GP2 series reflects on incredible season
A fortnight ago in Monza, the 2006 GP2 Series championship was resolved in a thrilling final contest. The season-long battle between Lewis Hamilton and Nelson Piquet Jr reached its climax at the very last round of the season, providing a nail-biting finale to what had been yet another incredible year of racing in Formula One's feeder category.
In only his rookie season in the series, Lewis stunned onlookers with a sensational season-long display to take the crown, narrowly defeating Nelson after 21 grueling races around the world. Alex Primat took third in the standings, helping his and Lewis' ART Grand Prix team retain their championship ahead of Piquet Sports and iSport International.
The success of the GP2 series in its two years of existence has been meteoric, with the category living up to its promise of providing enthralling and close racing, while preparing drivers and team personnel for the tough challenges they will face on the step up to Formula One. With five of the 2005 crop of GP2 series drivers making the step up to Formula One in 2006, we now wait to see which of the Class of 2006 will be given their shot at their ultimate dream. Championship runner- up Nelson Piquet Jr has already been confirmed as a 2007 test driver for the RenaultF1 team alongside 2005 Championship runner-up Heikki Kovalainen, while GP2 series champion Lewis and third place driver Alex both made their full F1 testing debuts last week. Alex, Ernesto Viso and Michael Ammermiller are all expected to make an appearance as Friday testers over the remaining three Formula One grands prix of the 2006 season.
While the world watches the progress of this year's crop with interest, the 2007 generation of the GP2 series will be making their first test runs over the winter. GP2 series testing kicks off next week at Circuit Paul Ricard on October 3-4, with the second winter test planned to take place at the same venue on October 31-November 1. Testing resumes one week later in Jerez on November 6-7, with the final test of 2006 taking place where this season kicked off, in Valencia on December 1-2.
Bruno Michel GP2 series organiser "What a season it has been! After the incredible debut year the GP2 series enjoyed, it was amazing to see the level of excitement rise once again. We have been very lucky in our first two seasons to have had two brilliant rivalries for the championship. In 2005 it was Nico and Heikki, and this year we had Lewis and Nelson. They are all fantastic drivers, and deserve their place in Formula One. I would like to congratulate Lewis on his championship, and to pay tribute to all of our drivers who helped make this season so exciting. In total 23 drivers scored points this season, 10 of them rookies, with 16 drivers and six rookies making the podium and nine different drivers taking race wins, with four drivers among them in their first season. I must also congratulate Fred Vasseur, Nicolas Todt and all at ART Grand Prix for once again mounting a strong and successful championship campaign.
Now our attention switches to 2007, and I cannot wait to see which of our 2006 drivers make the leap to Formula One. Nelson is there already, and I am sure it is only a matter of time before he is joined by some of his 2006 rivals. With a busy winter of testing ahead of us, I look forward to watching all the newcomers to the GP2 series with interest, as we prepare for our 2007 season."