After a weekend off when Formula One went to Canada, the Pirelli-equipped GP2 and GP3 series return to the grand prix schedule for the Grand Prix of Europe in Valencia. The GP2 drivers will have three sets of soft tyres available to them for the weekend, and one set of supersoft tyres. As for the GP3 drivers, they will have three sets of soft tyres only. For GP2 this is round six, while the GP3 drivers are competing for the third time this year.
The GP2 regulations changed at the last round in Monaco, allowing the drivers to use their tyre allocation at any point they like during the weekend. Previously, they had to save one set of the harder compound for the sprint race on Sunday morning, but now the strategy options are entirely open.
The P Zero tyres for GP2 and GP3 are designed to deliver optimal performance but also to deliberately degrade, in order to help the young drivers learn how to look after their tyres: a vital skill that they will need to carefully cultivate for their future careers. The demands of a street circuit are somewhat different to the requirements of a permanent track as the grip can be more variable – thanks to street furniture such as painted white lines and manhole covers – and the surfaces are more aggressive. For a street circuit Valencia is also very quick, with the Formula One cars topping out at a maximum speed of around 323kph, in between the 25 corners. Conditions should be dry and warm, with Valencia traditionally being one of the hottest races in Europe.
All these factors mean that tyre degradation in Valencia tends to be quite high, even though the surface is slippery, especially at the start of the weekend. However, the significant number of corners (more than any other circuit on the calendar) means that there are a number of critical traction and braking areas, which work the tyres hard.
Despite all these corners, the track layout means that overtaking tends to be quite difficult. This will make qualifying all the more important, with the GP2 drivers set to use the supersoft almost as a qualifying tyre, in order to boost their positions on the grid.
The GP3 series, with each Renault-engined car putting out 280 horsepower, is designed as a stepping-stone to GP2, so the tyre rules are less complex: just one compound is nominated for each weekend. But with only three sets available, the drivers will have to find the right compromise between getting the most performance out of the tyres and ensuring that they benefit from enough durability over the course of the weekend.
On Friday 22 June, the GP3 drivers will take part in one practice session while the GP2 drivers will complete a single practice and qualifying session. On Saturday 23 June, GP3 drivers will complete their qualifying session in the morning, followed by the GP2 feature race at 15:40 and the first GP3 race at 17:20 local time. Before the Grand Prix of Europe gets underway on Sunday 24 June, the GP3 sprint race will take place at 09:25, followed by the second GP2 race at 10:35.
Pirelli’s racing manager Mario Isola said: “For Valencia, our tyre choice is quite a bold one, given the severity of the circuit. In terms of tyres, it’s certainly the toughest street circuit of the year and qualifying will be important as it’s so hard to overtake in Valencia. Temperatures are also going to be high, and the heavy traction demands mean that the rear tyres in particular will have a lot of work to do. Looking after the rears effectively, together with qualifying well, is probably going to be the key point to success this weekend. We’ve seen that both the GP2 and GP3 championships have been extremely competitive so far, and with identical cars and tyres it is the driver that really makes a difference.”