Motorsport: GP2 tyres torture

By Eric Thompson

Qualifying to start at the front is Kiwi hopeful's aim at Barcelona

Mitch Evans hopes to produce a better performance in Barcelona. Photo / Supplied
Mitch Evans hopes to produce a better performance in Barcelona. Photo / Supplied

Kiwi GP2 driver Mitch Evans has a bit of breathing space to regroup mentally before his next event at the Circuit de Catalunya, in Barcelona in two weeks, after a rude awakening at the Bahrain round last weekend.

At the opening series in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the Auckland rookie surprised everyone with a podium finish. He left Sepang with a 10th and a third to sit sixth in the title race, but a DNF and 15th place at Bahrain's Sakhir circuit mean he has slipped to 10th.

Going back to Europe will help Evans. He'll be on tracks he knows well and where he's tasted success.

The category allows only 30 minutes to acclimatise to any circuit so Evans was disadvantaged at the opening two rounds. He'd never been to either track. But he's still upbeat.

"We're still feeling good despite the last race weekend and we're kicking on for Barcelona. We're still in a good position and just need to get a qualifying session done at the front.

The car's got good pace and we're still positive.

"It's all about qualifying and starting up front. You want to be running with the quick guys at the front of the field and attack towards the end.

"Now that we're back on tracks I know, I can concentrate on getting the car sorted without trying to learn the circuit. We just have to get the car sorted for qualifying, and if we nail that we'll have a good weekend."

As a driver moves up the classes - in Evans' case, to the tier just below F1 - not only is there talent nearly all the way through the field, but the cars are much more powerful and really test the tyres.

That's why it was a frustrating weekend for Evans and his Arden International team in Bahrain. First there was a problem in qualifying, resulting in him having to start mid-pack, then the car packed up during the first race, so he had to start at the rear of the field in race two.

"Everyone's still positive but it has brought down the real highs of the first weekend. It doesn't help matters much when the car breaks but that's now all in the past.

"The problem is, though, if you have to start from the back and you've got good pace, and you're attacking and overtaking guys, it rips up the tyres. They don't last very long when you start using them hard and that's frustrating. It's like arriving at a cliff and all of a sudden there's nothing there," said Evans.

Bahrain is notoriously hard on tyres and Barcelona will not be much better.

"There's nothing anyone can really do. It's just the way it is with the Pirelli tyres. It's all about managing them and making them last as long as you can.

"That's why you have to be at the front at the start of the race so you don't wreck them playing catch-up."

Overseas commentators say the new, fast-degrading tyres have created a major controversy with many teams wanting Pirelli to change them. At Bahrain, Pirelli was subjected to a lot of flak after their medium and hard compounds had more tyre-wear than normal. Lewis Hamilton and Giedo van der Garde had mysterious punctures during practice and Felipe Massa suffered two strange punctures during the race.

Pirelli claimed the punctures were caused by debris on the track, but it was strange that Massa was the only driver affected - twice.

Pirelli's intention behind introducing these tyres was to make F1 more unpredictable by increasing the number of pit stops. Some fans are complaining they're not able to keep track of the race because of frequent pit stops. The drivers are also feeling the heat as they have to limit speeds to preserve the tyres rather than going all-out racing.

- NZ Herald

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