Soft compound Pirelli GP3 tyre to make its debut in Spain
Fresh from the lessons learned on the opening two rounds of the GP3 series - which marks Pirelli's return to single-seater racing for the first time in 20 years - the Italian tyre firm heads to Valencia for round three, where the new soft-compound PZero GP3 tyre makes its debut. The first two rounds of the inaugural GP3 series in Barcelona and Istanbul made use of Pirelli's medium compound tyre, which proved to be extremely versatile in a wide range of conditions. Now Pirelli's new 13-inch soft compound tyre makes its debut on the Valencia street circuit this weekend: the home of the European Grand Prix. The new GP3 series, with each Renault-engined car putting out 280 horsepower, is designed as a stepping-stone to GP2: the acknowledged route to Formula One. Thanks to a calendar made up exclusively of Grand Prix weekends, the young drivers taking part in GP3 have the chance to display their talents in front of some of the most influential people in motorsport, with the help of Pirelli's tyres. For the first time, Pirelli will use the soft-compound tyre in competition this weekend, which has been carefully developed in a test programme involving Renault Formula One driver Vitaly Petrov. The GP3 drivers all took part in a two-day test last week at the nearby Valencia circuit, a permanent facility, using the medium compound tyres already seen in Barcelona and Istanbul. However, this weekend's race will take place on the spectacular 5.41-kilometre Valencia street circuit, which was first used in 2008 and is a very different proposition. The track runs through the breathtaking Arts and Sciences area, characterised by the cutting-edge architecture of local man Santiago Calatrava, which includes a stunning 140-metre long swing bridge. The new soft-compound Pirelli tyres are designed to deliver optimal performance but also to deliberately degrade, in order to teach the young drivers how to look after their rubber: a vital skill that they will need to carefully cultivate for their future careers. The demands of a street circuit are somewhat different to the requirements of a permanent track as the grip can be more variable - thanks to street furniture such as painted white lines and manhole covers - and the surfaces are more aggressive. For a street circuit Valencia is also very quick, with the Formula One cars topping out at a maximum speed of around 323kph, in between the 25 corners. Conditions should normally be dry and warm, but there was some rain during the test last week. As Pirelli's Racing Manager Mario Isola explains, these unique challenges can only benefit both Pirelli and the young drivers taking part in the GP3 series. "Valencia is a great circuit but it is not at all easy for the cars, drivers and tyres," commented Isola. "The first time that the drivers will try our soft compound tyres will be during practice on Friday, and I think that they will notice quite a difference from the tyres they have used on the previous two rounds. Following our brief from the series organisers we have made the tyres degrade more, but they will also provide more performance early on in the race. These are the tyre characteristics that the drivers will increasingly experience as their careers advance up the motorsport ladder, so it's great to get them used to looking after their tyres from a young age." After the opening four races of the season, Mexico's Esteban Gutierrez leads the GP3 series from American Alexander Rossi and Canada's Robert Wickens. ART Grand Prix leads the teams' championship ahead of Jenzer Motorsport. Practice in Spain takes place from 16:50 on Friday 25 June. Qualifying begins at 08:45 on Saturday morning, followed by race one at 17:20. Race two starts at 09:25 on Sunday, with both races lasting half an hour.