GP2's brave new future

The motor racing ladder below Formula 1 is more saturated now than ever before - with a host of categories bidding to become the best stepping-stone to the sport's premier single-seater category.'s Jonathan Noble caught up with the boss of the new GP2 series to find out how it plans to claim that mantle

GP2's brave new future

Ever since it was announced that International Formula 3000 was to be replaced by GP2, there has been a whirlwind of rumours and counter-rumours about whether the new series could live up to its hype. With strong opposition from Formula Superfund and World Series by Renault, both revamping and ramping up their series in the hope of attracting new teams and more interest, nothing could be taken for granted.

But doubts about the viability of GP2 were firmly cast aside this week when series organisers revealed the 12 teams that will compete in the category over the next three years - as well as a radical two-race format with reversed grids. Allied to an end-of-season finale in Bahrain, it is hoped that everything is in place to make GP2 a success.

More than that, however, series organiser Bruno Michel is absolutely confident that GP2 can do what F3000 struggled to do and become a popular championship in its own right.

Honestly it is the best grid I could get. It has got all the teams I wanted to have and I think it is really fantastic. I am really happy that the teams have come to the project with a lot of enthusiasm. It is going to make a very strong and very interesting championship.

I don't think it was so complicated. I think the problem is that there has been a lot of people talking, a lot of rumours and people trying to attract everybody to other series. But at the end of the day, once they saw the GP2 car, once they saw the partners we had in the series, with Renault and Bridgestone, then it was quite clear that it was the series to be in. Don't forget that we are going to be with Formula 1, and have a very strong place within the F1 weekend, so at the end of the day it is something totally logical. But it is true it took them a little bit of time for them to understand what the project was going to be.

The car is doing okay. We are continuing testing. We were in Valencia last week and we are at Paul Ricard later this week. We have done about 7500km with the car so far. We have encountered a few technical problems, which are absolutely normal for a car at the beginning, but we are going in the right direction. The performance of the car is quite amazing. As to the format and the circuits - Bernie Ecclestone has been fully supportive of the series and that is why we have a weekend format that is going to be so spectacular and so strong. And for the calendar also, Bernie has been very supportive which is why we are going to be with F1 - except for our last weekend where we will go alone in Bahrain.

Absolutely. There was a plan for doing something very different. At the beginning we thought of something even more radical which was not to have any qualifying for the first race and have the grid decided by the result of the second race from the event before. I heard quite a lot of comments from the teams about this and we had a big debate on that. Since we are a democracy, I had the teams voting for it and the vast majority decided to go for traditional qualifying. But on the other hand, for the second race, with the reverse grid - everybody is very happy about it. It will make some interesting races and there will be more drivers winning races than there would have been otherwise.

I think there will be more overtaking, for two reasons. Firstly, the car has got a little bit of downforce which means you should not have such a loss of downforce when you follow a car, as in Formula 3000 or F1. The second thing is that the GP2 is a car that is not going to be easy to drive, so it will be quite sensitive to drivers' mistakes which will make the races more interesting and hopefully make overtaking easier. So it is something that we have been working on and I am quite confident that it will be the case. Both drivers who have been developing the car (Franck Montagny and Allan McNish) said the car was fantastic - although not very forgiving...

He crashed at the last corner onto the main straight on a track that was half dry and half wet - in conditions when a lot of drivers can crash.

It is not something that we planned originally, but when we started to talk about GP2, the circuit of Bahrain started showing a lot of interest in having a race. They absolutely wanted to come and have a race with F1, but it was too early in the season for us. So after that we said, 'okay we will do it at the end of the season and do the prize-giving there as well'. They were very, very happy about the idea and that is how we decided to go there.

I hope that will be the case. We will put together a package of communication and relationship with the fans which we are going to try and make as close as possible. The fans will meet the drivers, they will be in contact with the fans, and we will try to make it happen as much as possible. We will also communicate with our fans through our web site and our television coverage should make it more spectacular and popular than F3000 was. For all these reasons I absolutely think that we will be much closer to the fans and it will become a much more popular series.

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