Ahead of the 2016 season it has emerged that Hilmer Motorsport’s participation in GP2 is uncertain. Callum Rowe looks at the messy past and the hazy future of the team.
The German squad which made its debut in GP2 back in 2013 has been in dire straights financially over the previous twelve months, missing the first event of last season due to sponsorship woes.
The team only ran one car in Belgium and Hungary last year, managing to twist the arm of Nick Yelloly and Simon Trummer to drive the sole Hilmer entry on those two occasions. Perhaps even more embarrassing than the indignity of turning up to multiple professional motorsport meetings with just one driver, GP2’s first German team missed the final three race weekends entirely.
Unsurprisingly, the team finished 13th and last in the Teams’ Championship and it’s drivers were dotted around the late teens and twenties in the Drivers’ Standings… All five of its drivers might I had.
The good times
Rewinding three years, Hilmer Motorsport came into the Series in 2013 with some promise. Tom Dillmann and Pål Varhaug debuted the Hilmer cars at the first test in Spain and it was Frenchman Dillmann who topped the first two days of the three-day test.
Unfortunately Dillmann – a GP2 race winner at this point – was unable to bag a race seat and the team opted for Varhaug and a debuting Conor Daly for the first race weekend. The American collected two points in just the second race of the season in Malaysia.
Both drivers were gone by the first European event of the season, replaced by Robin Frijns and Jon Lancaster. The former took the team’s first ever win in the Spain Feature Race and came within seconds of Sprint Race victory the next day too. Lancaster topped off the weekend with a third place on the Saturday.
Lancaster added two more victories to the team’s tally mid-season before Adrian Quaife-Hobbs joined the fold in place of Frijns and added another.
Although I labelled this ‘The good times’, running five drivers in one season was a sign of things to come.
Too much, too young, too fast
Ahead of the 2014 season a tie-up with the Force India F1 Team was announced and Hilmer Motorsport would be used as a launchpad for future F1 drivers. When this was announced I thought this was the best news in a long time for GP2, especially during a spell when young drivers and F1 teams were starting to look instead at Formula Renault as a more favourable racing category.
A winning partnership of Daniel Abt and Facu Regalia was recruited that year before Jon Lancaster rejoined the team amid an embarrassing legal battle between the team and Regalia which forced the Argentine out of his seat. Results across the board were poor and Abt even favoured racing in Formula E over GP2 by the end of the season.
A problem that Hilmer might’ve come across in 2014 was a strain on resources and manpower. When RUSSIAN TIME pulled out of GP3 at the last minute, Hilmer stepped in and took the team’s entry. It was now running five cars across two categories just twelve months after establishing itself as a team.
The team got greedy. It asked for too much. I can understand a GP2 team wanting to branch out to GP3 to create a ladder for young drivers to climb on the way to F1. ART and Carlin have both managed this but it was too soon for Hilmer. This was apparent to the team and it sold its GP3 entry to Campos after just one season. I wouldn’t say this helped the team’s cause, perhaps only limited the damage.
After the unforgettable (for the wrong reasons, clearly) 2014, something needed to improve in 2015. You’ll know by now nothing did.
So, what next?
Well, after Franz Hilmer attempted to sell his team twice(!) in the final quarter of last year I hardly see a man nor a team who has the enthusiasm for competitive racing anymore.
The team isn’t on the official entry list of 13 teams for the upcoming season yet and even if Franz can convince Bruno Michel to keep Hilmer in the Series, who is going to want to pay upwards of €1million for a year at the back of the grid (apart from Ricardo Teixeira)?
GP2 is a top tier racing category and I can almost guarantee that there is a handful of willing men and women out there who would like to hit the heights in the Series. It’s time to give someone else a go, Franz.