Markus Niemela, Spa, 2007

The drivers of GP2’s first ten seasons: Part three

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The third instalment of @SamVanPut’s guide to every driver who competed in GP2 but didn’t make it all the way to Formula One.

Axcil Jeffries

Axcel Jeffries, Trdent, GP2, Bahrain, 2014Zimbabwe, 2014, 2 starts, 0 points
Just two starts for the only Zimbabwean driver to line up on the grid of a GP2 race. Jeffries, four times a karting champion in his homeland, started the 2014 season at Trident but was replaced by Sergio Canamasas after the first round. His latest racing efforts date back to 2014 where he drove in Indy Lights and finished sixth and fourth at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car course and Indianapolis.

Sergio Jimenez

Brazil, 2007, 5 starts, 4 points
One of many Brazilian drivers who attempted to race in GP2 but could not get a season-long seat. Following his brief stint in GP2, and a sole podium appearance in A1 Grand Prix the same year, Jiminez returned to Brazil where he raced Stock Cars, winning his first race, and also contested the GT3 championship and Copa Chevrolet Montana. He has concentrated on GT and stock car racing since, making four starts in the GT1 world championship in 2010, and taking four podiums in last year’s Blancpain Sprint Series Cup. He remains in the championship this year as well as Brazil’s Stock Car series, where he won a race in 2014.

Josef Kral, Super Nova, 2010

Henri Karjalainen

Finland, 2007, 2 starts, 0 points
In 2007 Karjalainen made two GP2 starts with the uncompetitive BCN squad while he was also fighting for the title in F3 Asia Pacific – where he eventually finished second. Next came an unsuccessful season in America’s Atlantic championship, followed by a big step down to racing two-litre Formula Renaults the following year. He also contested the revived Formula Two championship in 2009, without success, and after moving into Finnish GT racing his career has hit a dead-end.

Josef Kral

Czech Republic, 2010-12, 48 starts, 1 win, 3 podiums, 45 points
The same year Mark Webber had his frightening aerial crash at the Valencia street circuit, Kral had a near-identical shunt in a GP2 support race. A back injury kept him out until the season finale. Returning the following year he took a podium in the Spa sprint race, and in the same race 12 months later he finally took a breakthrough victory. Unfortunately that proved his final start in the category. Aside from a pair of outings in Auto GP in 2013 Kral’s main racing occupation has been as a judge in Nissan’s GT Academy.

Jon Lancaster

UK, 2012-14, 34 starts, 2 wins, 3 podiums, 79 points
Memorably flipped Daniel Ricciardo into a barrel roll during a Formula Renault 3.5 race at Silverstone, Lancaster then went on to win in Auto GP before making sporadic appearances in GP2. He took two sprint race wins with Hilmer on his way to 11th in the 2013 championship, and made starts for them and Manor MP the following year. He also participated in Le Mans for the Swiss Race Performance alongside Michel Frey and Franck Mailleux, finishing twelfth overall and eighth in class. A move to Formula E was expected but did not materialise, so Lancaster has continued racing in the Europlean Le Mans Series.

Nicholas Latifi

Canada, 2014, 2 starts, 0 points
In the midst of an unremarkable campaign in European Formula Three last year Latifi ‘changed up’ to more powerful GP2 and Formula Renault 3.5 machinery. His turn for Hilmer in the GP2 finale at Yas Marina yielded little, but driving for Tech 1 in FR3.5 he rounded off his season with second place at Jerez. Hoping for more of the same, he has returned to the championship for a full season with Arden this year, but was not among the front-runners at the opening round.

Nicolas Lapierre Bahrain 2005

Nicolas Lapierre

France, 2005-07, 58 starts, 2 poles, 2 wins, 6 podiums, 79 points
Entering GP2 in its first season Lapierre scored one podium finish at his home round. That winter he and Alexandre Premat propelled France to championship success in A1 Grand Prix, but it took until 2007 for Lapierre to score his first GP2 win, in Bahrain. A second followed at Spa but his eventual championship position of 12th was worse than he’d managed in the previous two seasons. A Le Mans regular since then, he came fifth in 2009 and 2011 before joining Toyota’s works outfit. Fourth in 2013, he went one better the following year to claim his first podium. Lapierre stood down from Toyota’s team shortly afterwards amid rumours he was about to defect to rivals Nissan. These proved wide of the mark, and he has instead stepped down to LMP2 with KCMotorgroup.

Matthias Lauda

Can Artam Mathias Lauda 2005Austria, 2005, 23 starts, 3 points
Fell far short of emulating father Niki. Lacking much in the way of results from his sole season of GP2 he moved to DTM for three years. A quiet 2010 saw him contest a single Porsche Supercup round and he remained in the championship the following year. GTs remained his priority for the coming seasons in the GT1 World Championship and Blancpain Endurance series, each of which saw him pick up a pair of podiums. Now Lauda is back in single-seaters albeit at a comparatively low level in India’s MRF Challenge F2000, where he has already taken one win.

