Safety cars hold the key to tyre strategy in Formula 2
|Rowland got strategy right to win|
Monaco F2 Feature Race
Taking advantage of safety cars held the key to the Formula 2 Feature Race around the narrow streets of Monaco. The Formula 2 drivers had P Zero soft and supersoft tyres at their disposal, having to use both compounds during the Feature Race. Although overtaking is meant to be nearly impossible in Monaco, several drivers disproved that myth. However, the main way to gain track position was through strategy and making the correct opportunistic use of the safety car. There were two safety car periods in the Feature Race, during which most drivers made their compulsory pit stops. Prema’s race leader (from pole) Charles Leclerc stayed out during the first safety car period from lap eight, whereas ART’s Alexander Albon, who started on the front row alongside him, decided to gamble with an early stop. Leclerc eventually made his stop just before the second safety car, from lap 21, but what appeared to be a loose wheel was in fact the result of broken suspension, which eventually forced him into retirement. DAMS driver Oliver Rowland, who started from third on the grid, made his stop during the second safety car period: a tactic that proved extremely effective, as he was able to ‘jump’ Albon once all the stops were complete. A similar strategy was adopted by Russian Time’s Artem Markelov, which meant that he too went from fourth on the grid to second at the finish. The top four finishers all started on soft and then moved onto supersoft. The highest-placed driver to do the opposite strategy (by starting on supersoft and finishing on soft) was Russian Time’s Luca Ghiotto, ending up fifth from eighth on the grid. The 30-lap Sprint Race on Sunday was all about tyre management rather than strategy, as there were no compulsory stops. Nick De Vries, starting from second on the reverse grid, out-dragged his Rapax team mate Johnny Cecotto on pole and eventually claimed a clear win, despite having to manage some tyre degradation on a relatively warm track. Quotes: Head of car racing Mario Isola said: “The first safety car, early in the Feature Race, forced the leading drivers on softs to decide whether to stay out or make the change to supersofts early. For those starting on supersofts, it was an ideal situation, so they all made the change then. We saw a lot of variations on these strategies, influenced also by the appearance of the second safety car, which was the key tactical moment. There were still many takes on strategy, with some drivers managing the supersoft sufficiently well to run long stints, despite the degradation on this compound.” Oliver Rowland, Formula 2 Feature Race winner, added: “After I took the lead my engineer was telling me to manage the tyres a little bit, because we were not sure how long the supersofts would last. So, I was starting to manage a bit, then I noticed that Artem was coming quickly. I started to push again, and the gap kind of stayed the same. At the start I didn’t expect much, but safety cars can always cause anything around here!” The next Formula 2 round takes place in Azerbaijan from June 23-25, while GP3 resumes in Austria from July 8-9.
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