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Preview: GP2 heads to Spa-Francorchamps

According to Pirelli Racing manager Mario Isola, Spa "is one of the most challenging race circuits in the world thanks to its fast, undulating and twisty nature which probably demonstrates the importance of driver skill more than on any other circuit in the world."

Its unique blend of characteristics has led to Pirelli opting to supply teams with the medium compound P Zero GP2 slick tyres for the weekend, which Isola describes as "versatile tyres designed to work well in a wide range of conditions.

"They can be used at hot and technical tracks as well as at much cooler or even damp circuits, making them a perfect choice for Belgium because of the weather, which is quite unpredictable," he added.

And Spa is certainly notorious for its changeable weather, with rain capable of appearing without warning out of nowhere in the mini-climate of the Ardennes forest near Liege. The size of the sweeping 7.004km circuit adds to the difficulties of reacting to the weather, as one side of the track can be awash with rain while another part is bone dry.

"Adding to the challenge of the weather will be the extremely high vertical loads which put heavy demands on the rubber," continued Isola, pointing out the particular part of the track through Eau Rouge and Raidillon which he describes as presenting "probably the heaviest [loads] of the racing calendar."

Neither of last year's race winners will be in the field for the start of the Spa weekend: Pastor Maldonado (who won the feature race) is now with Williams F1, while Sergio Perez (who won the sprint event) will be lining up on the Grand Prix grid for Sauber.

Instead the field is headed by GP2 Series leader Romain Grosjean, who comes into Spa with a 25pt margin over his nearest challenger Giedo van der Garde and could clinch the 2011 title this weekend. Given the ructions going on at the Renault F1 team where Nick Heidfeld has just been ejected and replaced by Bruno Senna for Spa and Monza, Grosjean will have half an eye on a return to F1 if he can just clinch the GP2 championship in style.

The weekend's activity starts with practice on Friday morning at 10.55am BST following the F1 Free Practice 1 session, then qualifying in the afternoon at 2.55pm BST.

The feature race consisting of 25 laps starts at 2.40pm on Saturday afternoon following the F1 qualifying, with the sprint race of 18 laps on Sunday morning at 9.30am. Both races are scheduled to be broadcast live on British Eurosport in the UK.




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