Above: The GP2 Series was establish in 2005|SnapLap
After the FIA International Formula 3000 Championship was discontinued after the 2004 season, Formula One needed a new feeder series and got one in the form of the GP2 Series.
Renamed as the FIA Formula Two Championship for 2017, GP2 debuted in 2005 and supported numerous Formula One races, providing exciting races as teams looked for the stars of the future.
However, in recent years, some drivers have struggled to breakthrough with the last champion to move up to Formula One the following year was Romain Grosjean in 2012.
Because of this, I’ll be taking a look at the champions GP2 has produced and briefly look into how successful they were.
2005 – Nico Rosberg
Nico Rosberg celebrates winning the GP2 title at Bahrain|motorsport.com
Nico Rosberg’s consistency helped the German claim the inaugural GP2 Drivers’ Championship for ART Grand Prix, with five wins and a further seven podiums across the season.
The following year, Rosberg was promoted to Formula One and partnered Mark Webber at Williams, famously setting the lap of the race on his debut at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Over time, Rosberg began to feature more regularly in the points and achieved two podiums in 2008 before moving on to Mercedes for 2010.
Alongside former World Champion Michael Schumacher, Rosberg established himself as the team leader and earning his first Formula One Victory at the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix.
When Schumacher retired, Lewis Hamilton was brought as Mercedes went in search their first championship since returning as a team.
Over the course of their four year partnership, the two former friends developed a fierce rivalry as they dominated at the front of the field during the Hybrid Era.
In this time, Rosberg recorded a further 22 wins in a closely fought contest and eventually won the World Championship in 2016.
He promptly retired after, having emulated his father Keke, who himself won the World Championship for Williams in 1982.
2006 – Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton on his way to victory at Monaco feature race in the 2006 GP2 Series|automobilsport.com
For 2006, ART Grand Prix drafted in Lewis Hamilton, who repaid them by winning five times and stepping onto the podium a further nine time his way to the crown.
The McLaren junior was promoted to Formula One to partner double World Champion Fernando Alonso and, to the surprise of many, was fairly competitive all year before both of them narrowly missed on the championship to Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen at Interlagos by a solitary point.
The following year, Hamilton made up the near miss and won his first Drivers’ title by one single point, having passed Toyota’s Timo Glock on the final lap at the same track.
He remained with McLaren until the end of the 2012 season, with a second world championship still eluding him and joined Nico Rosberg at Mercedes.
The two were closely matched, and saw Hamilton secure his second and third Drivers’ Championships in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
Despite losing out to Rosberg in 2016, Hamilton is the most successful graduate of the GP2 Series, with 57 Grand Prix wins and 110 Podiums at the time of press.
For 2017, he is currently second in the Formula One World Championship behind Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, with new team-mate Valtteri Bottas in third.
2007 – Timo Glock
Timo Glock celebrates his title win in Valencia|motorsport.com
The 2007 GP2 Series saw Timo Glock win the title, having also won five races and five podiums for iSport International.
Glock had prior Formula One experience before joining GP2, having made an appearance for Jordan at the 2004 Canadian Grand Prix – where he finished seventh – and finishing eighth in the 2005 Champ Car World Series.
Glock was given another shot at Formula One with Toyota in 2008 alongside veteran Jarno Trulli, achieved three podiums during his two year stay before the Japanese manufacturer pulled out of the sport.
This left Glock to seek refugee with new newcomers Virgin, spending three years there without success.
For 2013, the German moved to BMW in the highly competitive DTM series, with three race wins and an additional four podiums at the time of press.
2008 – Giorgio Pantano
Giorgio Pantano during the Spanish round of the 2008 GP2 Series at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona|Speedsport Magazine
Like Glock before him, Giorgio Pantano also had prior Formula One experience with Jordan in 2004.
Unfortunately for the Italian, he failed to record a points finish from his 15 Grand Prix starts, with a two best finishes of 13th.
Joining 2005, it Pantano until his fourth attempt to win the title, with four wins and three more podiums for Racing Engineering but was unable to return to the Formula One grid.
Consequently, Pantano had to go elsewhere to continue racing and competed in the 2009 Superleague Formula and the 2010 Auto GP Series with mixed results, before contesting in the Blancpain GT Series as recently as 2014.
2009 – Nico Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg claimed the GP2 title in his debut season|SnapLap
Before his successful debut season in GP2, Nico Hulkenberg contested in the 2006/07 A1 Grand Prix for Team Germany, winning nine times and securing a further five podiums on his way to the title.
He carried this momentum into the Formula Three Euro Series, winning 11 times over the course of the 2007 and 2008 campaigns, claiming the Drivers’ Championship for ART Grand Prix in the latter.
The team then moved him into their GP2, and Hulkenberg continued to show promise, with five wins and five podiums on his way yet another championship.
This caught the eye of a struggling Williamd, who give him his Formula One debut alongside the experienced Rubens Barrichello and he repaid them by qualifying on Pole for the 2010 Brazilian Grand Prix on a drying track.
However, he was dropped at the end of the season and spent 2011 as a test driver for Force India, before racing for them the following year.
A brief stint at Sauber saw Hulkenberg outperform the car regularly and cause the German to be constantly be linked with a move to Ferrari, but to no avail.
To date, Hulkenberg has yet to achieve a podium in Formula One in spite of his consistency, although he did go on to win the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans for Porscge alongside Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber.
2010 – Pastor Maldonado
Pastor Maldonado set a then-record of six wins in the 2010 GP2 Series|GPUpdate.net
Before his title winning campaign for Rapax in 2010, Pastor Maldonado had shown flashes of pace which as mixed together with a frustrating level of inconsistency and a tendency to crash on occasion
However, the Venezuelan managed six victories and another two podiums to claim the championship and earn a seat at Williams for the 2011 Formula One Season.
