The GP2 series, a stepping stone to Formula One, is among the support races on the schedule this weekend. Graham Caygill reports on the drivers who will compete in the newly revamped international series and the full line-up of races that will entertain fans before the Abu Dhabi GP.
Spectators at Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday will be the first to see the new-look GP2 series. The GP2 Final, as it is billed, will be the first race combining the GP2 series, which was European based, and GP2 Asia, following a merger between the two.
The series is seen as a final stepping stone for drivers hoping to make it to Formula One, and Sunday's race will be a chance to see the potential stars of the future in action.
Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Timo Glock and Pastor Maldonado are all former GP2 series champions, and in total 11 of the drivers on the grid for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix competed in GP2 before making it in F1.
Sunday's GP2 race was planned to give drivers who will join the series in 2012 some early exposure. Pirelli, who supply the tyres in the series like in F1, have put up a financial incentive to encourage drivers to push to the limit and make an immediate impact.
Unlike F1 where each team's car is different, in GP2 the series is a one-chassis make, with each team working with a Dallara chassis, with the aim being to see who stands out in equal equipment.
The majority of drivers on the grid are expected to be from GP3, the series below GP2, and Pirelli are offering the highest-placed finisher from GP3 €15,000 (Dh77,810), and the second-best placed driver €10,000.
"I hope to see many GP3 graduates show that they are ready for the next step in front of the F1 paddock," said Bruno Michel, the GP2 series organiser.
"With the merging of GP2 Asia and GP2 Series, the main series will become a truly global category which will attract ... even greater interest throughout the globe."
Also in action this weekend is the Porsche Supercup, with Team Abu Dhabi hoping for success at their home race through Sean Edwards, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Khaled Al Qubaisi, the Emirati driver.
The 2011/12 Porsche GT3 Middle East Challenge will also take place with the best drivers from the Gulf battling for the championship of the series, which holds rounds across the region.
The opening two rounds of the new season were held last weekend at Dubai Autodrome.
Bahrain's Sheikh Salman bin Rashid Al Khalifa is the defending champion after winning the title in April in Dubai.
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