The fourth season of the GP2 Asia Series gets underway on Thursday (10 February) at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. The opening round will also see the racing debut of the new GP2/11 car. Over the past couple of weeks the teams have had the chance to get used to the new machine, with four days of testing in Abu Dhabi.

This fourth season of the Asia Series will consist of three rounds. Following the opener in Abu Dhabi there will be two weekends in Bahrain – the second of these as support to the Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix in March.

Two new teams have joined the grid, in the form of successful junior formulae team Carlin and the Team Lotus-affiliated Team AirAsia.

On the driving front two of the three former Asia Series champions are present on the grid for 2011. Romain Grosjean, who won the inaugural season in 2008 is racing for Dams, while the last champion Davide Valsecchi secured a late deal to race with AirAsia.

The man who will be seen as the favourite by many for glory will be Jules Bianchi, who remains for a second year with ART and set the quickest time in pre-season testing. His teammate is GP3 Series champion Esteban Gutierrez.

iSport have a strong lineup of race winners from 2010 in Sam Bird and Marcus Ericsson, who were both near the top of the timesheets during testing. Expect the Addax pairing of Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic to also be among the frontrunners. Other drivers to keep an eye on include Oliver Turvey at Ocean, Dani Clos at Racing Engineering and Josef Kral at Arden.

Qualifying for the opening race takes place on Thursday evening, with the 36 lap feature race late Friday afternoon. The 26 lap sprint race takes place on Saturday evening.

Stay tuned to The Checkered Flag for the latest from GP2 Asia over the coming weeks.