Getting to grips with GP2 Asia, whatever the weather Bridgestone technology has helped the world's best racing teams win in Formula One and many other motorsport series. Bridgestone is the unique supplier to GP2 since the start of the GP2 ...
Getting to grips with GP2 Asia, whatever the weather
Bridgestone technology has helped the world's best racing teams win in Formula One and many other motorsport series. Bridgestone is the unique supplier to GP2 since the start of the GP2 Asia project in January 2008, built on its success as a supplier to the original GP2 series. The new GP2 Asia challenge will begin on 25 January at the first round of the season at the Dubai Autodrome.
It's a major new enterprise for the Japanese company, which transports 460 dry weather tyres and 230 wet weather tyres to each race, to supply every one of the 26 cars in the field on top of all the tyre fitting and balancing machines and compressors to be used by the 12 Bridgestone staff present at each event. Each technician takes care of two teams at each race and the teams each have a mechanic that helps wash the tyres, check the pressure and check the balance-weight on each tyre.
The new season began unofficially at the Dubai Autodrome during test sessions starting 19-20 January. The next test session will be on 22-23 January before the inaugural 2008 GP2 Asia Series event is takes place on 25-26 January.
The GP2 Asia series regulations specify that each driver will be able to use four sets of dry tyres and two sets of wet tyres per event. Strangely enough in a part of the world where the weather is usually dry and hot, the weather forecast is pretty bad at the moment in Dubai. It is scheduled to be wet for the second test session and possibly wet again for the first day of the first race on Friday. Either way, Bridgestone is well prepared and the wet tyres are deeply grooved with a stable block pattern in case the teams have to contend with very wet conditions. Both the dry and the wet tyres have been developed to last for the full 42-lap race, the only problem for the teams is how they should adapt their race strategy if the weather changes suddenly.
Sometimes drivers have a preference for wet or dry races. At Qi-Meritus.Mahara Luca Filippi says, "I prefer when it is a dry race. But we cannot choose so I will adapt to whatever the situation is." His team mate Hiroki Yoshimoto agrees stating, "In Dubai, I don't want the rain! I am afraid that the circuit will flood immediately if that happens. Either way it is the same for everyone. I do not want the race to be stopped because of the weather conditions. I am usually quick in wet conditions so I'm not too worried."
Clearly though the results of the first test session enable any trained eye to see who the consistent drivers are and who knows how to handle the tyres well.
One of the key exercises for all GP2 Asia teams and Qi-Meritus.Mahara will be to practice good, well-timed pit stops. Pit stops are designed to make the show more exciting for the public, but in GP2 Asia the races are not entirely dominated by the pit stops like they may be in other racing disciplines. At Qi-Meritus.Mahara, the team practiced pit stops early in the morning on January 21 from 7am to 8am and then later again for another hour in the afternoon. The teams aim for a quick time for four tyre changes that is approximately 10 seconds and half for changing just two tyres.
According to the existing regulations teams should change a minimum of two tyres at the same time. Should they need to, teams are allowed to change more tyres. In the first of the two races, the shorter sprint race, teams have to start on a new set of tyres, but there is no mandatory tyre change but can do so if needed. In the feature race, the longer of the two races, the regulations state that the teams cannot go back to the pits during the first two laps of the race, but they must make a mandatory pit stop.
Pit stops can often decide the overall race result. Hiroki Yoshimoto explains from a driver's point of view that, "a pit stop is key to a race result. You can win or lose five positions in one second. Pit stops in the race are really important. No mistakes are allowed. And for the driver the in-lap and out-lap must be very quick. For some mechanics this is the first time they will have been involved in such a pit stop regimen and they have to be very fit as a tyre and rim can easily weigh around 20kg."
Pit stops are an art form for the teams that get it right. Usually space is quite cramped in the narrow pit lane; however, the Dubai Autodrome is an exception as it is a modern facility with a wider pit lane than most.
Luca Filippi continues: "Usually heating the tyres before a pit stop is vital too, but there will be no tyre heating allowed in GP2 Asia. So this means that a driver would need to run two laps to get the tyres up to the right temperature before he can get the best adhesion."
During a pit stop teams are allowed to change tyres, but if they need to refuel or make any repairs, they must do so in a separate pit stop.
"Some drivers can certainly win a race because they know how to handle a car and tyres better," says Peter Grezlinski, the Bridgestone Service Manager who has been working for 25 years with the Bridgestone racing department and is responsible on site for the GP2 Asia program.