Strategy key to GP2 feature race: Lynn becomes GP3 champion
An action-packed weekend in Abu Dhabi, the final round of the GP2 and GP3 Series, provided a GP2 feature race where tyre strategy was key, and a new GP3 Series champion in Carlin Racing’s Alex Lynn. The P Zero White medium and P Zero Red supersoft tyres were nominated for GP2, while the GP3 drivers had the soft compound only at their disposal. The performance gap between the two GP2 compounds meant that there was plenty of scope for the teams to use strategy to their advantage, as seen in the feature race. ART Grand Prix’s Stoffel Vandoorne qualified on pole for the fourth consecutive time, but unlike Formula One, no drivers are obliged to start the race using the tyres on which they qualified. Instead they have a completely free choice, although both compounds must be run during the feature race.
|Vandoorne won in GP2|
Vandoorne chose to start on used supersofts, whereas Palmer opted for new mediums. This set up the battle that was central to their race. At the start of the race, which was also interrupted by a safety car on lap two, Palmer dropped back while Vandoorne claimed the lead on the faster tyres. Once the pit window opened on lap six, Vandoorne made his pit stop onto used mediums, dropping into the middle of the field. However, he then passed some cars to work his way back up the field. When Palmer, followed by Russian Time’s Mitch Evans (on an identical strategy) pitted with nine laps to go, the McLaren protégé was able to take the lead. On the faster supersoft following his stop, Palmer was able to come close to Vandoorne, but with four laps to go he had got the most out of the tyres and started to fall behind, eventually finishing a distant second. Felipe Nasr (Carlin) and Stephane Richelmi (DAMS) adopted a similar strategy to Vandoorne, finishing fourth and fifth. The results from Palmer and Richelmi allowed DAMS to claim the 2014 GP2 teams’ championship. Vandoorne commented: “Jolyon had the opposite strategy to me, so did Mitch. I knew Jolyon was going to do something a little different because he’s the champion already, he can take the risk. Finally our strategy worked out: we started on the supersofts. We had a clean start, not perfect but managed to keep the lead, and then there was a safety car fairly early and after that I had a good restart and managed to make a big gap behind, which was fairly useful for us in the pitstop. We got ahead of the supersoft guys who pitted, and could push quite nicely: the only thing I had to do was overtake some traffic. After the stop I thought it was going to be hard to keep the tyre alive to the end, but everything came back to me.” Sunday’s race, which unlike the evening feature race was run in the heat of the day, was won by Racing Engineering’s Stefano Coletti – who got past Campos driver Arthur Pic, on reverse pole. All the drivers used the medium tyre, with the biggest focus being the battle for second in the championship between Carlin’s Felipe Nasr and Vandoorne, who started nine points ahead of his rival. Vandoorne eventually clinched the runner-up spot by finishing sixth and also taking the two points for fastest lap towards the end of the race, having managed his tyres sufficiently well in order to keep plenty of life in them.
|Alex Lynn clinched the GP3 Series|
Carlin driver Alex Lynn clinched the GP3 drivers’ title following the qualifying session on Friday, when his only title rival Dean Stoneman (Koiranen GP) could not clinch pole – which Stoneman needed to score enough points to keep his title hopes alive. Stoneman won the feature race from ART Grand Prix’s Marvin Kirchhofer to secure the runner-up spot in the championship, while Arden’s Patric Niederhauser made a great start on Sunday to win the second race of the weekend. Lynn finished third in race two to ensure that Carlin sealed the GP3 teams’ championship. Despite some of the warmest conditions of the year, the soft GP3 tyres stood up well to the high temperatures, allowing drivers to push to the maximum. Newly crowned GP3 champion Lynn commented: “It’s been a very competitive and tough season, also from a mental point of view. I’ve enjoyed racing on these tyres throughout the year, and I think my driving style is well-suited to them.” Pirelli’s racing manager Mario Isola concluded: “Strategy was a key element of the GP2 feature race, where the drivers had to balance the extra speed of the supersoft against the extra durability of the medium tyre. Understanding the ideal point at which to change tyres, and how to extract the most out of each compound was vital to the strategy, with a fierce battle for the lead that was only decided in the closing stages. Despite the challenging temperatures, the GP3 soft tyre performed extremely well in Abu Dhabi too. Congratulations to Alex Lynn for clinching the GP3 drivers’ title, as well as to DAMS and Carlin for the manufacturers’ titles, after one of the most closely-contested and entertaining seasons in both series that we can remember.”
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