This weekend sees a non-championship GP2 race take place in support of the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina. Called the GP2 Final, it was originally due to be the first round of the 2011-12 GP2 Asia Series, until that competition was merged into the main series.
Providing an opportunity for teams to try out new drivers ahead of the 2012 season, the race sees a large shakeup of drivers amongst the 13 teams, including several exciting GP2 debutants.
The man to beat in the post-season testing at Jerez and Barcelona was Fabio Leimer, the Swiss driver having made the move to the Racing Engineering squad. After just one win and three other points finishes for Rapax in his second main series campaign, the pressure is on the 2009 Formula Master champion to convert his testing pace into results. He is joined in the Spanish outfit by Frenchman Nathanael Berthon, who has raced in Formula Renault 3.5 for the past two years and competed for Racing Engineering in the 2011 Asia Series.
Another of the favourites for victory at Yas Marina will be Marcus Ericsson, who has remained with iSport after a disappointing sophomore season that only brought two podium finishes. Racing alongside him for the Norfolk team will be France's Tom Dillmann, who is graduating from GP3 and showed well in testing.
Another experienced GP2 campaigner who will be aiming for glory is Dani Clos, who has essentially swapped places with Leimer by taking his Rapax seat after three whole years with Racing Engineering. He will look to impress ahead of testing for HRT in the young driver test next week. His teammate for the weekend will be Mihai Marinescu. The Romanian has never driven a GP2 car before, but recently enjoyed a strong end to his second year in Formula 2 by winning at Monza.
Luiz Razia is another GP2 race-winner on the grid, remaining with Caterham Team AirAsia. Perhaps more attention though will be placed upon his new teammate Alexander Rossi. The highly-rated American finished third in FR3.5 this year, and has previous experience of racing GP2 at Yas Marina from the 2009-10 Asia Series.
A driver pairing who will be eagerly watched this weekend will be the Scuderia Coloni lineup of Stefano Coletti and Kevin Ceccon, with both set to make their F1 testing debuts for Toro Rosso next week. Coletti has won three times in 2011 with the unfancied Trident team, including at Yas Marina back in February, while Ceccon won the Auto GP title at just 18 and already has GP2 race experience under his belt.
Inaugural GP3 champion Esteban Gutierrez was perhaps a little disappointing in his rookie GP2 season with Lotus ART, but the Mexican will be amongst the title favourites in 2012 and can help to prove that status this weekend. His teammate will be this year's GP3 runner-up James Calado, who is confirmed alongside Gutierrez for the full 2012 campaign.
Addax won the teams' title in 2011 with a strong driver lineup, but don't expect similar acheivements in Abu Dhabi. Jolyon Palmer leads their attack after a point-less first GP2 season with Arden, and is joined by FR3.5 convert Jake Rosenzweig, the second American on the grid.
DAMs took Romain Grosjean to the drivers' title this year, but have opted for an all-rookie driver lineup in the form of GP3 graduates Rio Haryanto and Nigel Melker. Both will be keen to impress as they look to secure a full-time ride for next year.
Max Chilton sticks with Carlin, the team owned by his father, where he is joined by Renault F1 reserve Jan Charouz, who had another quiet FR3.5 season in 2011. Both will do the Young Driver test, for Force India and Renault respectively.
Josef Kral is another driver remaining with his 2011 team – in this case Arden. Alongside him for the weekend will be Simon Trummer, who was the least successful of the British squad's GP3 drivers this year, but did score well at the end of the season.
Ocean Racing Technology hand Antonio Felix da Costa the chance to step up from GP3, and the Portuguese driver has shown well in testing. Joining him is Frenchman Nicolas Marroc, who competed in sportscars this year and has nothing about him to suggest he will trouble the leading contenders.
Trident Racing take on Colombian Julian Leal from Rapax, alongside Stephane Richelmi, who raced for the team at Monza. Completing the field are Super Nova, with experienced Italians Fabio Onidi and Giacomo Ricci.
GP2 Final entry list:
Barwa Addax Team
Super Nova Racing
Ocean Racing Technology
Antonio Felix da Costa
Caterham Team AirAsia
GP2 Final schedule (GMT):
06:15 – 07:00 Free practice
10:55 – 11:25 Qualifying
07:00 Race 1
09:00 Race 2