Fabio Leimer

Fabio Leimer Yas Marina 2013Switzerland, Champion, 2010-2013, 81 starts, 2 poles, 5 wins, 15 podiums, 383 points
Although somewhat long in the tooth by the time he took the GP2 title, Leimer surely deserved better than to be overlooked by F1 completely, with the exception of some testing activity for Pirelli. He spent 2013 in the WEC with Rebellion Racing, taking sixth in his last two events. Leimer was supposed to return to single-seater competition in Japan’s Super Formula this year but his deal with Team Mugen fell through.

Federico Leo

Italy, 2010, 2 starts, 0 points
Only raced in the Abu Dhabi finale in 2010, following a largely forgettable year of Formula Renault 3.5 and Auto GP. Leo took to GT racing with considerable success, however. He scooped the 2011 GT3 European championship at the wheel of a Ferrari 458 Italia, and the following year shared the International GT open title with ex-F1 (and GP2) racer Gianmaria Bruni. In 2013 Leo moved to the ELMS alongside some GT events and won both GT series gentlemen’s trophies in Baku. His 2014 Le Mans 24 Hour bid was unsuccessful but he intends to return.

Marcos Martinez

Spain, 2007, 8 starts, 5 points
Raced sporadically in Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2, enjoying slightly more success in the former – he won four times in 2009 and was leading the championship at half-distance, but failed to add a single point to his tally in the remaining eight races and fell to seventh. He took a single win in Superleague Formula the following year and made a one-off return to FR3.5, but by then his career was on the wane.

Jose Maria Lopez

Jose Maria Lopez, 2006Argentina 2005-06, 43 starts, 1 pole, 1 win, 6 podiums, 66 points
Although the Argentinean driver took just a single win in GP2 he has thrived since he started racing with a roof over his head. In 2008 he won his first title in Argentina’s popular TC2000 category, and the following year he retained the crown and added victory in the Top Race V6 category in a year which saw him winning a quarter of his 40 starts acros five categories. He was signed to drive for the US F1 team in 2010 but when the team collapsed before the season began Lopez’s F1 hopes died along with them. A third TC2000 title followed in 2012, and as the world championship arrived in Argentina Lopez seized an opportunity to ply his new trade at the highest level. He won one of the races at Argentin’a Rio Hondo track in an independently-run BMW, attracting the attention of Citroen who were planning an assault on the category for 2014. Lopez spearheaded that charge, beating highly successful team mate Yvan Muller to the crown with ten wins plus a further seven podiums from 23 starts, and becoming the first Argentinean to win a world championship racing series since Juan Manuel Fangio. He is on course to retain the title having won half of the first six rounds this year.

Ma Qinghua

Ma Qing Hua, Caterham, GP2, Barcelona, 2013China, 2013, 1 start, 0 points
One of the few Chinese drivers to make it into Europe, Ma drove F3 cars in Britain and Spain and did a couple of Superleague Formula races before surprisingly being picked up by HRT as a development driver in 2012. He even drove in four F1 practice sessions, and after HRT folded he was picked up by Caterham. His 2013 plans were supposed to include a year in GP2, but that was scrapped after the first round. Nonetheless Citroen took him on for a partial WTCC campaign in their crushingly dominant C-Elysees, which yielded a single victory for him in Russia, where he started from the front row in the partial reverse-grid race. Now with the team full-time alongside Lopez, he is currently the only works Citroen driver placed behind a non-Citroen car in the points standings.

Nigel Melker

Netherlands, 2012, 23 starts, 25 points
Third in GP3 in 2011, GP2 was a natural progression for Melker the following year but an uncompetitive season with Ocean saw him end the year 19th. A switch to Formula Renault 3.5 the following year was more successful – four podiums led to sixth in the championship. He tested for a planned return in 2014 but couldn’t get a deal together and ended up racing ex-A1 Grand Prix cars in the short-lived Formula Acceleration 1 series, where he was champion, though few of his rivals completed the season. He tested for Hilmer in the off-season and may yet return to GP2.

Kevin Mirocha

Poland, 2011, 12 starts, 0 points
Leaping up from two-litre Formula Renault cars to GP2 machines proved a wildly optimistic move for Mirocha, who regularly qualified and raced at the back in 2011. Dropping down to Formula Two for the following season was a more reasonable move, and yielded a single win at Brands Hatch as well as sixth place in the championship.

