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GP Week : Issue 80
ART Grand Prix 1. Jules Bianchi 2. Sam Bird Five seasons down, and with three drivers champions and three team championships to their name it's fair to say there hasn't been another team to hold a candle to the consistency of ART in GP2 history. But this year, above perhaps all others, there is a feeling that the championship really is a must. The arrival of Jules Bianchi has ramped up the pressure on ART as he isn't just the reigning F3 Euro Series champ, but the favoured protégé of team boss Nicolas Todt. Bianchi is quick, no doubt, but his Asia performances were often wild and he will need to rise above his eagerness to impress. Sam Bird meanwhile is an odd one: quick in qualifying, but falls apart all too often in race trim. Both need to add consistency to speed. Barwa Addax Team 3. Giedo van der Garde 4. Sergio Perez The team formerly known as Campos had a rocking and rocky 2009 as first Romain Grosjean and then Vitaly Petrov took charge of the squad and pulled it into a well-fought championship battle against ART. Repeating that feat in 2010 and going one better to grab the crown is undoubtedly the order of the day, as is evidenced by the squad's strong line-up of two experienced drivers. The team leader role however may fall to the younger Perez, who has been desperately impressive in his GP2 career to date and who gelled so well with Addax in his Asia campaigns. Van der Garde meanwhile made heavy work of his 2009 season with iSport in a clearly quick car. He took wins, but not as many as he should have done. He'll need to up his game big time if he wants to fight for the title. Super Nova Racing 5. Josef Kral 6. Marcus Ericsson A massively risky move for Super Nova, who in 2010 take on two rookies after the decision to run two experienced drivers in 2009 gave the squad its highest placing since the very first GP2 season in 2005. Kral and Ericsson both had their moments in Asia, but rather than giving them time to gel, the team issued a statement mid-season to state it was replacing Ericsson with Jake Rosenzweig to try and improve its results. Although it later clarified that Ericsson was only ever intended to run in Abu Dhabi, Super Nova would have done better to have kept both rookies in the car for the full Asia season. Both drivers have potential, but top three in the teams championship may be an unrealistic expectation for drivers in their first year. Fat Burner Racing Engineering 7. Dani Clos 8. Christian Vietoris Racing Engineering struggled with tyre wear in 2009, which was odd given that the team's lead driver, Lucas di Grassi, was not only one of the smoothest and most consistent drivers ever to race in GP2, but because he had also carried out a large majority of the GP2/08's development work. That di Grassi couldn't fight for the title will leave Racing Engineering wondering what chances it has in 2010, but it has brought Dani Clos back for a second season and that parity (one of only four drivers to stay put from 2009) could pay dividends. Vietoris looked quick in GP2 Asia, winning early on, but he also looked impulsive and took himself out of too many races in his eagerness to lap backmarkers. iSport International 9. Oliver Turvey 10. Davide Valsecchi As GP2 reaches the end of its second generation, could we be about to see a repeat of the final season of the first three- year generation when iSport made good on its solid first two seasons to dominate and take the double crown? Its GP2 Asia form marks it out as the definite favourite, but when one considers how competitive Dams looked in the 2009 Asia series only to be left behind in the main series, Asia should not be taken as the firmest indication of form. Valsecchi and Turvey however do form a strong partnership and iSport has reported one of the best working relationships since they ran Glock to the title. Valsecchi is now one of the most experienced drivers in the field, and the championship is his sole aim. Turvey meanwhile is a quick learner and will push his team-mate all season. Confidence is high within the team that this is iSport's year. Renault F1 Junior Team 11. Jerome d'Ambrosio 12. Ho Pin Tung Dams gets a new name and a new lease of life after what turned out to be a hugely disappointing season in 2009. After dominating the preceding Asia series, neither Kobayashi nor d'Ambrosio could mount a championship challenge last year and the team slipped off the radar. The Belgian remains with the team this season, as Dams is renamed the "Renault F1 Junior Team" and runs in the famous yellow and black of the F1 team. D'Ambrosio, like team- mate Tung, is part of the Gravity driver line-up, and are Renault F1 reserve drivers. Ironically though, while all this looks very positive, Renault has taken one of Dams' strongest assets in Eric Boullier. Dams' former team manager now fills that role at Renault and as F1 witnesses his handiwork in RF1's competitive turnaround, one wonders the negative effects his departure might have on the GP2 team. Rapax Team 14. Luiz Razia 15. Pastor Maldonado The team formerly known as PiquetGP aims to get its GP2 aspirations back on track by signing up one of the out and out fastest drivers on the GP2 open market. Pastor Maldonado may have his detractors and he may still cut a controversial figure for his, shall we say, questionable racecraft, but on his day there are few out there who can drive as fast, particularly in Monaco. Razia scored a win last year and has been snapped up by Virgin F1 as their third driver. Both drivers are experienced, but there's a nagging doubt that either has the consistency to mount a title run. Arden International 16. Charles Pic 17. TBA After yet another season in which early promise ultimately came to naught, Arden International's ultimate boss Christian Horner bit the bullet at the end of 2009 and parted company with his long time technical chief Mick Cook. The results were WHO'S WHO IN GP2 28