Q&A: Didier Perrin GP2 Series Technical Director
Two weekends into the 2007 season, and the GP2 Series has witnessed four fascinating races, four different race winners and thrilling contests from first to last place. We spoke to GP2 Series Technical Director Didier Perrin to discuss whether the 2007-specification car was meeting pre- season expectations on track.
GP2 Series: Two weekends into the 2007 season and we've seen four great races. How pleased are you with the 2007 aerodynamic package and updates to the GP2 Series car?
Didier Perrin: I am more than happy as our targets with the new kit were first to improve our performance to maintain the gap with F1 which was a success (our pole man in Barcelona was less than 6 seconds from the F1 mid-grid) and secondly to force the teams to make set-up changes from 2006 in order to set all the teams on a level playing field at the beginning of the season. As we have seen four different winners from four different teams for our first four races it isclear that we have also achieved our second goal.
GP2 Series: Both Bahrain and Barcelona were very hot races with which to begin the season. Were you happy with the level of reliability we saw?
Didier: As the Technical Director of the GP2 Series, I am afraid that I am probably the most difficult person to satisfy in terms of reliability. I am happy when absolutely no reliability problems affect a race, which was the case for example in Barcelona Race 2 despite the fact that only 15 cars crossed the finish line!
Hot ambient temperatures make both the teams and drivers' tasks more difficult as it tends to reduce the margin of error that the car is able to tolerate.
During the entire 2006 GP2 season, only 2.4 % of the cars that started a race stopped due to an engine reliability problem. People could say that the GP2 Series reached a correct level of reliability, but I don't like this way of thinking and with our partners in the Series we constantly strive to improve our performance and reliability and we will continue to push in 2007.
GP2 Series: We've seen an unusually high number of aborted starts so far in 2007, both in Bahrain and Spain. Can you explain the reasons for the grid problems?
Didier: First, consider the fact that, unlike in Formula One, GP2 Series cars are not equipped with dozens of electronic tools to help the driver at the starts, or during the races, and this makes a big difference, particularly in the start procedure.
For example, let's try to analyse what a GP2 Series driver on one of the first grid rows can have in mind in the seconds before the start. Spending the formation lap struggling to maintain a reasonable gap with the cars in front of you is not so easy while everybody is accelerating, braking, swerving to heat up tyres and brakes while your engineer is braking your balls on the radio by telling you to "be careful with your temperatures". When you are in view of the grid, you must find room to achieve a proper "rear tyres burn out" without spending too much time on the gas. You must take care to run on the clean side of the track, be careful to stop very precisely in the middle of your staring box to satisfy the requirement of the FIA jump start detection system.
Then you arrive in place on your spot on the grid. You check three times that you are in first gear; you try to imagine if it will be better to overtake the car in front of you on the right or the left. You try to concentrate, but your eyes are seeing the water temperature rising, rising and rising on your dashboard display. You carefully try to find the biting point of your clutch but you must be careful because the clutch is very hot and sticky, and you must not stall.
It seems that you are stationary for too long, what is going on? Is there a problem? You would appreciate some information form your engineer, but this time he does not say anything as all he can do, like you, is wait for the other 25 drivers to take their places on the grid....your water temperature is now above 112 degrees, and the display is flashing.
The red lights come on, and the race will start in a few seconds. Your adrenalin rushes, you're ready to go...suddenly yellow flags everywhere, flashing lights. Aborted start. I must go for another lap. The car in front of me does not start, I'll pass him on the left. But another guy has the same idea, I brake to avoid the collision and...oops, clutch too late. Shit... I stalled!
Spectators enjoy the GP2 starts with smoke on the rear tyres, cars sideways and lots of excitement. There is a big difference in the speed of the drivers leading up to the first corner as the efficiency of the start is not due to an electronic equipment but really to the ability of the drivers. The price that we pay for real starts and real races is the risk of a few aborted starts.
I tell you, the GP2 Series is a very demanding championship. Ask Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg which car is easier to drive: GP2 or F1? This is really the reason why if a driver performs well in the GP2 Series, he is ready for F1.