As well as supplying Formula One, Pirelli is entering its second year as the official tyre supplier to the GP2 Series: the official feeder championship to Formula One. This sits alongside Pirelli’s existing GP3 agreement that began in 2010: one year before the Italian firm entered Formula One.
The GP2 Series benefits from two pre-season tests before the first race in Malaysia from March 23-25. The first of these tests took place at Jerez in Spain last week, while the second test concluded today at Barcelona.
The tyre regulations for GP2 this year have been designed to mirror those of Formula One. The GP2 teams and drivers will have at their disposal two different types of Pirelli P Zero slicks to use during a race weekend, just like Formula One. The colour markings used in Formula One will also be applied in GP2. The GP2 tyres, while different in compound and construction, also share the deliberately fast-wearing characteristics of their Formula One counterparts.
Every GP2 car will have four sets of slick tyres and three sets of wet weather tyres available for the race weekend, as was the case in 2011. However, the four sets of slick tyres will now comprise three sets of the harder compound and one set of the softer compound.
During both tests, the teams had five sets of Pirelli’s P Zero hard GP2 compound available to them, as well as two sets of the medium compound. These are the compounds that have been nominated for the first four race weekends: Malaysia, Bahrain (twice) and Barcelona.
The P Zero medium compound, featuring white markings, remains the same as last year, while the P Zero hard compound has been developed to operate within a wider range of temperatures and have greater wear resistance.
All but one of the 13 GP2 teams ran on the hard compound tyre on day one at Barcelona, before sampling the medium compound during the second and third days, focusing on race and qualifying simulations. A similar pattern of running was seen at Jerez.
The Jerez and Barcelona circuits offered the teams a completely different type of challenge, enabling them to test a wide range of parameters with the cars and tyres. Jerez puts special emphasis on the rear tyres, which have to work hard to provide traction, while Barcelona – which is quicker – tests the front left tyre in particular.
Ambient temperatures over all three days in Barcelona were cool, ranging from 8 to 19 degrees centigrade, with the fastest times set towards the middle of the day. Conditions remained dry, so the intermediate and wet tyres were not used.
Pirelli’s racing manager Mario Isola said: “As we saw at the first Formula One tests, higher temperatures would have helped us produce more conclusive results. Despite this, the early indications are that the GP2 drivers are happy with the tyres and the wear rate is what we were after with the new hard compound, which is lasting around five laps longer than the medium compound. The drivers reported that the medium tyre gave good grip and balance, while the harder tyre was a bit more consistent over a longer stint: which was exactly what we were expecting to see. Our aim in GP2 this year is to make it even more relevant to Formula One by mirroring the philosophy we adopt at the highest level of motorsport: producing fast-wearing and exciting tyres that encourage overtaking and actively add to the spectacle of the race, both in terms of on-track action and pit stop strategy.”
Mexican driver Esteban Gutierrez – Pirelli’s inaugural GP3 champion in 2010 – was fastest on the second and third days of the Barcelona test, setting his fastest time of all during the final morning with a time of 1m29.154s for Lotus Grand Prix, using Pirelli’s medium GP2 compound. Italy’s Fabrizio Crestani was quickest on the first day for GP2 newcomer Lazarus.
In Jerez, Italian DAMS driver Davide Valsecchi was quickest on all three days. His best time of all was on the second day, when he lapped the 4.428-kilometre circuit in a time of 1m24.783s also using Pirelli’s medium GP2 compound.
By way of comparison, the fastest time during the Formula One test at Jerez was set by Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, with a time of 1m17.631s on the P Zero Yellow soft tyre. The fastest Formula One time at the most recent Barcelona test was 1m22.030s from Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen.