GP2 TYRE STRATEGY MAKES THE MOST OF SAFETY CARS IN HUNGARY
The GP2 feature race at the tight and twisty Hungaroring on Saturday was interrupted by two safety car periods, which rewarded teams that were reactive with their tyre strategies and gave Frenchman Arthur Pic his debut win for Campos Racing.
Tyre strategy was at the heart of Pic’s success, with the Frenchman being the highest-placed driver on the grid to start with P Zero Yellow soft tyres from third. When the first safety car came out on lap five, Pic (along with a number of other drivers) pitted for P Zero White medium tyres on lap six: taking advantage of the neutralisation to switch compounds without losing track position.
Pic moved into the lead when the cars ahead of him pitted, ahead of a second lengthy safety car period, towards the end of the race, which prompted the drivers who had opted for a long first stint into the pits for their stops.
In fact though, circumstances dictated that the best strategy was the one adopted by Pic: a short first stint on the soft, followed by a much longer second stint on the medium. The drivers who occupied the top three places all went for this same strategy, while the highest-placed driver to do anything different was championship leader Jolyon Palmer in fourth.
The DAMS driver, who enjoyed a race-long battle with Carlin’s Felipe Nasr, started on the medium tyre and changed to the soft just before the second safety car period. He made an excellent getaway, but the timing of the safety cars meant that he could not exploit his chosen strategy.
Racing Engineering’s Raffaele Marciello adopted the same strategy as Pic, pitting a lap earlier than the Frenchman, but a time penalty for speeding in the pitlane denied him the chance to win the race.
Pic commented: “The start was not so good for me so I just tried to keep my calm after that and follow the pace of Marciello. When the safety car came in on lap five, we knew that our strategy was the best one. We decided to pit and after that the goal was to manage the tyres until the end. There were more than 30 laps to go. That’s a lot with the medium tyres on this track and in these high temperatures. We tried to manage them as well as possible and it went perfectly for us. Even at the end, I still had some tyres left on the last lap. That was very good.”
With no compulsory pit stops for the GP2 race on Sunday, held in warm conditions, and no interruptions from safety cars, the key was tyre management rather than strategy. Nathanael Berthon started from pole for Lazarus, with ART driver Stoffel Vandoorne lining up second. Having found his way past Berthon, it was McLaren protégé Vandoorne who triumphed, using the medium tyres from start to finish.
Just one tyre compound is nominated for GP3, which was the soft tyre in Hungary. On Saturday’s race, Richie Stanaway led home a Status GP one-two, having also sealed pole position. He fought an intense battle with Arden’s Robert Visoiu, which pushed his tyres to the limit. When Visoiu slid wide with two laps to go, Nick Yelloly claimed the runner-up spot.
Stanaway said: “It was just a case of trying to manage the tyres. I was basically trying to stay in front of Robert by the smallest possible margin in order to try and have as much tyres at the end. I still had some tyre degradation towards the end and it was a case of some defensive driving to maintain the lead. So I’ve got work to do in figuring out how to manage these softs as I need to compensate for my lack of experience and figure how to be more efficient with the rubber. It’s a good opportunity to learn.” Patric Niederhauser won Sunday’s race for Arden, which was again held over 17 laps, ahead of ART’s Dino Zamparelli.
Pirelli’s racing manager Mario Isola concluded: “Tyre strategy was the key to the GP2 feature race once more, but this time it was the influence of the safety car that dictated which was the best strategy to have. Under these circumstances, it is the most reactive team and driver – who can read the race quickly and not make any mistakes - that makes the most of the situation. Arthur and Campos Racing did this perfectly on Saturday, which resulted in a very well deserved victory. Despite his lack of experience, Richie Stanaway also did a very good job of managing the soft compound on GP3, following a very intense but entertaining battle with Robert Visoiu. With both drivers pushing to the limit, the one who did the most efficient job was able to triumph, with Yelloly also making the most of the opportunity that was presented to him.”
Following the F1 summer break, both the GP2 and GP3 Series resume in Spa at the end of August.