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GP2 set to breed Formula One champions 23 Apr 2005

(L to R): Mathias Lauda (AUT) Coloni, Niki Lauda (AUT), Nelson Angelo Piquet (BRA) Hi-Tech Piquet Sports, Keke Rosberg (FIN) and Nico Rosberg (GER) ART. GP2, Rd 1, Imola, Italy, 22 April 2005. World © Capilitan/Sutton

Remember 25 years ago - Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet and Keke Rosberg were fighting it out among themselves to determine who was the fastest of the fast. Jump forward to Imola 2005 and there you have them again: Lauda, Piquet, Rosberg - the sons - fighting for glory in a brand new series that is likely to become the breeding ground for future Formula One drivers - GP2.

A dozen teams will compete for the championship, with most rounds taking place at Grands Prix, right before the eyes of the Formula One team bosses. So what can the new series deliver that its predecessor Formula 3000 could not?

“GP2 is much closer to Formula One technically,” says Bernie Ecclestone. “The car is not miles away from an F1 car as it was the case with Formula 3000. The likelihood that a driver who is promoted from GP2 to F1 is an instant success is much bigger. I think that some of the F1 teams will get big eyes when they see what GP2 can deliver.”

Renault engines are powering the GP2 cars and the company’s CEO Patrick Faure is similarly convinced of the series’ potential: “GP2 was the missing link for Renault in the single seater series. It will further enhance Renault’s reputation as being the number one in these racing categories. The systematic grooming of drivers and sponsors for Formula One will be a huge asset of GP2. We are very optimistic that in connection with the F1 weekend it will over deliver in being a platform and nursery for talents in all aspects.”

One man who moved his team from F3000 to GP2 is Christian Horner, sporting director of Red Bull Racing and manager of the Arden team which took victory in Saturday afternoon’s inaugural race courtesy of Finnish driver Heikki Kovalainen.

“It was the perfect thing to do,” says Horner. “Now there will be cars running that are almost as demanding as Formula One cars and drivers have the chance to show their potential. It is the platform for young shots to prove what they can deliver. And it is good for the sponsors because they will have the exploitation of the media covering F1, and for the spectators as they will get additional racing action on long F1 weekends. And what I expect for my team – that they are as successful as in F3000 – and it looks good as we had the pole and the first place on the podium at this very first race”

And what do the former champions feel about their famous sons battling it out in the new series? “I think for them it is no big deal, as the whole field of drivers is very strong,” says Keke Rosberg. “Of course it is nice to see the three kids driving in the same series.”

“The GP2 series is good and might be a preparation for F1, but the kids need to focus on the moment and not think already too far into the future,” adds Niki Lauda. “They have to concentrate to get good results, and see any other driver as their competitor; not only the kids of Rosberg and Piquet.”

“I am very pleased with the development of establishing this series,” comments Nelson Piquet. “It will be a hard fight on the track but I can assure you that my son will beat the two others.”

And the opinion of the sons themselves? Matthias Lauda sums it up: “The field of drivers is very competitive. You have some of the best drivers out of different racing series, ie Formula 3000 or F3. So it will be very hard for all of us to show what we are able to. As in the F1 you have to be very careful not to make any mistakes, otherwise you give the others an advantage.”