Giorgio Mondini

Switzerland, 2005, 10 starts, 0 points
Mondini arrived in the first year of GP2 as the reigning Formula Renault V6 champion but only contested the final ten races. He moved on to A1 Grand Prix where his four outings proved Switzerland’s interests were far better served by having Neel Jani in the car. Nonetheless he turned out for Renault and Midland as an F1 test driver in 2006 and five years later he was back in an F1 car, testing for HRT. His racing days were over by then, however, despite a few runs in GT cars which produced little in the way of results.

Ferdinando Monfardini

Ferdinando Monfardini, Istanbul, 2006Italy, 2005-06, 40 starts, 11 points
A DAMS drive is a dream ticket in GP2 today but Monfardini scored just six points when driving for them in his second season of GP2 – scarcely an improvement on his first year with Durango and Coloni. He went GT racing after that, enjoying modest success at best with a handful of podium results, and has recently returned to action after four years on the sidelines.

Edoardo Mortara

Edoardo Mortara, Hungaroring, 2009Italy, 2009, 20 starts, 1 win, 1 podium, 19 points
Top rookie in the F3 Euroseries in 2007, Mortara was runner-up in the category the following year as Nico Hulkenberg dominated proceedings. He arrived in GP2 with Arden the following year and finished sixth in his first feature race in Spain, then won the sprint race. It looked like Italy had a burgeoning new talent on its hands, but that proved as good as it got for Mortara who never visited the GP2 podium again. Seeking fresh momentum he got back in an F3 car and won the prestigious Macau Grand Prix, a feat he repeated in 2010 along with finally winning the F3 Euroseries. That led to a DTM chance with Audi, where he has remained ever since. Fifth in 2012 and 2014, he leads the standings at present. He remains a force to be reckoned with at Macau, where he won the GT Cup three times in a row from 2011 to 2013.

Alexandre Negrao

Brazil, 2005-07, 64 starts, 1 podium, 25 points
Somewhat incident-prone in his three years of GP2, Negrao visited the podium once from 64 starts. Following a one-off appearance at Le Mans the 2004 F3 Sudamerica champion returned to Brazil to race in the national Stock Car and GT championships, finishing second in the latter championship in 2011 while sharing a car with his father. He’s also made a couple of appearances at the Daytona 24 Hours.

Markus Niemela

Finland, 2007, 7 starts, 0 points
The only GP2 driver to have ended up racing on dirt ovals? Niemela mixed GP2 with Formula Renault 2.0 outings in 2007 – a sure sign he was attempting to rise too fast, too soon. He switched to America’s Atlantic championship the following year and delivered the title after a consistent campaign which took until the final two rounds to produce its first victories. An unsuccessful title defence led him to try his hand at sprint racing, where he continues to race, though he was fortunate to survive a shocking crash last November.

Markus Niemela, Spa, 2007

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  • 12 comments on “The drivers of GP2’s first ten seasons: Part three”

    1. Not to be a pedant, but Monfardini spent all of 2005 and scored all of his points that season racing for Durango, with the exception of the final round in Bahrain where Gimmi Bruni, who had fallen out with Coloni, jumped into his countryman’s Durango, with Monfardini taking the Coloni seat which had, for the previous 2 rounds, been occupied by Toni Vilander. Monfardini was afflicted with a very painful 2 races in Bahrain for Coloni, in which belts which were too tight conspired to force his testicles back up inside his body. He completed the first race in unbearable pain and came back for more the next day. He ended up in hospital. Hard as nails that boy.

      1. That makes my eye’s water just thinking about it.

      2. Blimey, never knew about that! Thanks for the addition Will.

        1. @keithcollantine Okay, I should’ve noticed that earlier.

      3. Oh boy… great addition but I somehow wished I hadn’t read it at all :D

    2. Lauda is now in WEC in GT AM. Doing very well actually.

      1. @jmc200 Some writing has been done before most of these seasons had their first round and it wasn’t always easy to find where they were at.

        1. Fair enough, I wasn’t having a go, it must be bloddy hard to find out some of these!

    3. Why did Will stop doing the GP2 & GP3 race commentary? He was quite good at it!

      1. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
        5th May 2015, 19:23

        He got a full time job in USA doing F1 broadcasting.

    4. Amazing. I did not know Lopez had a run in gp2!

    5. “Nonetheless Citroen took him on for a partial WTCC campaign in their crushingly dominant C-Elysees, which yielded a single victory for him in Russia thanks chiefly to a poor performance in the first race which put him on the front row for the second reverse-grid race. Now with the team full-time alongside Lopez, he is currently the only Citroen driver placed behind a non-Citroen car in the points standings.”

      @SamVanPut Race 2 grid is set based on Qualifying, not Race 1.
      Mehdi Bennani is an other Citroen driver placed behind non-Citroen cars.

    Comments are closed.