Britain’s Adrian Quaife-Hobbs, the reigning AUTO GP Champion, will join Dutchman Daniël De Jong for MP Motorsport’s debut season in FIA Formula One World Championship support category GP2 Series it is announced this evening, Wednesday, 20th February.
In addition to the exciting news regarding the 21-year-old racer’s arrival at the Westmaas-based squad, the team is equally delighted to confirm Dutch youngster Meindert van Buuren will graduate from its Formula Renault 2.0 ranks into AUTO GP for 2013. The 18-year-old teams up with Riccardo Agostini, the reigning Formula 3 Italia Champion.
Furthermore, the squad’s three car line-up for Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 is also complete with British ace Oliver Rowland, the 2011 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award Winner, moving to Manor MP Motorsport alongside rising Brazilian star Felipe Fraga, who is backed by Red Bull, and Javier Carlos Merlo from Argentina – the 2012 Formula Renault 2.0 Argentina Champion.
“Signing Adrian to partner Daniël in GP2 really is a great coup for us, he’s held in very high regard by a lot of people and his performances in AUTO GP last year proved what a really talented racer he is”, said team manager Sander Dorsman, “It’s also great to see Meindert remaining part of the team for his move up the ladder into AUTO GP and we’re sure he and Riccardo will be a fantastic pairing, with a lot of ability.”
Tony Shaw, who heads-up the FR 2.0 squad, added: “We’re starting the year with a lot of confidence for Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 with Oliver on-board. His record speaks for itself and with two great young talents like Felipe and Javier in the team too, we’re sure we can have our strongest year yet in the championship and fight for the title. We’re really looking forward to this season.”
Strength in depth for 2013
Quaife-Hobbs was the undoubted star of AUTO GP in 2012 and dominated the series on his way to the title, taking five victories and achieving several records. In addition to having tested already in GP2, the Briton has also experienced Formula One machinery on more than one occasion with the Marussia F1 Team – off the back of competing in GP3 Series in 2010 and 2011.
The first signed driver for MP Motorsport’s maiden foray into GP2, De Jong, has been part of the squad for several seasons – first in Formula Renault 2.0 and for the past couple of years in AUTO GP where he was a multiple podium finisher and consistent front-runner. He also made selected outings in GP2 with a rival team last year and raced in Formula Renault 3.5 in 2011.
New team-mates for 2013 in AUTO GP, Agostini and van Buuren, each bring a lot of promise to the two-car attack. Italian racer Agostini won no less than two titles in 2012, the Italian F3 Italia and Italian F3 European crowns, and was rewarded for his efforts with a Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team test at the wheel of a Ferrari F60 – the car raced in 2009 by Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen.
Van Buuren, meanwhile, graduated to cars from karting in 2011 in Formula Renault 2.0 NEC and last year moved to Manor MP Motorsport to combine Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and NEC campaigns, achieving his maiden podium in the latter. In addition to running Agostini and van Buuren, the team is also going to field a third car at selected AUTO GP events for GP2 racer De Jong.
Of the team’s 2013 line-up in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, Rowland is by far the most experienced and most successful to date having won numerous titles in karting which led to him being made part of the prestigious McLaren F1 Team Driver Development Programme during his formative years.
Now a product of the Racing Steps Foundation, Rowland was Formula Renault UK Vice-Champion in his first full season of car racing in 2011, he won the Graduate Cup class and also claimed that year’s UK Winter Series crown before being named the 23rd McLaren Autosport BRDC Award Winner. Last year the youngster stepped-up into Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and finished third overall.
Brazilian 17-year-old Fraga, a massively successful kart racer in South America with numerous championship victories to his credit, will embark on his first full season in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 this year as part of the Red Bull programme. He raced in Formula Renault 2.0 Alps in 2012, finishing ninth overall, and he also made a strong impression during selected outings in Eurocup.
Newcomer to European racing Merlo enjoyed great success on the South American karting scene before graduating into cars in 2010. Becoming a consistently strong front-runner in Formula Renault 2.0 Argentina the following year, achieving several podiums, Merlo went on to claim the title in 2012 with three wins. All three Eurocup runners are also expected to contest selected NEC races this year.
The team’s racing calendar for 2013 begins on 23rd/24th March with the opening rounds of the GP2 Series in Malaysia while, on the very same weekend, the AUTO GP season starts at Monza in Italy. The Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 season will then commence on 27th/28th April at Motorland Aragon in Spain.