25 August 2011
Preview: GP2 heads to Spa-Francorchamps
The GP2 Series heads to Spa-Francorchamps for its penultimate race weekend of the 2011 season, with drivers bracing themselves for the notoriously fickle Ardennes mini-climate.
GP2 returns to action this weekend after sharing F1's August "summer holiday", with the series' teams and drivers looking forward to one of the most famous, historic, beautiful and fiendishly challenging circuits of the year - Belgium's Spa-Francorchamps.
Going into Spa, the only driver change announced for the weekend is at Ocean Racing Technology, which has decided to replace Kevin Mirocha with 21-year-old New Zealander Brendon Hartley.
The Formula Renault 3.5 regular - who has two front row starts in the series, finished on the podium at Monaco earlier this year and is currently seventh in the championship - previously raced for Scuderia Coloni in the final two GP2 races of 2010 at Monza and Abu Dhabi and finished in the points in the last race of the year. A former Red Bull Racing/Toro Rosso third driver, Hartley then tested with Ocean over the winter.
"Brendon already knows our team because he drove with us last winter: he is an experienced driver, he's fast, and he is very mature thanks to his experience in F1," said team principals Jose Guedes and former F1 driver Tiago Monteiro in a press statement. "We had other alternatives but we have been following Brendon's career very closely and we wanted to give him this opportunity."
"I am very enthusiastic and happy about the chance I have been given,” said Hartley. "I know the Spa track well and my objective is to be competitive there."
Hartley will be at the wheel of the #22 Ocean car, alongside his team mate for the weekend Johnny Cecotto Jr., who himself is looking forward to the challenge of Spa: "It is an extraordinary circuit that I always adapt well to,” said the Venezuelan. “I especially love its fast corners ... I really think that the conditions have come together so that we can fight for a spot on the podium."
Coloni itself has already confirmed that they will be sticking with Luca Filippi once again this weekend as they approach Spa with reason for optimism - last year, their car put Alvaro Parente into second place in the feature race and third in the sprint.
"Luca loves Spa and he already got on the podium there [in 2007 with ART]," commented team boss Paolo Coloni, who said that he was confident that the team was "charged-up and confident that our luck has changed," after admitting that the first part of the year had been a struggle after they lost their primary driver Davide Rigon to injury at the end of the sprint race in the season open in Turkey.
"Rigon's injury forced us to change our plans but working hard together we managed to overcome all the odds and clinch some great results," said Coloni. "I'm very proud of how the team reacted to all the bad luck we had," he added, clearly looking forward to putting that all behind them with hopes of success at one of the most beloved but demanding circuits on the calendar.
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