Brought to you by Adam Macdonald (@adamac39)
GP2 started in 2005 following the discontinuation of Formula 3000. In an era of large profit and unrivalled corporate spending the series seemed destined for success. The lower sponsorship demands, around £2 million, were far less than the step above it meaning it was ideal as a progressive step.
In order to maintain its position as the most relevant series to feed Formula One there are many who would argue that there is a requirement for parity between the two. The argument would be based upon those who stand in the corner that the gap between GP2 and F1, on-track, is too much. Of course, in this respect the difference between the two will always be there. As the second tier is still very much in its infancy, the inaugural season in 2005, the lack of complexity is something that is pivotal to the series’ success.
Using tried and tested technology, a 4.0 litre normally-aspirated V8 engine, the cars require little mechanical input and expertise to function. This, combined with the specification chassis provided by Dallara Automobili, is of paramount importance to keeping the finances of the racing within reach of aspiring racers. For those that feel there is problem with pay drivers in Formula One already, the problem in GP2 would be ten-fold if development were permitted within the regulations.
If it’s not broken, don’t fix it
After watching a procession in Russia as Hamilton cruised home to victory, the need for overtaking aids is apparent and undeniable. With such complicated aerodynamic devices circulating around a track with low degradation (due to the freshly laid asphalt), the DRS (Drag Reduction System) was clearly necessary. However, those who watched the feature race will know to what I extent I mean when I say GP2 and F1 were chalk and cheese here.
We saw overtakes in areas not thought possible, cars going 3 a breast into a corner and, the part which interested me the most, teamwork to defend a position. Stéphane Richelmi, teammate to newly crowned Champion Jolyon Palmer, defended for just over half a lap on much older rubber, against the chasing Mitch Evans in the Russian Time car.
This kind of defence would not have been possible if DRS had been in operation – a move which for all intents and purposes secured the race for Palmer as it allowed him to pull a small gap on Evans. Hard, but fair racing was shown there which enthralled the onlookers. This is what will draw in audiences, not artificial aids which increase overtaking to ridiculous quantities.
Quality over quantity
I do not have the wool pulled so far over my eyes to not realise that all what I mentioned above was helped by the timing of the safety car. Of course, arranging a safety car is hardly something anyone would be able to facilitate legally or indeed any fan want to see. However, is there not a better way to increase overtaking chances?
GP2 CEO Bruno Michel had this to say when the introduction of DRS was announced, “We’ve always said that GP2 was able to produce some amazing races without the addition of DRS or any other devices, and once again the 2014 season has proved that with some close racing and exciting on-track battles.”
The GP2 boss would seem to agree with the notion set out, however, he continued, “we also have to make sure that we keep in line with our mission statement: preparing the drivers for the next step, Formula 1.” Reaffirming the importance of making the series relevant to driver progression makes sense – even more so when we consider that World Series by Renault, a direct competitor to GP2, has already incorporated the overtaking aid.
“It is important to keep adding modifications – at a reasonable cost – that will slightly tweak the technical features of our car. Formula 1 is constantly evolving. It is impossible for GP2 to remain with the same car over a long period of time when its philosophy is to prepare the drivers for F1.”
The measure being taken is clearly one which takes cost as the most important factor, as it rightfully should. In an ideal world, energy recovery would feature on the cars as they are prepared for stepping up to the ‘big time’, however, DRS is the most cost-efficient change that can be made.
The real debate is how much GP2 stands alone as a spectacle for racing and how much it is a support series for Formula One?
Preparation is essential, but if changes cause people to switch off, the sponsors will up and leave – eventually there would be no series left.
Economies of scale
The news that the GP2 cars will feature the same DRS systems as their older siblings do saddens me. The less aero-dependent cars will not need as bigger rear flaps, as bigger DRS zones and certainly not 2 of said zones at all tracks.
DRS systems are due to be tested in Europe later this month, where, I hope, some form of measure will be brought to proceedings. The subsequent test in Bahrain in December will merely be perfecting the now tried and tested technology. The fact that Michel says, “When we discussed this with the teams over a year ago, they told us that the drivers who they are in contact with were eager to see DRS on the GP2 cars,” shows that drivers are happy to have the devices on the cars.
The situation that the support Formula must avoid is one that we saw in 2011, where the new phenomenon took time to be perfected. Formula One was able to absorb this adjustment time given the exciting finish to the previous year and the wholesale change with Pirelli tyres that year masking the DRS fine tuning. GP2 will not be afforded the same privilege of bouncing back, so must get it right first time.
Furthermore, at what level does this wholesale change to racing stop? GP2 will adopt the overtaking aid for 2015, which only opens the route for GP3 to eventually go down the same path.
2015 will be an experimental year for the sport as it builds on a successful year in 2014. As noble as it is, that Michel sees following the principles that the sport set out as the most important, protecting the integrity of the racing must also be a focal point.
My suggestion would be to start smaller and increase DRS use as more is learnt about how it affects the cars – and how the fans react. Perhaps, at some races it would not be necessary at all. Most fans would rather see races with fewer overtakes, but with more close battles than easy passes. A lot stands to be gained, but equally as much could be lost if those in charge get it wrong…