Different strategies and tyre management at work as GP2 and GP3 come to Austria
For the second time this year, GP2 and GP3 raced together, this time at a new venue in Austria – now called the Red Bull Ring –featuring a technical mix of straights and slow corners. The two nominated compounds for GP2 in Austria were P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft. In GP3, the soft tyres only were nominated. As has been the case in the first three GP2 rounds this year, tyre strategy proved to be essential to the outcome of both GP2 races – with the tyres also playing a key role in the GP3 race. Felipe Nasr won the GP2 feature race during what was a very successful weekend for Carlin. Strategies were split, with 15 cars starting on the soft tyre and 11 cars on the medium. Nasr claimed the lead from third place on the grid at the start, despite taking the tactical decision to start on the medium tyres – which are theoretically slower – and run a long first stint before switching to the soft on lap 30. This strategy that worked very well as he was able to resume in the lead, never having lost it from the opening lap. The second-place finisher, ART driver Stoffel Vandoorne, adopted the opposite strategy: starting on the soft tyre and finishing on the medium. He was able to use the speed of the soft to move up from sixth on the grid to second by the finish, making his pit stop on lap 10. He then had to fight his way through the field, emerging runner-up at the chequered flag after all the other competitors had made their pit stops. Raffaele Marciello was third for Racing Engineering, having also adopted a soft-medium stategy, with an early stop.
Nasr said: “I was concentrated on having a good start. After that it was all about building a gap and putting good lap times. Then, the team did a perfect call on the strategy as well. The other guys were coming close. At the end, I had the soft tyres so I just waited for them to heat and then concentrate on putting some good lap times until the chequered flag.”
In GP3, Red Bull driver Alex Lynn took another feature race win for Carlin on Saturday, from his team mate Emil Bernstorff. Just as he did at the opening round in Spain, the Englishman took pole position and fastest lap as well. However, unlike Barcelona, Spielberg was a completely new track for the GP3 crews, with no chance to test.
Bernstorff commented: “Most of the quickest lap times were set at the end so the tyres felt pretty good all the way through. It’s quite nice to be able to push all the way during the race so you don’t have to back off. The tyres were quite consistent.”
Bernstorff went on to win the GP3 sprint race on Sunday, fighting through from seventh on the grid after an action packed race.
The GP2 drivers all used the medium tyre for their 28-lap sprint race on Sunday, which does not feature a compulsory pit stop. Tyre management was still a key factor however, with the drivers having to make sure that the performance remained consistent from start to finish. Trident driver Johnny Cecotto made a blistering start from third on the grid to win the race by less than a second, despite a series of strong attacks from his rivals.
Cecotto said: “I think it was one of the most difficult GP2 sprint race to win because with this track where the tyre degradation is so low. People were catching me and not only they were catching, but it was always a new guy.”
Pirelli’s racing manager Mario Isola concluded: “In GP2, we saw a sprint race on Sunday that was just as entertaining as the feature race on Saturday, which is a good indication that the whole package is working very well, with tyre nominations that are well suited to the track – which none of the drivers and the teams were familiar with previously. The drivers who finished first and second on Saturday used completely opposite strategies, yet it led to a very close finish after a high-speed chess game. So tyre strategy was crucial in the feature race, while tyre management was the key to the sprint race. Wear and degradation was generally low, especially in GP3, where we again some entertaining racing.”
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 Great Britain in two weeks’ time.
|Felipe Nasr won the feature race in GP2|
|Alex Lynn won the feature race in GP3|
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