It’s now looking certain that there will be no British drivers on this year’s GP2 grid after DPR filled its remaining seat with Italian Giacomo Ricci, dashing the hopes of GP2 Asia graduate James Jakes.
Jakes was hopeful of securing the slot after a test with the team in Barcelona at the end of March, and a solid season in the GP2 Asia series, where he raced with Super Nova and scored a podium in Malaysia.
He said on his website that he felt he had performed well, “regularly outperforming many of the more experienced and established GP2 drivers.”
He added that he was “hopeful of a seat in… the European Leg. James will be, like all the other drivers looking to impress the onlooking F1 team managers.”
But it looks like that hope has not come about this year. The other DPR driver is Michael Herck, whose father Andre bought the team in April.
On the eve of the first race of the season there were still two seats officially unfilled, with Trident Racing’s drivers still listed as “Driver 1” and “Driver 2”.
But in today’s free practice session the seats were taken by Superleague Formula’s former Beijing Guoan driver Davide Rigon and the Portugese-Angolan Ricardo Teixeira. Both had raced for the team in GP2 Asia.
It is interesting to consider what the scarcity of seats for Brits in GP2 might mean for Formula One in years to come.
Currently two are obviously in race seats (and being ridiculously successful, of course) but there are no youngsters working as testers or reserve drivers.
McLaren’s Gary Paffett, definitely more a veteran than a newcomer, is racing quite happily in tin-tops and says he prefers them. Then there’s David Coulthard who’s still officially a Red Bull tester – but it would be fair to say that he’s had his go already.
Adam Khan is forging a partnership with Renault but at the moment is at the demonstration drive stage – and he races under the flag of Pakistan despite having British roots. Anthony Davidson is repeatedly linked with a testing role at Brawn GP in the face of any official confirmation from the team.
While there are numbers of talented young drivers in the lower formulas of open-wheel racing, and even with Formula 2 set to launch at the end of the month, we may still be set for a couple of years of thin fare in the future.
A lot depends on how long Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton manage to prolong their careers.
Of course, there are other routes into the top flight, as Mercedes’ young DTM star Paul di Resta may yet demonstrate. Establising partnerships with engine suppliers have certainly proved fruitful for the current crop of F1 drivers.
And Portadown’s Adam Carroll, Ireland’s reigning A1GP title-holder, is also suddenly looking a rather hot prospect, with his team boss Mark Gallagher wondering aloud whether he should move into GP2 or even F1 itself.
But that still doesn’t provide us with much national interest for this season of GP2. Even so, we did take enough notice of this morning’s free practice session to notice that Campos drivers Romain Grosjean and Vitaly Petrov pulled off a one-two.
Also we note, in the light of all the discussion of F1 drivers and weight loss, that Racing Engineering is training them young. Just check out the name of its new sponsor…