Aside from his unexpected race win at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix, Maldonado struggled to make an impression and was criticised for his off-track excursions, leading to the term ‘Crashtor’.
He then spend two years with Lotus, backed by the millions of the state-backed PDVSA oil company with the occasional top ten finish.
At the time of press, Maldonado isn’t racing although he explore the possibility of joining IndyCar and claimed to have turned down a seat for this year as it wasn’t competitive.
2011 – Romain Grosjean
Romain Grosjean cherishes a race win at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium|motorsport.com
Following a handful of race wins in GP2 – including winning the 2008 GP2 Asia Series Championship – Romain Grosjean was promoted to Renault’s Formula One team in 2009 to replace Nelson Piquet Jr.
However, the Frenchman failed to score any points and rejoined the series for 2010, and also competed in that year’s Auto GP Series and won the Drivers title despite missing the first four races.
2011 was a dominate year for Grosjean, winning 11 races in the GP2 Championship and the Asia Series on his year to both titles.
The Frenchman was rewarded with a Formula One a drive at Lotus alongside the returning Kimi Räikkönen and regularly featured in the points, including three podium finishes.
However, this form was overshadowed by his involvement in the first lap crash at the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix and resulted Grosjean recieving a one race ban.
For 2013, Grosjean added six more podiums to his name but a debut win was out of reach and his consistency began to decline as Lotus’ form dropped and the team suffered financial difficulties.
This led Grosjean to sign up to Haas for 2016 in the hope that would help aid a dream move to the Ferrari.
He finished sixth on the teams debut in Australia before going one better at the following race in Bahrain and is currently looking to up the field in search of that elusive first win.
2012 – Davide Valsecchi
Davide Valsecchi on the podium after taking victory in Bahrain|Andy’s GP Blog
Before his title winning campaign in 2012, Davide Valsecchi’s record in the junior categories didn’t really stand out in the early stages of his career.
It was until the 2009/10 GP2 Asia Series that the Italian started to make a breakthrough, winning three races and the championship with iSport International.
A Formula One test with Hispana Racing followed at the end of 2010, producing an impressive display and earning a testing role for Team Lotus in 2011.
Valsecchi eventually won the GP2 championship in 2012 for DAMS, claiming three victories and an additional six podium finishes.
Valsecchi was given a Testing role with Lotus Renault GP for the 2012 season, and was snubbed in favour of Heikki Kovalainen after Kimi Räikkönen was forced to miss the final two races of the year with a back injury.
As a result, he never got his break in the sport and moved to the GT Open series with Lamborghini more recently has taken up interview duties for Formula One.
2013 – Fabio Leimer
Fabio Leimer after a hard fought championship victory in 2013|Alcherton
Fabio Leimer was competitve in GP2 from the get go, winning his first sprint race of the 2010 season at Barcelona.
Over time, the Swiss driver slowly developed consistency and went on to win the championship 2013, taking three wins alongside four third place finishes.
However, without a competitive seat avaliable on the Formula One grid, Leimer spent 2014 in the FIA World Endurance Championship with Rebellion Racing.
The following year, he became the reserve driver for Manor Marussia following an aborted Super Formula campaign and also made a brief appearance for Virgin Racing in the FIA Formula E Championship.
2014 – Jolyon Palmer
Joylon Palmer during the Britsh round of the 2014 GP2 Season at Silverstone|Jake Archibald
The son of former Formula One driver Jonathan Palmer, Jolyon started competing in motorsport from an early age in the hopes of emulating his father.
In 2012, Jolyon was the runner-up in the FIA Formula Two Championship – not to be confused with the existing championship – before his GP2 title win in 2014 with DAMS, picking up four wins and a further seven podiums.
2015 was spent as a test driver for Lotus before his was promoted to race for the renamed Renault team the following year alongside Kevin Magnussen.
To date, Jolyon has only achieved one points finish in Formula One, with a tenth place at the 2016 Malaysia Grand Prix.
2015 – Stoffel Vandoorne
Stoffel Vandoorne takes the chequered flag on his way to winning the GP2 title|The Chequered Flag
Stoffel Vandoorne’s racing career initally started slowly as a low budget limited the number of races he could enter.
However, the Belgian’s talent shone through and after winning the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 in 2012 , he joined the McLaren Driver Academy.
His instantly challeneged in GP2, finishing second in debut campagin in 2014 before taking the title following year for ART Grand Prix, with 11 wins across the two seasons.
For 2016, he made McLaren’s reserve driver and made a one off appearance at Bahrain after Fernando Alonso wasn’t cleared to race following a heavy crash in Australia.
Despite qualifying behind team-mate Jenson Button, Vandoorne picked up the team’s first points finish of the year with tenth place.
He spent the rest of the year in Super Formula and recorded two race wins on his way to fourth in the drivers’ standings before rejoining McLaren for 2017, adding another tenth place finish in Hungary.
McLaren have also announced that Vandoorne will remain in the team for 2018.
2016 – Pierre Gasly
Pierre Gasly exits the pit lane at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia|FTA Sport
Pierre Gasly joined single-seater comeptition in 2011 and claimed his first championship in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series in 2013.
The following year, Gasly was second in the Formula Renault 3.5 series and competed in three rounds of the GP2 Series for Caterham Racing.
After joining GP2 full time, the Red Bull junior became a regular at the front of the field and won 2016 Championship for Prema Racing, with four wins and five further podiums.
This year, Gasly is competiting in the Super Formula, winning the most recent round in Motegi to move into third in the drivers’ championship and has been linked with a move up to Formula One with Toro Rosso for the 2018 season.