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GP Week : Issue 80
With the F1-support season about to kick o in Barcelona, Will Buxton looks ahead at what Formula One's feeder championship, GP2, might have in store this season, and debates the GP3 inclusion This year marks the sixth season for the GP2 Series and the final year of the championship's second generation. It's a last hurrah for the GP2/08 car and the last year for the championship on Bridgestone tyres before the changes are wrung for the launch of the GP2/11 next season. But the championship remains as relevant to F1 as ever, in 2010 providing all six rookies in the pinnacle of global single-seater competition. For the final year of its second generation, GP2 is down to the 24 car starting grid which it ran in its inaugural season due to the very public financial issues suffered by the Durango team. Although GP2 Asia team Meritus looked ready and willing to take Durango's space, GP2 thought it better to ride out one season with a slightly depleted field before opening the whole thing up to tender for the start of generation three in 2011. But of those that remain there is real strength in depth. Reigning champions ART will be hoping for back-to-back titles as F3 Euro Series champ Jules Bianchi hopes to follow in the footsteps of Nico Hulkenberg and Lewis Hamilton and follow up his F3 success with immediate GP2 championship glory. But he won't have it easy. iSport and their line-up of Valsecchi and Turvey look to be the team to beat after GP2 Asia. While Bianchi looked ragged and impetuous at times, Valsecchi seems to have matured well and Turvey appears to have a level head on his shoulders. Van der Garde and Perez form a potent line-up at Addax, and the Mexican may well enter the title battle if he can get a decent run of results going. For Van der Garde, as for fellow elder statesman Pastor Maldonado at Rapax, it's a return to the last chance saloon: championship or bust this season. Without the title it's a season of GTs on the horizon. Even with the crown, F1 now looks a distant dream for them both. Others to watch out for? Charles Pic was without doubt the unexpected stand out of the GP2 Asia season, and it will be interesting to see how the Renault F1 re-branded Dams team fares without its longtime leader Eric Boullier. On the whole, it looks like it could be a classic season. Bianchi enters the fray as the drivers' favourite, but the man under the most pressure to perform. How he handles that pressure, and how his rivals go about mounting a challenge to his assumed championship run, will form the making or breaking of GP2's sixth season of competition. GP2 PREVIEW >> 27