The GP3 Series has had several commits for 2011 since my last update. Here’s the latest…
António Félix da Costa – Status Grand Prix: Status GP added Félix da Costa to its lineup in mid February. The talented Portuguese driver will join Alexander Sims in 2011, adding incredible depth to the team’s roster. Félix da Costa had a solid career in karting before making a successful transition to cars. In 2009, he won the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC Championship (9 wins, 11 podiums). Last season, competing in the F3 Euro Series, he secured three wins and four podiums. He also completed a successful Formula One test with Force India. The 19-year-old sampled GP3 as well, earning a best finish of sixth in four starts, while driving for Carlin. During the off season, he topped the GP3 time charts at both the Jerez and Estoril tests — illustrating his skill behind the wheel. Watch for great things from Status GP this season with the combination of Félix da Costa and Alexander Sims.
Doru Sechelariu – Tech 1: Romanian driver Sechelariu will join Aaro Vainio this season at Tech 1. The 18-year-old pilot spent the 2010 season in the GP3 Series with Tech 1 and will look to improve on his rookie season in 2011. He scored three top-10 finishes last season, including back-to-back ninth-place finishes at Istanbul. He struggled with consistency last year, but showed promise. Teaming with a familiar group and Vainio will definitely help Sechelariu in 2011. Watch for a much improved season. By all reports, Sechelariu has been working extremely hard this winter – focusing on his overall fitness. His improved fitness level should help consistency behind-the-wheel.
Mitch Evans – MW Arden: Mitchell Evans will be one of the youngest drivers in the field this season at just 16-years old. But his age shouldn’t be a factor. The young New Zealand driver has already proved himself plenty capable of steering a formula car around a curvy circuit. In 2009, he finished runner-up in the Australian Formula Ford Championship with six wins and 15 podiums. Last year, he made the jump to cars with downforce winning the Toyota Racing Series three wins, eight pole positions and 10 podiums. Additionally, he finished second in the Australian F3 Gold Championship with eight wins and 16 podiums. He tested with MW Arden at Estoril during the 2010 post-season tests. I’m excited to watch Evans this year, he is an excellent find for Julian Rouse, Arden’s team manager.
Lewis Williamson – MW Arden: Rouse picked up another solid recruit in 21-year-old British driver Lewis Williamson. The talented driver was awarded the BRDC Young Driver of the Year award in December and proved exceptionally quick in a GP3 car during the GP3 postseason test at Estoril. In 2010, he finished runner-up in the Formula Renault UK Championship, logging five wins five pole positions and nine podiums. In 20 starts, he finished inside the top-ten 18 times.
Maxim Zimin – Jenzer Motorsport: Russian driver Maxim Zimin will join the GP3 Series in 2011 with a familiar support staff around him. The 16-year-old pilot, who boasts a fairly diverse karting background, will rejoin Jenzer Motosport after spending the past two seasons with the team in both the Italian Formula Abarth series and the Swiss Formula Renault 2.0 series. In 2009, he ran two races in both the FR 2.0 Italian series and the Eurocup. This will likely be a challenging jump for the young driver but remaining with Jenzer will certainly increase his chance for success. This will likely be a two-year program for Zimin.
Rio Haryanto – Manor Racing: Indonesian driver Haryanto will rejoin Manor Racing in 2011 for his sophomore season in the GP3 Series. Haryanto, who showed strong flashes of speed and skill last season, will look to build some consistency this season. He earned a pole position and a win at Istanbul last year, while also grabbing two more podiums with a second at Silverstone and a third at Monza en route to fifth in the drivers’ standings. If the 18-year-old driver is able to up his consistency in 2011, he will likely be near the top of the final standings once again.
Matias Lane – Manor Racing: Lane will join the Manor Racing team this season after a fairly mediocre year in the F3 Euro Series in 2010. The 20-year-old Finnish driver secured 11 top-10 finishes last season with a best result of sixth at Brands Hatch in September. Lane was always impressive in the karting ranks, but has really moved up the car ranks quickly. If he’s able to make this a two year stop, he should produce some really solid results. Teaming up with Manor Racing and having both Haryanto and Quaife-Hobbs as mentors will definitely help. Watch for good things from Lane as he adapts to the nuances of the GP3 Dallara.
Adrian Quaife-Hobbs – Manor Racing: Quaife-Hobbs is another driver who proved his car control and speed, but struggled with consistency. It’s nice to see him returning for a sophomore campaign in the GP3 Series, especially with a familiar team in Manor Racing. The 20-year-old British driver opened the 2010 season with four-straight F3 Euro Series top-10 finishes, but struggled in the GP3 ranks. By season’s end, he logged four top-10 results, including a third at Spa-Francorchamps. I’m not really sure what to expect from him this season, but he will be fun to watch and is capable of surprising onlookers.
Tom Dillmann – Carlin: Frenchman Tom Dillmann has signed with Carlin for the 2011 season and will team with American Conor Daly for the upcoming season. Dillmann won the 2010 German F3 Championship with six wins and nine podiums. The 21-year-old driver has flown under the radar of some due to funding woes and that could be the case again this year. But, he’s a talented driver and it’s nice to see him getting a shot in GP3. He struggled in his F3 Euro Series starts with the exception of a third and fifth at the Nürburgring in 2008. I expect we’ll see him getting quicker throughout the 2011 season.
Zoel Amberg – Atech CRS – Swiss driver Zoel Amberg has signed on for a two-year deal with Atech CRS. Amberg has been relatively quick in cars, but he’s moved up fast and hasn’t exactly faced top-of-the-line competition. This will undoubtedly be a learning year for the 18-year-old driver, but I’m expecting him to improve as the season wears on. Amberg didn’t having a very good showing during his test at Paul Ricard, but this is an insanely big jump and it’s going to take time. He will join Nick Yelloly and Marlon Stockinger at Atech CRS this season.
Vittorio Ghirelli – Jenzer Motorsport: Vittorio Ghirelli completed the Jenzer Motorsport lineup over the weekend by committing to the 2011 GP3 Series. Italian racer Ghirelli is returning to the GP3 Series for his sophomore campaign after running with Atech CRS in 2010. Last year was a huge jump (probably one he shouldn’t have made so soon), but it’s nice to see him return for another year of development. His best finish last season was 15th (both Hockenheim and the Hungaroring). He’s young and if he makes GP3 a multi-year stop, his results will improve. Watch for race-by-race improvement in 2011.