After a three-week summer break GP3 Series is back on track this weekend for the penultimate round of its inaugural season at Spa-Franchorchamps in Belgium.
Spa, nestled in the Ardennes Forest, is widely known as the ultimate drivers' circuit with legendary corners such as Eau Rouge testing the drivers' skills to the max. One of the biggest challenges faced by both teams and drivers around the 7.004 high-speed track will be the ever changing weather conditions - so much so that it can be raining on one part of the circuit whilst completely dry on another.
This weekend could mark the historical crowning of the first ever GP3 Series champion. With a strong 30 point lead in the Series ART Grand Prix's Esteban Gutierrez just needs to finish Race 1 with a lead of at least 27 points ahead of his nearest rival, Status GP's Robert Wickens, and he will be the inaugural GP3 Series winner.
Jenzer Motorsport's Nico Muller is still mathematically in with a chance of the crown, but he would require two perfect points scoring weekends in Spa and Monza. Moreover, the Swiss driver would need Gutierrez to walk away with no more points for the remainder of the season.
For the complex demands of the Spa circuit Pirelli has opted for the medium compound tyre. While it is rare to have a Belgian Grand Prix weekend with no rain, warm temperatures in August are equally possible. Pirelli's Racing Manager Mario Isola explained: "As is often the case in motorsport, finding the right tyre for Spa was a question of identifying the best compromise. We are expecting rain at some point, so there is a good chance that we will use the wet tyres for at least one of the sessions. Equally, if it is warm, the soft compound tyre may not be ideal for high temperatures.
"The medium tyre is well-suited to the characteristics of Spa, which include high speeds and considerable loads on the tyres, although the surface is not especially aggressive. We're entering the closing stages of the championship now, with just four races remaining. Naturally, we can expect all the drivers and teams to be trying their hardest to improve their positions during this crucial period. Our aim is to give them a stable and competitive tyre to help them do this."
Simon Trummer makes a welcome return to racing this weekend after his accident at Hockenheimring in July. The Jenzer Motorsport driver has been working hard during the summer break on regaining his fitness, and was given the all clear to race after some final medical checks this week.