Leimer poised for an F1 drive

Swiss GP2 racing driver Fabio Leimer poses for photographers at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013. Leimer secured the GP2 Drivers' Championship title in the Saturday race here. (AP Photo)

Swiss GP2 racing driver Fabio Leimer poses for photographers at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013. Leimer secured the GP2 Drivers’ Championship title in the Saturday race here. (AP Photo)

There was once a time when you won the GP2 drivers title and it got you a Formula One drive.

The inaugural champion of the GP2 series was Nico Rosberg. He secured a seat with Willaims F1 and four years later joined his current team Mercedes AMG F1.

In fact in the first 7 years of GP2, the title winner gained a Formula One drive the next year, with the exception of Giorgio Pantano,  who won the event in 2008.

The names of those making it through from GP2 to F1 in that era are: Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Timo Glock, Nico Hullenberg, Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado.

Yet since 2012, that automatic transition ceased.

Davide Valsecchi, Fabio Leimer and Joylon Palmer are all GP2 winners and none so far has had a regular seat in an F1 car.

For some reason this career path has stalled. Rumours have it that Bernie no longer subsidises the GP2 champion into Formula One, though of course this is unconfirmed.

GP2 winners now appear to be recruited by F1 teams who have no intention of making them a permanent driver. They get a number of FP1 outings and then are primarily engaged with the guests of the team for corporate events as a ‘driver representative’.

Jolyon Palmer is the latest to tread the F1 reserve driver ‘gopher’ mill with Lotus. That said, he appears to be getting a lot more FP1 outings than his predecessors.

However, the one GP2 champion driver who refused to play the gopher role – Fabio Leimer – yesterday accepted a contract with Manor F1 as their reserve driver.

For now he is in line behind Roberto Mehri and Will Stevens, however the former has repeatedly made it known to the media, he is unsure how long his front line driver status will remain.

Mehri si==is afflicted by a common problem in the modern Formula One. “The [my] weight is not helping so much. It affects the weight distribution on the car”, he told Autosport..

“I am 10 kilograms heavier, or something like that, so my weight distribution is much more forward compared to his car and is not helping so much.”

Merhi has in fact crash dieted since the beginning of the season, but is struggling to lose much more weight.

“Since Melbourne I have lost four or five kilos,” he said. “In Melbourne I was 14 or 15 kilos more compared to him (Will Stevens) and now I am maybe 10 or 11, something like that.

“I don’t know how much more I can afford to lose. I thought five kilograms was the limit.

“To lose another five is hard. The first two will be easy, the other three very hard, so maybe I’m just going to have to eat salad!”

Mehri has also admitted he does not bring funds to the Manor team, which is the reason why many F1 observers are scratching their heads over his selcetion.

Whilst not in the Pastor Maldonado league, Leimer is however funded reasonably well and the breaking news is he has been recruited by Manor F1 as their reserve driver.

TJ13 believes Leimer will substitute for Mehri in FP1 for one or two race weekends, and then replace the Spaniard by the time the teams head for the Hungarian GP.

20 responses to “Leimer poised for an F1 drive

  1. Makes sense for Leimer and Manor.. wouldn’t be surprised if a 4th driver pops up either to get 5 races in for a 2016 super licence.

    GP2 became too much about series experience.. focus shifted to WSR, with 2012: Jules Bianchi, 2013: Kevin Magnussen, 2014: Carlos Sainz Jr., compared to GP2’s 2012: Esteban Gutierrez, 2013: Marcus Ericsson, 2014: Felipe Nasr.

    • “GP2 became too much about series experience..”

      Exactly. The types at F1Metrics point out that:

      “Every GP2 champion from 2005-2011 graduated to Formula 1. Recently, however, the expense of the series and the increasing challenges for rookie drivers have led to the series being dominated by repeat drivers with loads of cash. The last three champions have all been in at least their fourth year of GP2 and they were far from outstanding when they started in the series, as their results in each full season show.”

      Valsecchi: 15th, 17th, 8th, 8th, 1st

      Leimer: 19th, 14th, 7th, 1st

      Palmer: 28th, 11th, 7th, 1st

      So in a way the last GP2 champions are less deserving of an F1 drive, and haven’t really shown the “long-term potential” that the likes of Magnussen, Vandoorne or Verstappen do and the teams look out for. All last three GP2 champions had 11 or 14 seasons of open-wheel experience, and Palmer is quite literally the least “exciting” of the lot.

      https://f1metrics.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/gp2_champsb.png?w=640

      • Very good point Landroni and one I feel is not made often enough. If you get to win because of your experience in GP2 than that driver has to ask himself if he hasn’t spend too much time in GP2. For the same reason the Japanese Super Formula championship is not taken as serious as the performance of the car makes you think, the drivers are not that good and spend far too long in that series (it is fun to watch though). When a driver is in a feeder series and needs more than 2/3 years to become a championship contender he has to ask himself whether the top series is a realistic goal.

        • That’s why I never believed in Guido. 4 years in gp2 and proven nothing and yet he gets a seat in f1.

          • I agree with you on that one too Landroni. Giedo wasn’t F1 quality and luckily he recognized it himself by not going for the Manor drive. He did win the first FR3.5 championship (finishing in front of Vettel) but than he spend far too long in GP2.

            Having said that him not being the high quality you look for in a driver isn’t a reason for a team like Sauber to just take his 8 million and not let him race (especially considering Markus Eriksson has been at least as long in GP2 as Giedo has been).

          • Well I never said that. What sauber did was absolute the lowest what they could do and they’ve lost a big chunk of respect from me…

  2. “Mehri si==is afflicted by a common problem in the modern Formula One. “The [my] weight is not helping so much. It affects the weight distribution on the car”, he told Autosport..

    “I am 10 kilograms heavier, or something like that, so my weight distribution is much more forward compared to his car and is not helping so much.””

    If 10 Kg can do so much damage, let us wait and see how quick is Verstappen when his growth spurt ends, and he starts weighing something more like an average F1 driver.

    I suspect the increase in minimum weight limit by 10 Kg this year has affected Kvyat to a degree, too, robbing him of some of his relative performance advantage from 2014 (and partly explaining his matching, more or less, JEV).

    • On the Verstappen website it was once said that he hasn’t grown for a year and a half and his weight has also been stable so I think that is not something he has to worry about too much. At the moment he should be more worried to not go down the path of Maldonado or Grosjean 😉

  3. Dear oh dear. It’s Pantano, not Pantero. And it’s Maldonado who holds the record for most wins (although that’s likely to be overtaken by Vandoorne at his current rate of success).

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