With only three rounds of the GP2 series remaining the season is heading into its final stretch, and the battle for the title is still in the balance.
With two races at each round, a feature race with a mandatory pit stop, and a slightly shorter sprint race, there are 48 points available across the weekends racing.
Jolyon Palmer currently leads the standings with a 32 point gap to second placed Felipe Nasr, but with six races still remaining, Stoffel Vandoorne and Johhny Cecotto Jr also have an outside chance of the title, as they sit third and fourth in the standings respectively.
Dams driver Palmer has been impressively consistent, scoring points in every race so far. He has been even more consistent in qualifying, only starting lower than second on one occasion. This has helped him to two wins so far, a sprint race win in round 1, Bahrain, and the feature race victory at Monaco. Add to this three pole positions, and nine podiums, and you can see how he has racked up a healthy points score so far. Aggressive in traffic, and able to pull away when out front, he has driven extremely well so far as he aims for the title in his fourth year in the series.
Felipe Nasr is putting up an extremely strong title fight. In his second season with Carlin, and his third in GP2, Nasr has notched up four victories, two more than any other driver. Add to this eight podium finishes, an excellent ability to manage tyre wear, sublime race craft, and the ability to pull top five positions out of seemingly any grid slot, and you may wonder how he is 32 points adrift of Palmer. This is mainly due to a couple of costly back to back DNF’s, which have been exaggerated by the consistent points scoring of Palmer. After a great podium finish in the Monaco feature race, after finding himself mired near the back, the sprint race ended in the run off area down from Casino Square with a first lap puncture.
This was followed by a dominant feature race victory in Austria, but another non-finish in the sprint race. Combine this with a slow start in round 1 in Bahrain, where Palmer scored 38 points to Nasr’s 12, and the picture becomes clearer. Felipe has been at the front for longer than any other driver, leading 128 laps of the season so far. He’s displayed all the attributes needed to perform at the very top level, but needs a little bit of luck. An improvement in qualifying would help as well, although as mentioned previously he has pulled some great results out the bag coming from further back, 11th to fourth in the last round at Spa for example. Any one in any doubt of his ability needs only to watch the feature race from Hockenheim, possibly one of the greatest GP2 races of all time. He worked his way through to fifth after switching to the option tyre later in the race and had to pass numerous cars, his pass on the inside of Coletti as they enter the stadium complex a particular stand out.
If Palmer keeps up his consistency he will be hard to beat, and with Nasr on top form after another win at Spa it promises to be a great battle.
Stoffel Vandoorne may way into the battle as well. He has also stood out and won convincingly both times he’s taken to the top step of the podium. He has also displayed a great ability to perform in the wet. He has led the second most laps after Nasr, with 102, but like Nasr at Carlin, Art GP haven’t always put him on the most favourable strategy. He seems to know how much life he can take out of both the option and prime tyre on stints, and this has made him a danger late in races. He will want to perform strongly in the last three rounds, not only in a push for the title, but also for a possible seat at McLaren next season, as one of their development drivers he is under consideration.
Fourth in the standings and an outside bet is Johnny Cecotto Jr. Much improved from his last couple of seasons where he gained a reputation as a little careless and reckless in battle, he has strung together a decent season, remaining fairly consistent, and has clearly learnt better race craft. He has managed 2 victories, and consistent results of late have seen him record a pole position, and good points halls, he continued this form at Spa.
Other notable mentions go to Mitch Evans, 100 points back in fifth, but has recorded two impressive feature race wins, including a stand out drive at Silverstone. Raffaele Marciello is a little unlucky not to be higher up, a gutting hydraulic failure while leading at Silverstone the most poignant of his non-scoring races. His form in the second half of the season has been good and don’t be surprised to see him take a win in the final three rounds.
Coletti has shown flashes of brilliances, but it’s to fleeting for him to sustain a title challenge, as shown last season as well. His season is summed up by a sprint race win at Hockenheim as his high point, and being collected at Anthony Noghtes in Monaco when he looked to be charging to victory.
As the GP2 circus heads to Monza for the next round, non-scoring races could now be disastrous for any of the title protagonists. It promises to be a thrilling end to the season.