Caterham, Marussia, Arden fill GP2 seats, while Crestani signs for Venezuela GP

The 2012 GP2 Series field is a step closer to completion today with the announcement of Giedo van der Garde and Rodolfo Gonzalez at Caterham Racing.

Both drivers will bring a great deal of experience to the Caterham team, each having raced for three years in the category.

Van der Garde joins the Anglo-Malaysian squad after spending two years with Barwa Addax, with a highest championship ranking of 5th in 2011.
This may prove to be a key year for the Dutch pilot, for although van der Garde has proved himself a consistent podium finisher in recent seasons, the 26-year-old has not won a GP2 Series event since taking the Feature Race at Monza in 2009.
Van der Garde had held 2nd in the GP2 Series for most of last season, owing to persistent point scores; however two disastrous final rounds at Spa and Monza saw the Dutchman drop to 5th overall.
Alongside his GP2 commitments, Van der Garde was also confirmed as Caterham’s Formula 1 reserve several weeks ago, where it is believed he will contest several Friday morning practice sessions.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez assumes the second seat at Caterham. In three seasons of GP2 competition, the Venezuelan has notched up two point scoring races* in forty events. Gonzalez tested with the Caterham’s GP2 team in November at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, having also tested twice with the parent squad at the 2010 and 2011 Young Driver Tests.
Caterham joined the GP2 Series in 2011 under the guise of Team AirAsia, finishing 6th in the Teams’ Championship with Luiz Razia and Davide Valsecchi. They achieved one race victory, courtesy of Valsecchi, at the prestigious Feature Race in Monaco.

Marussia-Carlin also filled their driver quota with Rio Haryanto and Max Chilton. After competing in the GP2 Series last year as Carlin, the Farnham-based team have formed a technical partnership with Marussia’s junior programme**.
Chilton, who is returning to Carlin, will be hoping it’s third time lucky after enduring tough GP2 campaigns in 2010 and ‘11; however for GP3 race winner Haryanto, this will be a whole new adventure.
After finishing highest of the Marussia Manor drivers in 2010, the (then) Virgin team rewarded Haryanto with a test at the Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi.

Arden International completed their line-up today, when they revealed that Luiz Razia is to partner Simon Trummer.
Razia, who is also starting his fourth GP2 season, is also winless in GP2 since Monza 2009*** has endured a tough few seasons, but has garnered a reputation for regular point scoring rather than victorious charges.

Meanwhile, the new Venezuela GP Lazarus team wasted no time in signing up their first driver. Italian racer Fabrizio Crestani will be making a return to the GP2 Series, following a couple of occasional stints with Ocean Racing Technology (2009) and DPR (2010).
A spell in Auto GP last year saw Crestani take 6th in the championship with Lazarus Racing, following four podiums and a pole position. Although it is arguable that Crestani never received a fair crack at GP2 first time around, it is difficult to envisage this being a largely successful campaign, considering how late this project has come together.

The first pre-season GP2 test session starts today at Jerez in Southern Spain.

* (note 1}
Both of those points finishes came at Spa in 2010, when Gonzalez came home 8th (Feature Race) and 4th (Sprint Race). His average finishing position in the other twenty-six races he classified for was 15th, having retired from twelve other races.
In the sixteen GP2 Asia races he contested, Gonzalez never registered a points result.

** {note 2}
The announcement of Marussia’s link with Carlin means the squad is now the third in GP2 to be directly affiliated with a Formula 1 team.
During the tense “Group Lotus vs Team Lotus” courtroom battle of 2011, both company’s backed GP2 teams, with the Proton owned Group Lotus aligning themselves with ART Grand Prix, while Tony Fernandes’ Team Lotus entry assumed the vacant slot left by DPR.
DAMS have, in the past, been loosely linked with Renault’s Formula 1 entity via Team Principal Eric Boullier. Arden International are jointly led by Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner and his father Garry.
Marussia have also formed a partnership with Carlin in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series; however the Russian company are linked with Manor Motorsports in GP3. Carlin also compete in the GP3 Series, but do so independently.

*** {note 3}
Whereas van der Garde took the Feature Race at Monza in 2009, Razia claimed the Sprint Race the following morning.
As previously noted, neither have won a GP2 race since then; however Razia has one extra victory in his roster after winning a GP2 Asia Sprint Race at Bahrain at the start of 2009.

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