Tyre strategy at the forefront as Formula 2 gets underway
The Formula 2 season got underway in Bahrain, with new colours for Pirelli’s bespoke Formula 2 tyres, to mirror the new markings in F1. For the season-opener at the Sakhir circuit, featuring the most abrasive asphalt of the year, the Formula 2 crews had the yellow medium tyres available as well as the red soft. Unusually, both races featured pit stops (which are only compulsory in the feature race) with tyre strategy a decisive factor in both races.
Feature Race, the winning strategy: Nicolas Latifi converted fourth place on the grid to a race win, despite a delay of around four seconds during his pit stop on lap 16. Like everyone else, the DAMS driver started on the medium tyre before switching to the soft. Having saved his tyres after the start, he took the lead on lap nine but dropped to fourth after his lengthy stop. Nonetheless, he used the advantage of fresher rubber to move up the order as those around him came into the pits or suffered from degradation, eventually winning a thrilling 32-lap race by nine seconds.
Nicolas Latifi: “We were quite confident with the race pace but we did not make things easy with the pit stop. Thankfully, the team gave me a great car so I had the pace to go back to the front. When I came out. I knew my tyres were going to be fresher so I was just patient and biding my time to get in front.”
Feature Race, alternative strategy: Although everyone ran a medium-soft strategy, there were several variations in the timings of the pit stops as the drivers tried different tactics. ART’s Nyck de Vries was the first of the leaders to stop on lap 13 with an ‘undercut’, while others such as Carlin’s Nobuharu Matsushita went long during the opening stint in order to gain track position.
Sprint Race, what we learned: Strategy and pit stops were a focal point of the 23-lap sprint race, with the teams changing rubber to combat the abrasive asphalt and warm conditions. The first driver to make a stop was Prema’s Sean Gelael (the only driver to start on the soft compound). He was soon followed though by the frontrunners including the eventual winner, Uni Virtuosi’s Luca Ghiotto – who had fought his way up from the midfield. The top three all made a pit stop, but Ghiotto’s team mate Guanyu Zhou finished fourth without stopping.
Pirelli’s head of F1 and car racing Mario Isola: “It’s been a fantastic pair of races to start the Formula 2 season, with the hot conditions and abrasive asphalt definitely adding an extra element. The effect was that the drivers had to look after their tyres carefully, especially the rears, and a pit stop proved to be an effective strategy in the second race as well – as we have seen before on a few rare occasions. However, the pit stop was by no means the only strategy: careful tyre management meant that drivers such as Zhou were able to score good results on their starting set of medium tyres.”
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