Wednesday, 7 May 2014

GP3 2014 Preview

This weekend sees the Formula 1 world championship make its first visit to Europe in Spain. Local hero Fernando Alonso will be hoping to capitalise on the home support that last year propelled him to victory, whilst Pirelli are hoping it doesn't take 4 tyre changes to do so again. GP2 returns to the calendar again having missed China, but we will also see the beginning of the 2014 GP3 championship. The 2014 calendar is shown below.

Daniil Kvyat won the 2013 GP3 championship before his promotion to the Toro Rosso F1 team this year.

2014 GP3 Calendar

Round 1 - Spain - 10th / 11th May

Round 2 - Austria - 21st / 22nd June

Round 3 - Great Britain - 5th / 6th July

Round 4 - Germany - 19th / 20th July

Round 5 - Hungary - 26th / 27th July

Round 6 - Belgium - 23rd / 24th August

Round 7 - Italy - 6th / 7th September

Round 8 - Russia - 11th / 12th October

Round 9 - Abu Dhabi - 22nd / 23rd November

GP3 rarely fails to produce exciting races from start to finish. 

The championship is 1 round longer in 2014 than it was last year as the series will support the F1 calendar at the updated Red Bull Ring in Austria, as well as at the inaugural Russian Grand Prix. The standalone event in Valencia has been dropped after only 1 running last year, and the season will again be brought to a close in Abu Dhabi.

The GP3 series has found its spot on the motorsport ladder between Formula 3 and GP2, but the Formula 1 bosses are increasingly plucking talent from the lesser rungs straight up to full time or test driver roles within their teams. Many of the drivers taking part will graduate up to either GP2 or the Formula Renault 3.5 series, but could the next F1 rookie be amongst the GP3 field also?

Last years 2013 GP3 field provided 8 different race winners in the first 8 races of the season. The eventual champion, Daniil Kvyat, was not one of those.

2014 GP3 Driver Lineups

ART Grand Prix - Alex Fontana, Marvin Kirchhöfer, Dino Zamparelli

Arden International - Robert Visoiu, Patric Niederhauser, Jann Mardenborough

Koiranen GP - Carmen Jordá, Jimmy Eriksson, Santiago Urrutia

Carlin - Alex Lynn, Emil Bernstorff, Luis Sá Silva

Marussia Manor Racing - Patrick Kujala, Ryan Cullen, Dean Stoneman

Hilmer Motorsport - Ivan Taranov, TBC, TBC

Jenzer Motorsport - Pål Varhaug, Mathéo Tuscher, Adderly Fong

Trident - Victor Carbone, Roman De Beer, Denis Nagulin

Status Grand Prix - Nick Yelloly, Richie Stanaway, Alfonso Celis Jr

Patric Niederhauser is one of many drivers to watch for in 2014, having previously won within the series.

Amongst the field, 4 drivers have won races already within GP3, and in fact Pål Varhaug won the first ever GP3 race back in 2010 in Spain. A driver connected to the Red Bull team has won the last 2 drivers championships in the form of Mitch Evans (Mark Webbers' protégé) and Daniil Kvyat. This year, Alex Lynn will be flying the Red Bull colours driving for Carlin. The previous championship winners did so for the MW Arden team (now Arden International following Webber's move to the WEC), but the pairing of a Red Bull driver within the Carlin team proved very effective at the end of 2012 with Antonio Felix Da Costa taking third in the championship.

The most successful GP3 team is the ART Grand Prix team, having won 2 drivers championships and all 4 team championships to date. No doubt the pressure is on their drivers to keep the winning streak alive, and they have a good mix of fresh talent, experience and raw speed to enable it to happen. Bamboo Engineering have left GP3, and their spot on the grid has (eventually) been taken by the Force India backed Hilmer Motorsport team. The late deal to join the GP3 field in 2014 means they have yet to secure their last 2 drivers, so there is great anticipation over who they will be able to sign at such short notice. Many fans will be eager to see how Jann Mardenborough does in the series, having progressed into motorsport thanks to the Gran Turismo Academy. The academy gives racing simulations / games fans the chance to make a career within the real motorsport world, and Mardenborough is the first to venture into single seater series, with all of the other academy drivers racing within GT series.

Even Kimi Raikkonen couldn't keep away from the GP3 series last year!

With so many potential winners in the field, the championship looks set to once again go all the way to the final round. Expect to see many drivers taking wins at some stage in the year, and brilliant racing throughout!