The GP2 Series draws to a close this weekend as it visits Singapore’s Marina Bay circuit for the very first time, with only two drivers in contention for the title: DAMS driver Davide Valsecchi and Arden’s Luis Razia.
As is the case in Formula One, the GP2 drivers will have the P Zero Yellow soft and P Zero Red supersoft tyres at their disposal for the only night races on the GP2 calendar. Under the latest GP2 regulations introduced halfway through the season, each driver will be allocated three sets of the harder compound and two sets of the softer compound for each race weekend.
While Valsecchi is the strong favourite with a 25-point advantage heading into the final two races, the recent GP3 finale at Monza showed just how unpredictable all the feeder series to Formula One can be, with the destiny of the title changing hands several times before Mitch Evans finally triumphed.
Adding to the challenge this weekend will be the fact that Singapore is an unknown quantity for all the GP2 drivers and teams, with a very different set of track conditions to usual. While overall tyre wear is low, there is a high level of thermal degradation due to the high ambient temperatures. Coupled with extremely big levels of humidity, this makes it an exhausting race for the drivers and very demanding on the cars. While the Marina Bay circuit contains the second highest number of corners of the year (after Valencia) only two of them are fast, meaning that not so much lateral energy is put through the tyres, which helps the wear rate.
The drivers have to make a mandatory pit stop during Saturday’s first race, and with the longest pit lane of the year in Singapore, strategy will become extremely important. The key decisions revolve around whether to use just one or two different compounds, when to stop, and if using the same compound whether to change all four tyres or just two, in order to save time. The teams base these crucial decisions on information they collect in free practice, and with no historical data to fall back on, the single practice session will become all the more important.
The race for the team’s championship is much closer: just two points separate DAMS at the head of the classification from Lotus GP in second.
Pirelli’s racing manager Mario Isola said: “Singapore is a fantastic place for our second season supplying the GP2 Series to come to a close, showcasing the cars, drivers and tyres in a unique way. It’s enough to see from the number of drivers who have graduated to Formula One just how well GP2 prepares them for the pinnacle of the sport, thanks to experience of the circuits, strategy and tyres that are used at the top. Singapore will be another valuable experience for them, and the use of the two softest compounds in our GP2 range should allow them to extract the maximum performance from their cars during this very important weekend. Nonetheless, it will still be very important to look after the tyres in both qualifying and the race, particularly if the drivers are planning to use the supersoft at any point during the first race. Theoretically this should be the fastest way, but it will only work if the drivers make sure that their tyres are in the best possible condition. With the sessions in Singapore always coming late in the day, ambient and track temperatures tend to fall rather than rise as each session goes on, and this makes performance quite hard to predict.”
On Friday, the GP2 drivers will take part in one practice session at 16:45 local time (GMT +8) followed by qualifying at 20:00. The feature race takes place at 16:00 on Saturday, while Sunday’s sprint race gets underway at 16:10, before the Singapore Grand Prix.
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