GP2 Series Champion Nico Rosberg claims $100,000 Bridgestone Prize
After 12 rounds comprising of 23 thrilling races against the best of the world's rising talent in single-seater racing, German hotshot, Nico Rosberg, was finally crowned the first ever GP2 Series Champion yesterday afternoon after winning the first of the two season finale races in Bahrain. In the process, the ART Grand Prixdriver has claimed the much fought over Bridgestone Prize of US$100,000. Rosberg also w ent on to make it a double celebration this afternoon, becoming the only driver this year to win both races in a round.
2005 GP2 Series Champion Nico Rosberg will be officially presented with his trophy and Bridgestone Prize of $100,000 by Director of Bridgestone Motorsport, Hiroshi Yasukawa, at an awards ceremony at the Sakhir International Circuit this evening.
Racing on approximately 48 sets of Bridgestone Potenza GP2 Series tyres this season, Rosberg clinched five race wins, four pole positions and set five fastest race laps while on his way to becoming the GP2 Series Champion.
It was a tough fight, however, with no fewer than ten different race winners this season and particularly staunch competition from Finnish driver Heikki Kovalainen. After 21 races, the pair took the battle for the title and prize money right down to the wire with just three points separating them as they headed to the final round in Bahrain. The state-of-the-art Sakhir circuit, which was tailor-made for Formula One, provided an excellent venue for the final two races of the season and gave the mainly European based series and teams good flyaway race experience.
Scheduled for the traditional Bahrain weekend of Thursday and Friday, the stage was set for the big showdown. Nico Rosberg was quick straight out of his flyaway container, setting pole position for the first race on Thursday. Once the race got under way, Rosberg pitted after lap 11, choosing not to come in earlier during the Safety Car period. He rejoined in the lead, crossing the line 11.5 seconds ahead of second placed Alexandre Premat. Kovalainen, who gambled by pitting early, finished third. With 12 points in the bag for Rosberg, the title had been decided.
Nevertheless, Rosberg continued to drive like a true champion, winning this afternoon's thrilling final race of the year from eighth place on the grid. Venezuela's Ernesto Viso finished second while Premat crossed the line in third place. The final standings see Rosberg take the title with a total of 120 points ahead of Kovalainen in second with 105 points and Scott Speed in third with 67.5 points. In the Teams' Championship, the French based ART Grand Prix team claimed top honours ahead of the UK based Arden International and Super Nova teams.
Hiroshi Yasukawa, Director of Bridgestone Motorsport, said: "The first year of the GP2 Series has come to a very satisfactory end. It has been an incredible year of close fought racing between 26 different drivers from 12 teams and in Nico Rosberg we now have a very worthy champion. Our congratulations to Nico,who claims the $100,000 Bridgestone Prize, and the entire ART Grand Prix team. Congratulations should also go, however, to the runners-up who have fought so hard to the end and to all the drivers and teams for making this year such a success. The GP2 Series organisers have produced an excellent new championship which has attracted a great of interest from the media and been watched by millions of people worldwide. It has been a pleasure to work with Bruno Michel, his staff and the team from Renault. I must also thank the Bridgestone Motorsport technical and tyre service staff for their hard work and dedication; they have produced excellent tyres all year. We now look forward to continuing our support of young drivers through future seasons of the GP2 Series."
Kaz Hamamura, Bridgestone Japan Technical Manager, said: "From a technical perspective, Bridgestone is very pleased with the way the new GP2 Series has developed. We think our tyres have performed extremely well this season, giving the drivers the right blend of performance and grip at the majority of circuits. We produced three different tyres for the season: a hard, medium and soft specification; as well as a special one-off super soft tyre for the unique Monaco street circuit. Designing tyres specifically for the GP2 Series cars was a new challenge for Bridgestone and we are delighted with the results. Our innovative wet tyre pattern was also a great success in Turkey and Belgium. The teams have only been able to test at Paul Ricard and Barcelona but they have coped well, learning how to use and change their tyres to best effect. It has been a good educational process for them and the racing has been very exciting to watch. Congratulations to ART and Nico Rosberg, who we hope to see in F1 very soon along with drivers such as Heikki Kovalainen who have also shown themselves to be very talented."
Nico Rosberg, (ART Grand Prix) GP2 Series Champion, said: "To have won the GP2 Series championship is a fantastic thing for me and my career. It's also great to have the support of Bridgestone. They have produced fantastic tyres all season, both in the dry and in the wet, and they have always been spot on with the decisions to run soft, medium or hard compounds. It's very good for the winner of the series to receive this prize from Bridgestone. I have to thank them, it really means a lot."
Bruno Michel, GP2 Series Organiser, said: "Bridgestone's contribution to the GP2 Series has been absolutely fantastic. The grooved tyres provided have enabled these aspiring young drivers to compete on tyres that are extremely close to those they may use if they reach Formula One. During the course of this season the drivers have learnt how to drive on them, get the best out of them and their teams have learnt the art of tyre changing mid-race. The level of performance from the tyres has also been quite incredible and the teams have been quite amazed by the performance and grip. But Bridgestone is more than just a supplier to the series. They have been extremely supportive in many ways, not least by providing the $100,000 Bridgestone Prize for the overall winning driver. Bridgestone has also used the series for a number of public relations and marketing initiatives and from the series' point of view, it has been a great partnership. My thanks to Hiroshi Yasukawa and the entire Bridgestone Motorsport team. The level of competition has been very high this year and it has been an extremely exciting season. We are looking forward to continuing our collaboration in the years ahead."