GP2 Round Up

Bruno Michel: “Our championship has never been healthier or more successful”

GP2 Series Organiser Bruno Michel talks objectives and stakes for 2009 and beyond Bruno,  the  first  2009  GP2  test  session  took  place  last  week  at  Paul  Ricard.  What  first conclusions can you draw?

Those  first  three  days  have  been  very  positive:  our  2009  update  kit  has  been  reliable  and competitive from the get go. Every day, track records were broken in all circuit configurations. We wanted  to  gain  performance  from  our  new  engine  and  so  far,  the  results  have  been  more  than satisfactory. And regarding our grid, the competition will see more experienced GP2 race winners face off extremely talented rookie. Our twenty-six drivers represent sixteen different nationalities on all five continents and our field contains 24 race winners in single-seater categories, including GP2.

Our championship has never been healthier or more successful with the twenty-six racers fighting to get a drive in the series. I am confident that we are looking at a very exciting new season.

This year marks an important anniversary in the history of GP2 as the championship enters in its fifth year. How would you evaluate the first four seasons?

When  we  launched  this  new  championship  back  in  2005,  we  had  one  aim:  to  build  a  category which would display and develop the talent and the capacities of young drivers aspiring to make it into Formula One. Five years later, I am delighted to say that our mission has been accomplished with seven current Formula One drivers are GP2 graduates including two F1 teams relying entirely on  the  talent  and  experience  of  former  GP2  drivers. 

This  only  makes  our  series  the  most successful feeder category for F1. What would you say is the secret of GP2’s success? Basically one of the keys to our success is to be able to run alongside Formula One. That means that our drivers and teams are in the same environment of Formula One and their performance is constantly  monitored  by  the  F1  teams  principals  and  experts.  Not  only  do  we  produce  dramatic races at a high-level, but we have become an exciting shop-window for teams and drivers. Another of our recipe to success is that we are running with cars extremely similar to the ones running in F1 and we are racing on the same track.

Therefore, GP2 is the perfect training ground and stepping stone  to  the  highest  level  of  single-seater.  The  best  example  today  is  of  course  Lewis  Hamilton who  grabbed  the  title  in  2008  only  in  his  second  F1  season,  highlighting  our  role  as  the  most successful Formula One feeder category.

The essence of GP2 has always been working on small budgets. However, today’s financial condition must have meant that you also had to adapt to the situation as well…

Yes, we had to adapt. We have taken important measures such as mid-season test cancellation, wind tunnel testing interruption, staff limitations and a significant decrease in the cost of some parts - to name a few. Between these measures and the fact that 2008 has been an expensive year for our  teams  (with  the  introduction  of  the  Asia  Series  and  a  new  GP2  car),  their  budget  for  2009 should  be cut down by 20% overall. The GP2 Series remains one the most viable championship that  exists.  The  cost  control  that  we  put  in  place  since  its  inception  has  been  efficient  and successful. However, putting things into perspectives, although it cannot be considered as a low- priced series, one must not forget that our car is an extremely complex and competitive machine just 5 seconds slower than a F1 car and costing probably around 1/100th of the global cost of a Formula One car.

Do you feel that F2 is a threat to GP2?

Absolutely  not:  for  all  the  reasons  I  stated  earlier  –  running  alongside  F1  and  the  high  level  of performance of our cars - no category can compete with GP2 as a feeder series to Formula One. In reality, the F2 grid has hurt other categories that usually feed the GP2 Series, but not us. Drivers with  2010  F1  ambitions  know  that  they  unquestionably  have  to  compete  in GP2 this season and nowhere else. Moreover, the fact that some F2 drivers will be given a Superlicense will not make them F1 drivers. For a driver to move into F1, they first have to get noticed by F1 Team principals.

There is no better place than GP2 to achieve that. Our championship is the final step for drivers before Formula One whereas F2 will probably become a feeder category for GP2. You are launching GP3 in 2010.

What can you tell us?

This  new  category  will  be  based  on  the  same  principles  as  GP2  with  a  competitive  car  running alongside  Formula  One and GP2, spectacular races and also ruled by severe cost control. It will give  young  racers  the  opportunity  to  display  their  driving  skills  in  front  of  GP2  and  Formula  One teams. This new championship will start in 2010 and will be a natural breeding ground for GP2 with the objective to become the most successful one.

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