The Driver Queue

This weekend saw the excess spectacle that is the Abu Dhabi grand prix take place on the man made Yas Marina Island. The facility is spectacular and the feature hotel looks fantastic on TV, the location seems perfect for a sport that is so money driven. Abu Dhabi is currently at the centre of the world with it being an international airport hub and is attracting more and more tourists each year out of the airport and into the hotels. Unfortunately while the track is in the right place with a huge amount of finance behind it, it is terrible for lack of a better word.

The track configuration is a bit of a head scratcher with slow speed hair pins followed by straights into chicanes etc. Furthermore with the huge amount of money spent on the circuit and the climate it is built in the grandstands are all permanent meaning any track changes would either be limited or hugely expensive.

But at least there was some excitement in the desert this weekend which also hosted the climax of the GP2 and GP3 seasons.

First up Daniil Kvyat wrapped up the GP3 title as was expected of him after his confirmation next year of driving for Toro Rosso. The 200,000 Euro prize from Pirelli however went to Facu Regalia to support him in securing a drive next season in GP2 which leaves him only needing a couple of million to find right?

In GP2 James Calado managed to win the final race of the season to secure 3rd in the standings despite a tough year at ART where they failed to get the best out of the tires. The Swiss driver Fabio Leimer lead home Mercedes test and reserve driver Sam Bird in the standings but it does raise a question, where are they going to next?

Last years champion Davide Valsecci failed to find a grid spot and has spent all year on the bench at Lotus and is looking like being passed over for Nico Hulkenberg and appears to have not even been considered for the drive despite an impressive championship in GP2 last year. Runner up Luiz Razia also failed to find a birth in F1 after his backing failed to materialise and he lost his spot at Marussia. However the drivers who finished 3rd (Gutierrez), 4th (Chilton) and 6th (Van Der Garde) found spots on the grid.

Fabio Leimer now has to find a spot on the grid as he does not have an option of returning to the series, a bizarre unnecessary rule that excludes drivers who have won the championship from returning. GP2 and GP3 are a bit of a mess, the series costs too much money for what it is and is primarily there to fill CVC’s pockets with more gold and extract more money from TV companies. This has lead World Series to be a popular choice of feeder category which has been favoured by Red Bull as they view GP2 as too expensive and the back half of the grid is filled with pay drivers with no hope of moving forward.

Sam Bird has had a strange career thus far after completing two lack luster years in GP2 the Briton went to World Series where he finished 3rd behind Robert Frijns and Jules Bianchi. This lead him back to another year in GP2 but the chances of him getting a drive in F1 are slim with Mercedes having a very stable line up and looking unlikely to cut him a deal to go elsewhere.

James Calado could either do another year in GP2 or become reserve driver at Force India and take up the expanded testing next season alongside FP1 at select Grand Prix’s following in the footsteps of Nico Hulkenberg and Paul Di Resta.

But with Pastor Maldonado, Heikki Kovalinen, Nico Hulkenberg, Felipe Massa, Paul Di Resta, Adrain Sutil, Valterri Bottas, Charles Pic, Giedo Van Der Garde, Max Chilton, Esteban Guiterrez and a long list of others looking to finalise spots there are very few opportunities for drivers to move up to the category. The best hope for these rookies is to grab a testing role, which could be more useful than years gone by with in addition to the pre-season tests there will be 4 lots of two day tests after European Grand Prix’s alongside an expanded FP1 with extra tyres in the first 30 minutes which could see teams running rookie or test drivers each weekend. However with the huge price hike in engines next season the pay driver factor is coming into play with Sergy Sirotkin being considered at Sauber (either this year or next year) and expect teams at the rear of the grid to find drivers who bring lots of money to go testing for the team. Pastor Maldonado has a rumoured 14 Million from PVDSA and Felipe Massa has secured money from Petrobras to drive next season. Max Chilton is also being looked at for Force India as he provides sizeable backing from Aon, Guiterrez has some Telmex backing and Sutil, Pic and Van De Garde all provide sponsors. There is a lot of talent and a lot of money for not many seats – if we exclude McLaren and Lotus it leaves Sauber, Force India, Williams (who want to continue with Bottas), Caterham and one seat at Marussia.

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