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Who will be the next star of Formula 1?

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F1 Mole | 10:05 UK time, Friday, 8 May 2009

Is a future world champion driving in a formula far, far away or are they already moving within F1's inner circle?

The launch of the 2009 GP2 Series on the eve of the season-opening races at the Circuit de Catalunya could provide a few clues.

In its four-year history, the feeder competition has seen seven of its drivers graduate to F1, including reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton - but who's next?

Well, keep your eye on Nico Hulkenberg. The 21-year-old is making his GP2 debut this season but is already on Williams' books as their reserve driver.

The German is managed by Willi Webber, who surely knows a good driver when he sees one after guiding seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher's career.

Frenchman Romain Grosjean contests his second season in GP2 but is already a familiar race in the Renault garage. He's the team's third driver but is tipped for promotion to a future race seat.

Another one to watch is Kamui Kobayashi. The 22-year-old is Toyota's reserve driver and has already impressed by winning the GP2 Asia crown.

Lewis Hamilton helps present awards

Hamilton was in super relaxed mood as he dropped by the GP2 paddock to dish out a few gongs to the GP2 Asia Series winners along with Toyota's Jarno Trulli and Renault principal Flavio Briatore and driver Nelson Piquet.

The Mole also bumped into the world champion's McLaren team-mate Heikki Kovalainen.The Finn was GP2's runner-up in 2005 and reckons that gave him a leg-up into F1.

"It was so important for me," he said. "I had my management team but no-one in F1 knew if I was any good or what I could do, so fighting for the championship helped a lot.

"In GP2 you also visit a lot of the F1 circuits and race against some future F1 drivers so it really helps."

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