Photo: Malcolm Griffiths/GP3 Media Service
GP3 and Pirelli have adjusted the tyre compounds that will be used for the rest of the 2013 season.
The opening races of the season earlier this month in Barcelona saw drivers having to concentrate on making their tyres last the distance, and subsequent analysis by the series and their tyre supplier established that the choice of compound was ‘too aggressive for combative racing’.
The problem in Barcelona was exaggerated by the new more powerful GP3 car, and warmer temperatures than teams had experienced in pre-season testing.
The compound used at each race will now be one step harder, with a super-hard compound to be used where hards would previously have featured.
“We are very pleased with how Pirelli work and react to any given situation,” said Bruno Michel, chief of GP2 and GP3.
“GP3 races have always showcased drivers giving maximum attack whilst starting to learn how to manage the tyre degradation. After Barcelona, we analysed that we had to fine-tune our compound selection to a harder range in order to keep that balance intact. Pirelli have been quick to adapt to the situation in terms of production too.”
Mario Isola of Pirelli said: “Following the first two races we analysed the data and together with the series organisers we have decided to revise some of the initial choices, which turned out to be slightly too performance-orientated, considering some of the greatly increased forces that the brand new GP3 car is putting on the tyres.
“In pre-season testing the teams had the opportunity to run the new car on our new tyres, but due to the temperatures at that time of year, the track conditions were not completely representative and the full potential of the car-tyre package could not be exploited.
“Now that we are four to five seconds per lap quicker than last year, and with a good amount of representative data from Barcelona, we have decided to?make more use of the harder compounds for the GP3 races so that the drivers can push their cars closer to the limit but still learn about tyre management.”
Teams have an opportunity to test at the Hungaroring before the next round of the season at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo Circuit on 15-16 June.
While tyre management has been a largely-acceptable feature of GP2 in the Pirelli era, GP3 drivers have been able to focus firstly on racing each other hard and secondly on keeping their rubber intact. But in Barcelona that balance was wrong, and the situation was rightly criticised afterwards. We were not really finding out who the quickest drivers were, but the ones that could keep the life in their tyres the best.
And why is that wrong in GP3? GP2 can be seen as a finishing school for the most promising drivers, to prepare them best for life in Formula 1. That includes pitstops, strategy and tyre management. But GP3 should just be about discovering the best talents. And the best talents, to anyone with even a slightly traditional view of motor racing, are those that can push to the limit on a qualifying lap, at the front of a race or when fighting their way through the pack. GP3 should show us who these drivers are, and then GP2 can teach them about strategy and tyres.
It was probably no coincidence that the two drivers that struggled the most in the Saturday race in Barcelona were Red Bull Juniors Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat. We already know from past seasons that their style is very much flat-out. We know they both need to work on their wheel-to-wheel racing skills. Yes, they experienced plenty of side-by-side action as they fell down the order, but that’s not the same thing as proper on-the-limit racing. Of course they would have got used to it – indeed, they both looked better on Sunday – but it’s unlikely they would have been able to demonstrate their lightning-fast speed very often over the course of the season. And that would be an unnecessary shame.
At a time when F1 is being dominated by bickering about tyres, it’s a credit to GP3 and Pirelli that they recognised a problem, acted quickly and created a solution. What had been built up to be a great GP3 season with the new, more impressive car and a high-quality grid of proven winners had looked like coming down to a tyre-preservation competition. That statement from the championship that the “decision was taken in order to help put in light the drivers? skills and allow them to race more combatively” proves their interest is in the right place.
Junior racing should be about highlighting drivers’ skills, and there are more important aspects to a driver’s skill-set than tyre management.