Denmark's Kevin Magnussen will arrive at the Formula Renault 3.5 championship decider in Spain with a 43 point lead over his nearest rival, Stoffel Vandoorne.
Throughout this thrilling season, the championship lead has been shared between the two McLaren Juniors, who will compete for top honours next weekend.
Magnussen put the disappointment of an exclusion from race one at Paul Ricard last time out to one side to take victory in race two, with retirement for Vandoorne giving the Dane the edge in the race for the title.
With just 50 points to play for, Magnussen is hot favourite to lift the title but insisted he wouldn't ease off in the season finale.
“I'll try not to think too much about the championship, but stay in my rhythm and keep pushing,” he said. “For the championship, I've learned that you never know what can happen, so I will continue to attack…”
Qualifying will be key at the notoriously difficult Circuit de Catalunya, meaning that just a few hundredths-of-a-second could decide the championship.
Magnussen's DAMS car is expected to be faster than the Fortec machine of Vandoorne during the session, with the championship leader having enjoyed incomparable one lap consistency this year. Turn one will provide one of few overtaking opportunities over the 4.655km lap, meaning the start could be vital when the races come around.
For Vandoorne, the importance of potentially winning the championship is clear.
“We started the year with our goal of winning the championship,” he told Crash.net
. “I had a bit of pressure as, if I didn't win the FR2.0 championship last year, it might have been the end of my racing career due to funding.
“I should not be hoping for mistakes from Kevin Magnussen; I should try and beat him every time and take points away from him.”
To gain an advantage over the Dane, Vandoorne will need to rely on his pit stop strategy which will be a crucial race two tactic for all drivers. Medium down force will be preferred in Spain to aid drag efficiency.
Antonio Felix da Costa and Nico Müller will provide the greatest challenge for the two title contenders.
by Katie Grimmett