Just like Formula One, the GP2 drivers came to Barcelona with a whole step between the two nominated P Zero compounds – hard and soft – for the first time. During practice, the drivers used the hard tyre exclusively, in order to preserve the one set of soft tyres allocated to them for qualifying.
In qualifying on Friday afternoon all the drivers came out straight at the beginning of the half-hour session, to benefit from the rubber that had been laid down on the track by the earlier Formula One practice session.
Lotus driver James Calado – the winner of Pirelli’s GP3 scholarship last year – claimed his first pole position after finding a clear lap on the soft tyres, claiming four extra championship points. Championship leader and DAMS driver Davide Valsecchi could only manage seventh on the grid.
The 37-lap GP2 feature race – held after Formula One qualifying – was won by Caterham’s Giedo Van Der Garde from Calado: both GP3 graduates from last year. The Lotus driver started from pole on the hard compound and then changed all four tyres in a pit stop on lap 13, at exactly the same time as second-placed Fabio Leimer (Racing Engineering), who also changed four tyres.
Both were jumped by Van Der Garde at the pit stops, who stopped two laps later and changed only the two rear tyres to take the lead. Third-placed Coloni driver Stefano Coletti also used an effective strategy to boost himself up the order, gaining five places over the course of the race. Leimer subsequently lost track position after his team was judged to have released him unsafely into the path of Calado.
The GP2 sprint race was held in cooler conditions on Sunday morning, with the starting grid formed of the top eight competitors reversed. Tyre management was again the key to a strong result with the drivers all using a new set of hard compound tyres as stipulated by the regulations. Arden driver Luis Razia won from pole position, looking after his tyres effectively to see off the challenge from Racing Engineering’s Nathanael Berthon, who dropped back at the finish.
Pirelli’s racing manager Mario Isola commented: “The GP2 drivers all coped very well with the huge challenge of Barcelona, which puts plenty of lateral energy through the tyres. They had never experienced the soft tyre in Barcelona before, as we have only ever tested with the medium tyre at this track – but they adapted to this new experience very well, with Van Der Garde using a different strategy to his rivals to win the race. Sunday’s races were held in much cooler conditions, around 10 degrees less than the temperatures we experienced on Saturday, and that obviously had a big effect on tyre behaviour. Again, the drivers dealt with this different challenge extremely effectively.”
The GP2 Series resumes in the Principality of Monaco from 23-26 May: the highlight of the calendar for both Pirelli-equipped feeder championships.
Pirelli Press Release