Hockenheim: traction, braking, fast straights, and slow corners
The GP2 and GP3 teams return to Hockenheim after a two-year break, as the venue alternates with the Nurburgring to host German Grand Prix weekends. But for Pirelli, it will actually be the third visit to Hockenheim with GP3: as the Italian firm first came to the track as GP3 supplier in 2010, one year before it entered Formula One. For GP2, Pirelli will bring the P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft tyres, while the GP3 cars will have the soft tyres only. Hockenheim has two distinct parts to it: a tight and twisty stadium section and then a series of fast straights. A versatile tyre is needed to cope with this varied layout, as well as with the changeable temperatures and weather conditions that can be seen at Hockenheim at this time of year. Rain is currently forecast for at least some of the weekend, which will complicate the strategy calculations. Hockenheim isn’t one of the most demanding circuits of the year in terms of tyre energy as there are no really fast corners, but traction and braking is critical. This makes looking after the rear tyres in particular an important factor. Pirelli’s racing manager says: Mario Isola: “Hockenheim couldn’t present a bigger contrast to the flat-out corners of Silverstone, where the GP2 and GP3 teams were last seen in action two weeks ago. Instead, the characteristics are a little more similar to Austria, where the same tyre nomination was made for GP2 and GP3. These compounds are also well-suited to Hockenheim, although the overall energy going into the tyres is lower. In GP2, we probably don’t expect to see a massive gap in lap times between the two compounds, but it’s only when the teams get to practice on Friday that they will have a short window to work out the optimal strategies: definitely part of the art of GP2 this year. For many drivers in both categories this will be a brand new circuit, so assimilating the information as quickly as possible and being able to react to changing conditions will be vital to success.” The challenge for the tyres: Hockenheim is a ‘stop and go’ type circuit, where teams tend to run the highest possible levels of downforce to maximise grip under braking, acceleration and cornering. This also helps reduce excessive sliding, which leads to wear and thermal degradation. The track surface at Hockenheim is very smooth. The fastest corner though is Turn 5, which is almost a straight line and puts the most energy through the tyres. Keeping the tyres within their optimal working range is one of the biggest challenges on a circuit that doesn’t have a natural rhythm. Wheelspin can cause tyre overheating, while the short straights also mean that the compounds do not get much of a chance to cool down over a lap. The race and the rules: GP2 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 (soft). 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 hard compound must be returned after free practice. Qualifying takes place at 15:55 on Friday. Race One on Saturday is run at 15:40 over 38 laps and each driver must complete one compulsory pit stop. This cannot take place within the first six laps. The grid for Race Two on Sunday at 10:35 is determined by the finishing order of the first race, with the top eight positions reversed. Race Two is run over 27 laps, with no compulsory pit stops. GP3 Every car will have three sets of dry tyres and two sets of wet weather tyres available for the GP3 race weekend. Only one compound is nominated: soft in Germany. The drivers can use the tyre allocation in any way they like. All the GP3 compounds carry yellow markings. Drivers are allowed to carry over one tyre set from the previous round for use in free practice only. This means that some drivers will be using a set of the hard compound (from Great Britain) on Friday. There is one practice session, one qualifying session and two races in GP3. Qualifying takes place at 09:45 on Saturday morning, after a single free practice session on Friday at 17:50. Race One starts at 17:20 on Saturday and lasts for 18 laps, followed by Race Two at 09:25 on Sunday (also 18 laps). The grid for Race Two is determined by the finishing order of the first race, with the top eight positions reversed.
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