For one of the biggest driving challenges of the year, Pirelli has nominated the P Zero Orange hard and P Zero White medium tyres for GP2. Exactly the same nomination has been made for the high-speed demands of Monza, which follows two weeks after Spa.
Spa is one of the toughest circuits on the calendar, due to the amount of energy put through the tyres and the varied demands of the track, both in terms of lateral and longitudinal forces. Variable weather is another important consideration, on the longest lap of the season. With the Formula One feeder Series sessions often taking place either early or late during the day, the GP2 drivers are more likely to encounter cool or changeable conditions: and unlike Formula One, there is no intermediate tyre. This means that the GP2 wet tyres have been developed to run in dry conditions up to a certain point as well, if the team strategy or race circumstances demands it.
Pirelli’s racing manager Mario Isola says: “The task of the GP2 tyres at Spa is in some ways very different from that in Formula One, increasing the demands on our product in certain respects. For example, GP2 has only five sets of tyres for the entire weekend, so the mileage required for each set is higher than that needed for a set of Formula One tyres. One aspect that is the same for both is the actual circuit, involving high-speed, multidirectional forces, which make Spa such a thrilling experience for drivers and spectators. Our nomination ensures that drivers will be able to push to the limit, showcasing their talents on a circuit that rewards bravery. Variable weather is a common occurrence so we are likely to see rain tyres at some point, even though the abrasiveness of the surface means there is always quite good grip even in the wet. Spa is the longest lap of the year and this will clearly have an effect on strategy in GP2: with a brave strategy, there is potential to gain plenty of track position for drivers who are willing to gamble. With both championships starting to draw to their conclusions, every advantage gained will be crucial.”
The challenge for the tyres
The tyres in Spa have a big job to do under acceleration and braking – as well as resisting a significant lateral load in high-speed turns – as the low-downforce set-up used to achieve high top speeds in Belgium reduces aerodynamic grip.
At high speeds, an aggressive set-up can theoretically cause blistering, as heat builds up around the edges of the tyres that are most closely in contact with the track surface. Pirelli issues recommendations about maximum camber angles, in order to prevent this happening.
Managing tyres over the course of just one lap is as crucial as managing them over the course of a race: the lap is so long that there are many variables in terms of temperature and grip over the 7.004 kilometres.