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Drivers happy to be back in action, and at Spa

30 August 2012

The mood in the GP2 paddock this week appears remarkably consistent: it's been great to have time off and recharge, but we can't wait to get back to racing. And what better place to break the August drought than the historic Belgian circuit of Spa-Francorchamps going back-to-back with Monza the following weekend?

"It was great to go into the four week break on a high with the confidence," said Carlin's Max Chilton, who claimed his maiden season win in GP2 in the final feature race at Hungary before the month-long hiatus.

"For Spa we have to maintain the motivation," he continued. "The weather can either play into your hands or ruin your race. I've always loved the circuit though so we'll see what happens this weekend."

"Spa is my favourite and I look forward to returning to competition and be able to tackle Eau Rouge with a GP2 car," agreed Ocean Racing Technology's Nigel Melker. "I sure we'll do a good job, find the 'set-up' ideal for this demanding circuit and get amass more points," he said.

His team mate Victor Guerin shared his enthusiasm. "I love and know the track," said the 20-year-old Brazilian, adding that he was confident that the team would be able to bring their best form to this weekend's outing.

Coloni's Stefano Coletti was also heading to Spa with determination to start the final trio of race weekends with renewed commitment to success. "In the next ten days we will be competing in two very fast circuits like Spa and Monza," he said. "We aim to confirm our competitiveness and to fight for the top places of the classification".

Even Pirelli's director of motorsport Paul Hembery is a big fan of Spa, despite how much of a challenge the high speeds, dramatic undulations and fast corners are to the tyres in terms of extremely high lateral and longitudinal energy loadings.

"The Spa circuit is a personal favourite of mine," he admitted. "The configuration of the track and the variety of the weather always seems to produce some great racing. From a tyre perspective, it's certainly one of the most demanding circuits that we face all year."

Pirelli is handing out hard and medium tyres to the F1 teams for Spa for maximum endurance, but for GP2 the company has opted to ship medium and soft tyres respectively for the primary/option categories - which should make it very interesting indeed to see which drivers can make their rubber last best before they start sliding off into the grass.

But even though there have been no races over the past month, the teams as a whole have still had plenty to be getting on with.

"August has given us more time to realize all the standard work that is normally planned between events," explained Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering. "This includes full service of the cars: repaint the many bodywork elements, revision of some critical elements and anticipation of the future events that will take place in 'back-to-back' from a mechanical, logistical and engineering point of view."

Couyotopoulo shared the enthusiasm of most on pit lane for the annual return to Belgium's premier race track. Spa remains one of the best tracks in the world, if not the best," he said. "It offers a full range of corner characteristics, with high, medium and low speeds, but all this while passing through a fantastic landscape, which also makes the racing more challenging.

"Some corners have to be considered in three dimensions as the compression through Eau Rouge for example is allowing speed to be carried that would not be possible in a similar corner if it's flat," he added. "Some other corners are hard due to off-camber and a downhill inclination but it makes it very interesting."

At a length of just over 7km or 4.35-miles, Spa is the longest track on the GP2 calendar by some margin, and the Saturday feature race will consist of 25 laps while Sunday morning's sprint race will see the cars run 18 laps. As ever, the unique microclimate covering the surrounding Ardennes forest means that weather will almost inevitably be a factor.

The current forecasts for Spa list a chance of rain on Friday, and then cloudy but dry conditions for the rest of the weekend. However, Spa notoriously defeats both weathermen and rain radar technology to come up with a reality all its own when it comes down to it, so literally anything can happen with the conditions over the race weekend and it will be a surprise indeed if the rain tyres don't get an outing at some point during the three days.

While there's no official word on driver changes, it appears that Austrian driver René Binder will be driving the #19 Venezuela GP Lazarus car in place of Giancarlo Serenelli alongside Sergio Canamasas, which would mean that the team will have completely replaced their starting line-up in the cockpit since their début at Malaysia in March.

Practice for the GP2 field is at 10.55am BST after the end of F1 Free Practice 1, with qualifying following FP2 at 2.55pm. The feature race is on Saturday afternoon from 2.40pm and the sprint race begins on Sunday at 9.35am. All GP2 sessions are carried live on Sky Sports F1.


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