This year’s GP2 Series becomes even more closely aligned to Formula One, with a new rule that both nominated compounds must be used during the race. However, the tyre allocation for GP2 is a lot lower: three sets of the prime compound and two of the option per car per race weekend. With two races to consider, strategy is of the essence when it comes to GP2 success. The 2014 GP2 field has already tried out the entire range of slick tyres (hard, medium, soft, and supersoft) in pre-season testing at Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, but tyre management will still be a big challenge because of the heat, sand on the track, and exceptional tarmac roughness of the Sakhir Circuit. For the first time, GP2 qualifying takes place at night in Bahrain, which means that the drivers will have to cope with different tyre characteristics in qualifying compared to the race. The hard and soft tyres have been nominated for the opening race of the season.
Pirelli’s racing manager Mario Isola says: “We’re delighted to be supplying GP2 with tyres in what will be the 10th year of the championship, so first of all, ‘happy birthday’ from all of us to this great series. The GP2 tyres for this year are the same as they were last year: we felt that their characteristics were helping us to provide what we wanted to achieve with close and competitive racing that prepares drivers for Formula One The car is also the same as before, so there was no point in changing. However, the new rules are certainly going to provide an interesting extra perspective, by bringing GP2 even more closely into line with Formula One. We’re expecting quite a gap in performance between the hard and the soft tyres and this should put the emphasis firmly on strategy. There’s also a further 15 minutes of free practice this year, which will allow the teams to assess the tyre characteristics more accurately before the start of each race. One of the biggest challenges for the teams will be the fact that qualifying takes place at night this year, so the tyre data that they collect during practice could be different to the characteristics seen in qualifying, when ambient and track temperatures will be lower. ”
The challenge for the tyres:
Bahrain has one of the highest tarmac roughness rates of the entire calendar, with a surface made up of 60,000 tonnes of granite imported from England, which accentuates tyre wear. More stress on the tyres comes from the many traction areas out of low and medium speed corners, high ambient temperatures, as well as sand on the track from the surrounding desert, which can cause wheelspin.
The first corner is a critical one. It’s important to exit turn one cleanly in order to make the most of the left-hand kink that follows and get a good drive onto the straights. Many places are won and lost here, so warming up the tyres properly for a good start is very important.
The GP2 drivers have completed two pre-season tests at Abu Dhabi and Bahrain – during which they sampled Pirelli’s entire range of P Zero tyres. Fabio Leimer (who would go on to become champion) won the GP2 feature race in Bahrain last year for Racing Engineering, while his key title rival Sam Bird (Russian Time) won the sprint race.
The race and the rules:
Every car will have five sets of dry tyres and three sets of wet weather tyres available for the GP2 race weekend.
The five sets of dry tyres comprise three sets of the harder compound (hard) and two sets of the softer compound (soft).
The drivers can use their tyre allocation in any way they like, but at least one set of each compound must be used in the feature race (unless it is a wet race). One set of the hard compound must be returned after free practice.