Following the three-week summer break, the FIA Formula 2 Championship and GP3 Series resume at Spa-Francorchamps.
With its high-speed bends and straights, the home of the Belgian Grand Prix provides a completely different challenge to the tight and twisty Hungaroring that hosted the previous rounds. Despite that, the very same tire compounds have been nominated: medium and soft for Formula 2 and medium for GP3 – for very different reasons.
Pirelli’s head of car racing says:
Mario Isola: “At Spa, the Formula 2 and GP3 drivers will race on the same compounds as they did at the Hungaroring, but for different reasons. In Hungary, we were expecting high temperatures, on a track that never lets the tires cool down. In Belgium, temperatures will be milder but the energy going through the tires will be higher, because of the track layout. These two factors essentially balance each other out, leading to the same tire choice for two very different circuits. The unpredictable weather at Spa can often play its part too and is likely to reward flexible strategies. Unlike Formula 1, there is no intermediate tire in either Formula 2 or GP3, and this makes tire choice even more complicated in the event of marginal weather. As a test of bravery of skill, Spa is one of the biggest challenges of the year.”
The challenge for the tires:
There are many different forces being applied to the tires during a lap of Spa: high lateral demands through fast corners like Pouhon, significant vertical loads in the many elevation changes (most notably at Eau Rouge) as well as braking and traction forces at the end of the long straights and out of the slower corners.
Set-up configurations can vary considerably between different teams and drivers, because of the compromise between choosing low drag for maximum speeds on the straights and high downforce to aid cornering speeds. Those opting for low drag will rely more upon the mechanical grip from the tires to carry speed through the corners.
Racing at Spa is quote frequently affected by rain, and often it falls over some parts of the circuit and not others. Therefore, when the weather is changeable, predicting the optimal tire can be particularly difficult.
The race and the rules:
Every car will have five sets of dry tires and three sets of wet weather tires available for the Formula 2 race weekend. The five sets of dry tires comprise three sets of the medium compound and two sets of the soft compound.
The drivers can use their tire 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 harder compound must be returned after free practice.
Qualifying takes place at 16:20 on Friday, after practice at 11:55. The feature race on Saturday at 16:00 lasts 25 laps and each driver must complete one compulsory pit stop. This cannot take place within the first six laps. Unlike Formula 1, the drivers do not have to start the race using the tires they qualified on.
The grid for the sprint race on Sunday at 10:15 is determined by the finishing order of the first race, with the top eight positions reversed. It is run over 18 laps, with no compulsory pit stops.
Every car will have three sets of dry tires and two sets of wet weather tires available for the GP3 race weekend. Only one compound is nominated: medium for this weekend. The drivers can use the tire allocation in any way they like.
Drivers are allowed to carry over one tire set from the previous round for use in free practice only. This will also be the medium compound as used at the Hungaroring.
Qualifying takes place at 17:10 on Friday after a single free practice session at 08:30. Race 1 starts at 17:35 on Saturday and lasts for 17 laps, followed by Race Two at 09:00 on Sunday (lasting 13 laps). The grid for Race 2 is determined by the finishing order of the first race, with the top eight positions reversed.
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