With Fabio Leimer having been crowned the 2013 GP2 champion following his fourth place finish in the Abu Dhabi feature race. The 24 year old Swiss driver has raced in the series for the last four years and prior to this season had only won twice in his first 62 race starts.
Leimer has looked impressive throughout the season but when asked about the overall health of GP2 McLaren team principal, Martin Whitmarsh, admitted that the lack of depth in the series was a cause for concern.
With McLaren using the World Series by Renault as their proving ground for nurturing talent the Englishman was asked for his thoughts on the overall standing of GP2 at present:
“I think that there’s nothing wrong in GP2 but I feel that the quality of the field recently in World Series has been far beyond that in GP2,” said Whitmarsh. “With all respect to the guy that won today [Fabio Leimer], I’m sure he’s done a good job but he’s been here for four years and a few Asian series to get here. GP2 has got considerable merit in that you’re on the right circuit and the right tyres so it has some merits.”
With this season’s GP2 crown having been fought out amongst established names in the series, the top rookie was Alexander Rossi, the race winner on Saturday, but with the American currently ninth in the standings it is clear that there is an issue in the series with five of the drivers ahead of him in the championship in their third year of the series.
When you compare this to World Series, where the championship contenders were all in their first two seasons in the series, there have been numerous drivers touted to move to Formula 1 next season and it is clear that the depth of talent in the series is much deeper than GP2. Whitmarsh however still clearly believes in the structure of GP2 and the benefits of learning Formula 1 circuits and he alluded to the fact that McLaren will look to place on their young drivers into GP2 next season:
“I think that it has become difficult for a rookie to come in and win it. I do think that a good quality rookie can come in and win it and that is what am hoping is going to happen next year.”
When asked specifically if that meant a McLaren supported young driver could make the move Whitmarsh simply smiles and said, “Maybe.”
The highest profile McLaren young drivers are World Series champion, Kevin Magnussen, and runner-up Stoffel Vandoorme. Magnusson has been linked to Formula 1 seats with Marussia and Force India in recent months but with Max Chilton likely to be retained at Marussia and Force India’s lineup for 2014 still uncertain his future is unknown. Vandoorme thoroughly impressed throughout his rookie campaign by winning four races and claiming ten rostrum finishes.