The GP2 and GP3 Series travel to Malaysia for the penultimate rounds of the season that will help to decide the titles, with the GP2 drivers to race on the P Zero Orange hard and P Zero White medium tires – while only the hard compound is nominated for GP3.
GP2 last raced at the country’s Sepang circuit in 2013 but this will be a first-ever trip to the Southeast Asian venue for GP3. The high temperatures and extreme humidity will make it the toughest event physically for the young drivers, forming an important part of their development.
Sepang poses significant challenges for tires too, with many fast corners and intense heat all contributing to significant wear and degradation. Rain is frequent and heavy, meaning that the Cinturato wet tires are also likely to be put to the test at some point during the weekend.
The most significant development is a brand new surface for the Sepang track, as well as redesigned curbs, drainage and gravel traps. This should have the effect of making the surface less bumpy and abrasive: two traditional hallmarks of Sepang in the past.
Pirelli’s racing manager says:
Mario Isola: “Sepang will be a new challenge for most of the young drivers in GP2 and GP3. In addition to learning the circuit, the heat and humidity will test them, and they will also have to think about how they manage their tires because the track places such significant demands on them. To allow for this we have nominated the hard and medium compounds in GP2 and the hard in GP3, but good tire management will still be an important key to success as usual. In GP2, strategy will of course play a key part by adding an extra dimension to the Feature Race, while the threat of rain could also mix things up. It’s going to be very interesting to see the effect of the new surface on the track, which will make the free practice sessions particularly important.”
The challenge for the tires:
The Sepang circuit puts a number of varied stresses on the tires: in particular high lateral energy through the many fast corners. Two sections of the track – turns five to seven and turns 12 and 13 – produce very large loads with their high-speed changes of direction.
Sepang has normally offered good grip but high wear and degradation: this may change with the new surface. High temperatures make thermal degradation a factor as well.
Rain is almost a daily occurrence in Malaysia and is usually heavy, while drainage is not so effective in Sepang. This tends to create a lot of standing water for the wet tire to clear.
The race and the rules:
Every car will have five sets of dry tires and three sets of wet weather tires available for the GP2 race weekend. The five sets of dry tires comprise three sets of the hard compound and two sets of the medium compound.
The drivers must use at least one set of each compound must be used in the feature race (unless it is a wet race). One set of the harder compound must be returned after free practice.
A busy schedule in Malaysia this year means the event unusually begins on Thursday afternoon, when GP2 practice will take place at 16:05 before qualifying on Friday at 15:55. The feature race on Saturday at 11:50 lasts 31 laps and each driver must complete one compulsory pit stop. This cannot take place within the first six laps. Unlike Formula 1, the drivers do not have to start the race using the tires they qualified on.
The grid for the sprint race on Sunday at 11:20 is determined by the finishing order of the first race, with the top eight positions reversed. It is run over 22 laps, with no compulsory pit stops.
Every car will have three sets of dry tires and two sets of wet weather tires available for the GP3 race weekend. Only one compound is nominated: hard for this weekend.
Usually, drivers carry over one tire set from the previous round for use in free practice only, but as the soft was used at Monza, an extra set of the hard tire will be available instead.
GP3 qualifying takes place at 16:50 on Friday after a single free practice session on Thursday at 15:15. Race One starts at 10:30 on Saturday and lasts for 19 laps, followed by Race Two at 10:05 on Sunday (lasting 14 laps). The grid for Race Two is determined by the finishing order of the first race, with the top eight positions reversed.