British race team MW Arden became the first to fill its GP3 driver quota for the 2012 season on Wednesday.
The Banbury-based team – owned by Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner and driver Mark Webber – have signed Finland’s Matias Laine and Italy’s David Fumanelli to sit alongside the returning Mitch Evans.
At a youthful 17 years old, Evans picked up race victory on his way to 9th in the series, while Fumanelli charged to the runner-up spot in the European F3 Open championship.
The 21-year-old Laine struggled with Marussia Manor Racing in 2011; twice managing a best finish of 14th. He will be hoping for better things with MW Arden, although the Finn may endure a tough time amidst his slightly more illustrious teammates.
Laine will not be completely unfamiliar to the MW Arden team. The Finn tested with the squad at the tail end of 2010, setting a top-five time in one session, before opting for a race seat with Manor. Despite his difficulties last year, Laine is still aiming high for 2012.
“I am really looking forward to start the work with the team at the simulator and I cant wait to get in the car. My target for this season is to win the championship and I think MW Arden is the best team for me…
“I did a couple of test days with the team end of 2010 and I felt very comfortable working with the people at MW Arden.”
Meanwhile, Fumanelli enjoyed two days running with the MW Arden team at Jerez late last year, topping the first day and coming top-five a day later. It was a test that left the 19-year-old positive about the direction he was about to assume.
“I have really been impressed by the way the team worked in the two days in Jerez. I wanted to join a winning team and MW Arden is really the best choice for sure, considering their previous results in GP3, but also in the other championships.
“I am sure this year will be successful for both of us and I can’t wait for the start of the season!”
Evans, who signed nearly two weeks ago, established himself as a front-runner early on in 2011, only to fall back as the season aged – something the Kiwi is unwilling to repeat.
“Last year was a learning year for me as it was my first year in Europe. I believe that I have the best package around me to succeed. There is only one thing I am focused on this year and that is to win the championship.”
Lotus have also been busy in the driver market, having signed Daniel Abt and Aaro Vainio for the coming campaign, while ATECH CRS Grand Prix have filled a single seat with American Ethan Ringel on board.
It is still early (the first round at Barcelona is not until May), but there is certainly no rush to fill the GP3 grid for 2012; however with the mandatory three-car rule now lifted, teams are now free to run only two entries should they so choose.
After a season of uncertainty, the regulation change will come as a welcome financial relief for some teams and may go some way to rendering 48-year-old drivers unnecessary; however there may still be some work to do for the teams to remain healthy.