|GP2 testing, Bahrain|
Another new season of GP2 begins in Bahrain, with the drivers who are knocking on the door of Formula One once more lining up in identical 4.0-litre, 612-horsepower cars equipped with identical Pirelli tyres, so that only driving talent makes the difference. The biggest innovation made to GP2 this year is a DRS system, cutting the lap time around the 5.412-kilometre Bahrain International Circuit by about a second and bringing the GP2 Series even closer to Formula One. Status Grand Prix also joins GP2 for the first time, while reigning GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer moves on to a new challenge as Third and Reserve Driver for Lotus F1 Team.
“The GP2 Series has been great preparation for my current role at Lotus F1 Team because the skills I learned in GP2, including how to get the best out of the tyres, have a direct relevance to the very top level of motorsport,” said Palmer, who drove for the DAMS team last year. “Tyre management is a key part of Formula One, and GP2 gave me a valuable insight into the best way of doing this.”
Replacing Palmer at DAMS this year is reigning GP3 champion Alex Lynn, who also won his title with Pirelli and benefitted from a €200,000 Pirelli scholarship to progress to GP2.
Just like last year, the P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft tyres have been nominated for Bahrain this weekend. This is the same choice as has been made for Formula One in Bahrain, although the way that the tyres work is very different.
Pirelli’s racing manager says:
Mario Isola: “Jolyon’s comments, and the fact that there are eight permanent race drivers on the Formula One grid this year who have driven in GP2, underlines the importance of GP2 as a feeder series for Formula One. Consequently we have tried to make our GP2 tyres as closely aligned to their Formula One equivalents as possible, although they are different both in terms of compound and structure. This alignment takes another step forward in 2015, with the introduction of DRS to GP2, just like Formula One. There are two DRS zones in Bahrain, reducing the lap time in GP2 by just under a second, so we would expect the Formula One and GP2 times to be around five seconds apart on average. The adoption of DRS has also had an effect on the tyres, as it has led to higher top speeds on the straights and as a result, heavier braking. Our GP2 product is substantially unaltered from last year, having consistently shown the correct compromise between speed and durability that will help drivers learn more about the very top level of the sport. With the increased speeds in GP2, we will probably see slightly higher degradation and wear this year, which should help to spice up the action.”
The challenge for the tyres:
Unlike Formula One, which is now an evening race in Bahrain, the GP2 races take place during the day, meaning that thermal degradation is a key factor. Qualifying, however, takes place in the evening, meaning that it is tricky for the teams to extrapolate much of the data from one track session to the other.
Bahrain is a well-known test venue for the teams, with a development test taking place with Pirelli in February and an official group test at the start of April. However, the official test took place with the medium and supersoft tyres, so the drivers will have no previous experience of the soft tyre in these conditions.
Bahrain has a high level of asphalt roughness, which accelerates wear and degradation. The circuit puts a particular emphasis on the rear tyres, with traction and braking being two key characteristics of the medium-speed, flowing layout.
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 (medium) 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 harder compound must be returned after free practice.
Qualifying takes place at 20:00 on Friday, under lights. Race One on Saturday is run at 13:10 over 32 laps and each driver must complete one compulsory pit stop. This cannot take place within the first six laps.
The grid for Race Two on Sunday at 14:15 is determined by the finishing order of the first race, with the top eight positions reversed.
Race Two is run over 23 laps, with no compulsory pit stops.
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