A late safety car restart put six cars out of contention in Formula 2’s sprint race in Baku.
Race leader Dennis Hauger went wide exiting turn one after the restart, hitting the outside wall and damaged the right-hand side of his car. Victor Martins, who was running in second place, followed the same fortune as he also ended up in the Tecpro barriers.
Jehan Daruvala, who was defending fourth place around the outside of the corner, couldn’t avoid Martins’ car and went under it.
Theo Pourchaire and Arthur Leclerc meanwhile were also unable to make the corner and ended up in the barriers. Meanwhile Jack Doohan locked up under braking, spun around and stalled.
Sauber junior Pourchaire had already anticipated that such a situation was on the cards for the races, but couldn’t avoid being a victim of it.
“It’s tough to warm the brakes and to warm the tyres in the races,” the ART Grand Prix driver said after qualifying.
“I expect a lot of safety cars. I hope there will be no safety cars, no crashes, no contact. But I mean this track is very special for that, and the races are crazy there.”
The top three finishers declared post-race that the track surface was slippery off the racing line, but reckoned that it was a lack of tyre and brake temperature what eventually led to the drama.
“The grip level on the racing line is fine. Off-line it starts to get a bit scary,” Prema’s race winner Ollie Bearman said. “When you’re going for an overtake, I didn’t really feel the confidence of pushing like I did on the grip line and also in the safety car.
“It’s quite difficult to keep the tyres warm, especially the front tyres. We saw the front two guys in the final restart simply understeer off. And I think a lot of others did that as well. It’s really tough to keep the temperature. And for that half a lap that [me and team-mate Frederik Vesti] actually did, we were both sliding around the entire time. So it makes for difficult racing.”
Vesti, who finished second, also emphasised the impact of cold tyres.
“The real challenge is actually during the safety cars, the tyres just cool down, become a lot less grippy and if you go on throttle, you can make wheelspin for a very long time,” he said.
“Also it creates a lot of understeer and just trouble for the drivers. So it’s something to manage and stay out of trouble. It’s quite difficult when you’re pushing for the limit.
Hitech GP’s Jak Crawford agreed on the veredict: “I had a couple of times when I was fighting early in the race and I was off-line a bit and I lost all grip and almost ended up in the wall a couple of times.
“So it just becomes very difficult, especially on restarts when you have super cold tyres. Cold brakes, cold front tyres and you are wheelspinning for days.”