The GP2 Series races in Baku for the first time this weekend, with Pirelli supplying the P Zero White medium and P Zero Red supersoft compounds for the brand new street circuit. This is just one of two stand-alone GP2 races this year, when the series races on its own without GP3.
With no previous data from Azerbaijan to rely upon, it will be crucial for the teams and drivers to gain an understanding during practice of how the tyres behave on the track, which is expected to be the fastest street circuit around, with the longest straight on the calendar and some extremely narrow sections.
Pirelli’s racing manager says:
Mario Isola: “It’s good to have GP2 racing as part of the inaugural grand prix in Baku, allowing the young drivers involved to discover new territories. With low grip and high track evolution expected, as well as quite high temperatures, the new street circuit will provide quite a challenge to the teams in terms of understanding the tyre behaviour. Extracting the most from the tyres in qualifying will be important to a good result, as will selecting the best strategy for the race. Above all, it will be a question of adapting to this new set of circumstances as quickly as possible, rewarding the GP2 teams and drivers who are able to think on their feet.”
The challenge for the tyres:
Street circuits are often low in grip with considerable track evolution, and that will be particularly true in Baku where the asphalt surface has only recently been laid. On one section, asphalt has been laid on top of what were previously cobbled streets.
The 45-minute GP2 practice on Friday will be the very first session on the new track all weekend, meaning it is likely to be very slippery and teams will probably struggle to gain representative information. During qualifying and the race, the surface should be grippier.
The same combination of GP2 tyres (medium and supersoft) will be used in Abu Dhabi at the end of the year, with a reasonably high performance gap between the two compounds.
On a new circuit, mistakes are more likely and on a street circuit that is very fast in places and rather narrow in others, the chances of a safety car could be high. A good strategy call could be rewarded here.
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 (supersoft).
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 15:00 on Friday, after practice at 11:00. The feature race on Saturday at 12:00 lasts 29 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 tyres they qualified on.
The grid for the sprint race on Sunday at 14:00 is determined by the finishing order of the first race, with the top eight positions reversed. It is run over 20 laps, with no compulsory pit stops.