GP2 and GP3 tires prove crucial as series draw to a close
The Italian Grand Prix was the venue for the final round of the GP3 Series and the penultimate round of the GP2 Series, with New Zealander Mitch Evans claiming the GP3 title after a dramatic weekend in both championships.
For the fastest race of the year, the GP2 drivers had the P Zero Silver hard and P Zero Yellow soft tires at their disposal, whereas the GP3 drivers had the PZero Silver hard tires available to them. There is generally low tire degradation at Monza, but certain places such as the famous Parabolica put plenty of energy through the front tires in particular, and high temperatures throughout the weekend also placed additional stress on the P Zero rubber.
Saturday’s 30-lap GP2 feature race was sensationally won by Italian driver Luca Filippi, returning to competition with Coloni after a 12-month absence. Filippi – who tested Pirelli’s next-generation GP2 tires at Barcelona before travelling to Monza – qualified second on the grid behind Carlin’s Max Chilton.
Chilton started on used soft tires, whereas Filippi opted for new hards. Filippi stopped on lap eight to change to used hards on the rear only, with Chilton stopping five laps later for a set of new hards. He came out just ahead of Filippi, but the Italian overtook him into the Ascari chicane. Addax driver Johnny Cecotto tried a different strategy, changing from new softs to new hards on lap 13 after saving his tires in qualifying. He eventually finished in second, having started from eighth on the grid following a penalty.
The GP3 title could have been won on Saturday, but in a dramatic twist of events pole-sitter Evans was forced to retire early in the race – and then championship challengers Antonio Felix da Costa and Aaro Vainio were also unable to capitalize on the opportunity. This left Evans – who retained the championship lead despite his retirement in the feature race – and Lotus driver Daniel Abt as the only contenders, separated by 14 points.
Abt started the GP3 sprint race on Sunday in eighth while Evans started last, but the German driver had to win in order to have any chance of taking the title. Incredibly, Abt was on course to do this, until he was passed by Manor driver Tio Ellinas.
There were no pit stops during the second GP2 race on Sunday, which was won by Caterham’s Davide Valsecchi, who extended his championship lead heading into the final round.With just one set of P Zero hard tires for the 21-lap race, drivers had to look after their tires to avoid them going off, which led to plenty of overtaking in the closing stages.
Pirelli’s racing manager Mario Isola commented: “We enjoyed an action-packed weekend in Italy, but first of all I’d like to congratulate Mitch Evans and MW Arden on a well-deserved title win that was taken under almost unbelievable circumstances, ending what was probably the most spectacular and competitive season we have seen in our three years of supplying GP3. Next year there will be a new GP3 car and some new tires for it, so this is a fantastic way to say goodbye to the current GP3 formula. I’d also like to congratulate Luca Filippi on a fantastic GP2 win on Saturday, which was made all the more special as he has been out of a car for so long. We saw some good tactics from Johnny Cecotto as well, who saved tires in qualifying in order to have new sets for the race and made up six places. On Sunday, Davide Valsecchi typically looked after his tires perfectly to win from third on the grid. This important skill is one of the reasons why he now has a good lead of the championship going into the final round.”
With the GP3 Series now over, there is just one deciding round left to go in GP2 at the Singapore Grand Prix from September 21-23.