Hamilton’s former GP2 team set to be McLaren-Honda F1 B-team

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An early frontrunner to be the twelfth team in 2016 has already emerged after the FIA surprised the F1 world by announcing it is searching for another team to join newcomer Haas F1 Team, perhaps as soon as 2016.

Given it is already almost June, Auto Motor und Sport on Friday suggested the only possible way a brand new team could be ready for 2016 is if ‘customer cars’ are given the green light.

Another possibility is that the identity of the twelfth team is already quietly known. Auto Motor und Sport’s Michael Schmidt thinks one candidate makes a lot of sense – the leading GP2 team ART Grand Prix – which helped power Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg into Formula 1.

Rosberg was GP2 champion in 2005 with Art Grand Prix, and a year later Hamilton won the title – both stepped up into Formula 1 after their GP2 championship years – Rosberg with Williams and Hamilton with McLaren.

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The team have won three GP2 titles since the series began in 2005, more than any other team with the abovementioned and Pastor Maldonado who was champion in 2010 before progressing to F1 with Williams.

It is headed by Nicolas Todt, whose father is the FIA president Jean Todt, and already features the impressive McLaren junior Stoffel Vandoorne at the wheel. Stoffel Vandoorne as well as highly rated Honda backed Japanese driver. Nobuharu Matsushita

As a McLaren-Honda B-team, ART’s F1 debut could also provide a route back onto the grid for Kevin Magnussen.

Asked if the FIA already knows the identity of the new 2016 team, spokesman Matteo Bonciani said on Friday: “The FIA has no particular candidate in mind. It could also be that a carmaker will apply.

“In the event that it is possible, we must put in place the necessary procedure, and that is what we have done,” he added.

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Last week, McLaren supremo Ron Dennis travelled with official reserve Magnussen to Copenhagen and made an appeal to the Danish business community to back the 22-year-old’s return to the grid.

Dennis was quoted by the local Ekstra Bladet as saying that, with champions Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button at McLaren currently, “Perhaps that means I have to help him (Magnussen) into another team for another learning year”.

But as for the talk of ART becoming a McLaren ‘B’ team, a spokesman for the Woking based outfit told us: “We have no such plans and have had no such discussions.”

Currently in Formula 1 only Red Bull have a defacto B-team in the guise of Toro Rosso, but Ferrari have in the past used Marussia as a test bed for their young drivers and next year are well entwined with the Haas F1 Team.

Mercedes have in the past had a strong tie-up with Force India, and more recently with Williams.