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“GP2: Making sense of the cost”

May 10, 2012

As budgets rise and sponsors become harder to come by, the pang for drivers with some solid backing grows – something that GP2 squad Ocean Racing Technology know only too well.

The Portuguese squad – headed by ex-Formula 1 racer Tiago Monteiro and businessman Jose Guedes – will this weekend field their fourth driver in what is only the fourth round of the season.

While young Dutch talent Nigel Melker has retained his seat throughout the early stages of this campaign, the name of the driver on the other side of the garage appears from the outside to change depending on money and / or availability.

Starting the year in Malaysia was ex-Formula Renault 3.5 race winner, Jon Lancaster, who only had enough backing for the opening round.
Former Red Bull junior driver Brendon Hartley replaced the Englishman for both Bahraini events, although the Kiwi would fair slightly better by scoring a single point as opposed to Lancaster’s best of 17th place.
Interestingly, toward the end of last season, Hartley also acted as a replacement, this time for young German pilot Kevin Mirocha.

With Hartley now looking towards opening doors in the endurance racing world*, he has now been replaced by Auto GP and Formula 2 busy boy Victor Guerin.
The Brazilian has proved mildly successful in his other two categories of competition; however one wonders whether he will stay the distance. A podium in Auto GP at the Hungaroring, followed by a points finish at Portimao in F2, amongst other races ensures that the 19-year-old will be well up to speed come this weekend.
Guerin has previously been a race winner in Formula Abarth and Formula 3 Sudamericana.

It is not the first time the team have found themselves in this situation, although their reputation as a “rent-a-drive” squad was initially formed during their days as BCN.
For example, from 2006 to 2008, the team fielded eleven different drivers, including eventual champion Timo Glock. However, Ocean Racing Technology have yet to match BCN’s notable record of fielding seven drivers in a single season as they did during the 2003 Formula 3000 Championship season.
Ocean Racing Technology will start this season’s GP3 campaign with a full compliment of drivers.

It is no secret that the inclusion of extra rounds in Malaysia, Bahrain and Singapore have brought the costs of GP2 up somewhat (rumoured to be closing in on €2.5 million) and it’s very likely that the season may see some more driver changes as the year progresses.
One wonders if this is what is supposed to make the category relevant to Formula 1..?

* {note 1}
Brendon Hartley made his sportscar racing debut last weekend, when he contested the second round of the World Endurance Championship at Belgium’s famous Spa-Francorchamps.
Hartley raced a Murphy Prototype Oreca-Nissan alongside veteran Warren Hughes and Jody Firth, coming home 10th overall and 3rd in his LMP2 class. The Kiwi stated in an interview with Le Endurance Magazine at the weekend that “…I’m just looking at all my options right now. This is something new for me, but so far I’ve really enjoyed it and I’d like to take it further, definitely. A lot of drivers are looking at the WEC and Le Mans these days, and with good reason. I’d love to do Le Mans this year, but I’m still working on it – this is a one-race deal for now.”

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