The GP2 cars will have a full step between the two slick compounds available to them in Hungary, maximising the importance of qualifying and putting the emphasis on tyre management.
The P Zero White medium tyres and P Zero Red supersoft tyres have been nominated for GP2 this weekend. On the tight and twisty confines of the Hungaroring – the slowest permanent track on the calendar – this will lead to a considerable performance difference between the two compounds, and it is down to the drivers to decide how to make the best use of those characteristics.
Since Silverstone, the GP2 drivers have been allowed an extra set of the softer compound, bringing their total allocation in Hungary up to three medium sets and two supersoft sets. Most drivers will opt to use the supersoft in qualifying after testing it during free practice – but will they then be able to make effective use of the faster compound at all during the race, if both sets have already been used?
There are many different possibilities on the table, particularly now that pit stops are allowed in both GP2 races as well. Adding to the high degree of degradation imposed by the actual circuit, with its constant sequence of corners and heavy traction and braking demands, is the ambient temperature that is often in excess of 30 degrees centigrade. These factors all mean that looking after the tyres will be a key element in securing victory, with the GP2 championship delicately poised as it heads into the final part of the season. Just three race weekends remain after Hungary.
The GP3 drivers – coming to round six out of eight – will have three sets of tyres available to them as usual, with the P Zero Yellow soft nominated for the 4.381-kilometre Hungaroring. This compound provides the perfect compromise between the performance and durability that will be needed to tackle the two demanding GP3 races in Hungary, with no scheduled pit stops permitted. For the young GP3 drivers in particular, the Hungaroring will impose a physical challenge: although average speeds are low, there is a lot of effort required to manoeuvre the car around the twisty circuit, with very little airflow to keep drivers cool.
On Friday, the GP3 drivers will take part in one practice session while the GP2 drivers will complete practice and qualifying. On Saturday, the GP3 drivers will have their qualifying session in the morning, followed by the GP2 feature race at 15:40 (39 laps) and the GP3 feature race at 17:20 (16 laps). Before the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday, the GP3 sprint race will take place at 09:25 (16 laps), followed by the GP2 sprint race at 10:35 (28 laps).
Pirelli’s racing manager Mario Isola said: “Hungary could become one of the most strategic races in GP2 so far this season, with plenty of time to be gained or lost depending on the tyre decisions that are made. With the wet conditions seen during the build-up to the races in Britain and Germany, the drivers have not yet had a chance to fully exploit the new tyre regulations. This weekend, they should finally get the opportunity. It will be vital for the GP2 teams to get a good understanding of the different performance and degradation characteristics of the supersoft and medium tyres in Hungary as soon as they can – although some may even choose to gamble and save the faster tyre for qualifying and the race. While the supersoft provides a notable degree of extra performance, we are expecting most teams to base their race strategies on the medium, which benefits from a lot more durability. If the teams use just one compound for the race, they may be able to get away with just changing the minimum of two tyres in the pits – rather than all four tyres, which would need to be changed if switching to a different compound. These are all factors that need to be carefully evaluated and considered, helping to make GP2 a perfect preparation for the pinnacle of the sport as well as a fascinating show for fans. The GP3 drivers don’t have to make quite as many decisions, but the Hungaroring is still a big challenge for them when it comes to learning how to make the most out of the tyres, leading them naturally to the next level of GP2.”
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