Pit Stop Strategies Affect Malaysia GP2 Feature
Once again the different strategies and timings over pit stops in GP2 decided some positions in the feature race.
A common theme throughout the year has been the use of knowledge of the teams to perfect position for their driver or just luck, to decide results.
The beginning of the race instantly threw up a surprise in this department. Tires may have had a slightly easier time at the start of the race as the drivers had the situation of having to do three formation laps after Russian Time’s Artem Markelov’s car stopped on the back straight, just one corner away from the grid.
These laps would allow drivers to control the temperatures of the tires themselves with just 29 laps at racing speed instead of 31.
When the race did begin, the pit window opened on lap six when MP Motorsport’s Oliver Rowland, Prema Racing’s Pierre Gasly, and DAMS’ Nicholas Latifi made their one and only pit stop.
Different ideas came from the top two in the race a few laps later. ART Grand Prix’s Sergey Sirotkin, who got himself up to second, pitted at the end of lap eight.
The undercut appeared to be a great tactic for the Russian. He lit the timing screens up in purple, denoting fastest sectors, and set the fastest lap with his 10th lap of the race.
Race leader Antonio Giovinazzi waited some time, another three laps to make his stop. Despite the Italian having no problem with his stop, Sirotkin easily got past and moved into the lead of the race.
At this stage, worries may have started over whether Prema waited too long to keep Giovinazzi out. His routine pit stop was not helped after he had a problem at the beginning of pit lane, appearing to brake slightly too early and have the pit lane speed limiter come on sooner than it could have.
Things would come back to Giovinazzi later on, however. With three laps to go, Giovinazzi cut the gap to under a second and attacked Sirotkin. The Russian’s tires couldn’t hang on, and he slid through turn one as Giovinazzi moved into the lead again.
Sirotkin was not the only driver whose tires were not giving a stellar performance. Rowland spun on the final lap to fall from seventh to 12th.
Mitch Evans complained about his rubber over team radio near the end, managing to hold off Gustav Malja for eighth place on 10-lap old mediums at the end.
The Italian managed to assemble
a 5.8 seconds in the remaining three laps to make sure of victory, but the strategy did make it interesting for a while.
It will be interesting to see whether the use of Pirelli rubber will continue to be a talking point going into the sprint race at the track.
The course has been resurfaced for this year after several years of consistent conditions which would give every team in the series (apart from Prema who are in their first year of GP2) no previous data to compare a possible performance to before the weekend.
This might just force some surprises in the next race if there are still any unknowns over how the tires perform on the new surface and how drivers should protect them.
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