Ambrosio into second. Roldan Rodriguez came third, with Valsecchi fourth, Petrov fifth, Hulkenberg sixth despite only competing in four races, Perez seventh and Yamamoto ninth.
The third season was 2009-10. Taking part were many current GP2 drivers including Christian Vietoris (DAMS); Luiz Razia (Rapax/Addax); Chilton, van der Garde and Perez (Addax); Ericsson (ART and Super Nova); Bianchi and Bird (ART); Pic and Gonzalez (Arden); Kral (Super Nova); Valsecchi (iSport); Cecotto and Clos (Trident); Filippi (a Malaysian team not AirAsia); Leimer (Ocean Racing); Parente (Coloni); and Herck (DPR).
There were only four rounds: two at Abu Dhabi followed by two at Bahrain. And the championship winner dominated; iSport’s Davide Valsecchi took three wins and three second places on top of a fourth place to get 56 points. Luca Filippi came second. But it was a short season.
For 2011, the fourth and final season was shortened firstly due to the new GP2 cars, and secondly due to the Bahrain uprising which caused the second round to be held at Imola. Most of the current GP2 drivers took part. Romain Grosjean marked his return to GP2 with an adequate performance, taking both pole positions, a win, a second place and two fastest laps. Fellow Frenchman Jules Bianchi won the first race at Abu Dhabi, and came third in the first race at Imola. He also took two fastest laps. Stefano Coletti took the win at the Abu Dhabi sprint having started from reverse pole, while Dani Clos took the Imola sprint. Meanwhile, Davide Valsecchi gave AirAsia their first podium in the first race at Abu Dhabi. Romain Grosjean took the championship.
So in total that’s four GP2 Asia championships. Romain Grosjean took the first and the last, with Kamui Kobayashi taking the second and Davide Valsecchi the third. Now, however, we’ll be seeing a longer GP2 season. This could make the championship very interesting next year.