TYRE STRATEGY CRUCIAL FOR 200TH GP2 RACE AS EVANS WINS FROM 15TH
Strategy was at the heart of the 200th GP2 race on Saturday, with New Zealander Mitch Evans taking his second consecutive victory all the way from 15th on the grid.
Tyre strategy helped the former GP3 champion make his meteoric rise through the field, as he chose tactics that were different from those drivers who started at the front of the grid.
The P Zero White medium tyres and P Zero Yellow soft tyres were nominated for GP2, with tyre management made particularly crucial by extremely high track temperatures in excess of 50 degrees centigrade.
The majority of the top 10 all started on the harder medium tyre, while Evans gambled on starting with the soft tyre. Although wear and degradation was high, the Russian Time driver managed to make his soft tyres last until lap 13 of the 38-lap race.
He then strung together a series of qualifying laps to overtake the drivers who were yet to stop, which was crucial to his ambitions for victory. When the leaders made their stops Evans found himself in front, having to make his set of medium tyres last for 25 laps during his second stint while defending from drivers behind him on the faster soft tyres. In the end, he won by less than half a second from Stoffel Vandoorne and Jolyon Palmer (who continues to lead the championship).
Evans commented: “The car was sensational. I had a really good start up to P11 in the first lap I think and then made up a few more. After the pitstop it was pretty much about putting my head down and looking after the tyres a bit longer. I was not cruising but I was taking one lap after the other, taking care of the tyres. In the end, when Jolyon came out behind I could push a bit and build a gap when he was trying to warm up the tyres. I was just trying to keep it straight and get good traction and look after the rears.”
The 27-lap GP2 sprint race on Sunday was also all about bold tyre strategies. In contrast to the hot weather that had characterized the action previously, there was a brief downpour before the start, leaving the track wet. The conservative choice was to start on rain tyres, but Racing Engineering’s Stefano Coletti and Carlin’s Felipe Nasr gambled on starting with the mediums – despite the slippery conditions. The decision paid off, as they finished first and second. From lap 10, the drivers who started on wet tyres came into the pits for slicks, which allowed Coletti and Nasr (who started from fifth and fourth on the grid respectively) to battle for the lead. Campos Racing’s Alexander Rossi also adopted the same tactics to move up to seventh from the back of the grid.
In GP3, the drivers had the soft tyres only, which proved themselves to be well-suited to the varied conditions and demands of Hockenheim, with both races lasting 15 laps.
German rookie Marvin Kirchhofer took a lights to flag victory from pole on Saturday for ART Grand Prix, followed home by Carlin’s championship leader Alex Lynn and and his team mate Emil Bernstorff. Sunday’s GP3 race was also affected by the rain that fell in the morning and resulted in another rookie win from pole, this time from Arden’s Jann Mardenborough. All the drivers started on the slick tyre, with the challenge being to maintain grip and avoid excessive degradation.
Mardenborough, who started his career through video game racing, said: “I felt comfortable from lap one. From then on I could push when I wanted and conserve my rears when I wanted. I felt completely in control and it was a really nice feeling to have.”
Pirelli’s racing manager Mario Isola concluded: “On the occasion of the 200th race for GP2, we saw perhaps two of the best GP2 races there have ever been, where a brave tyre strategy paid off on each occasion. An inspired starting tyre choice from Evans in race one in particular was the key to victory, which he then sealed by perfect tyre management and some quick qualifying laps just when it mattered most. His performance underlines the massive difference that the correct tyre strategy can make, even if a driver has had a disappointing qualifying session. In GP3, we saw exactly the same situation: the right tyre management will get results, also for rookie drivers. It was extremely difficult this weekend, with varying temperatures and track conditions, but the GP2 and GP3 drivers underlined their impressive ability to get the most out of the tyres under any circumstances.”
This year’s GP2 season takes in 11 rounds and 22 races, while GP3 comprises nine rounds and 18 races. Both the GP2 and GP3 Series resume in Hungary next weekend – meaning a tight turnaround for the teams.