SAFETY CARS AND STRATEGY AT A CHAOTIC BAKU CITY CIRCUIT
The second round of the Formula 2 championship was held at the unique Baku City Circuit, featuring both long straights as well as a tight and narrow technical section. For F2, the P Zero Yellow medium and P Zero Purple supersoft tyres were nominated. As always, the weather was variable and the action was frenetic.
Feature Race, the winning strategy: Campos driver Jack Aitken went from eighth on the grid to first at the finish, making an excellent start and then moving up the field despite multiple safety car periods. He started on the supersoft and then switched to the medium on lap six, when the pit stop window opened: a strategy adopted by virtually the entire field. The priority from then on was to manage the rubber throughout the rest of the race, making sure to keep it within the correct temperature window even during the safety car periods. After a Formula 1 qualifying session that was heavily delayed, Aitken then became the very first Formula 2 driver to present the Pirelli Pole Position award to F1 polesitter Valtteri Bottas.
Jack Aitken: “For us, it made sense to get onto the medium tyre as soon as possible, as that was actually showing a lot of durability. I made a good start, but it wasn’t too much of a stressful race in the end as the last part of it in particular was run under the safety car, but of course you had to be careful at the re-starts and I managed to get that right.”
Feature Race, alternative strategy: One driver running an alternative strategy was Arden’s Tatiana Calderon. She began the race towards the back of the grid on the medium tyre with the idea of completing a long first stint and moving up through the field, before switching to the faster supersoft. However, a mechanical problem denied her what was likely to be a points finish. Uni-Virtuosi driver Luca Ghiotto also ran an alternative strategy, finishing on the supersoft.
Sprint Race, what we learned: The Sprint Race was a similar challenge to the Feature Race, with a number of safety cars and re-starts, but this time all the drivers used the medium tyres from start to finish of the race. Keeping the temperature window was again important, but wear and degradation was low despite all the drivers using just one set of tyres. Williams junior driver Nicholas Latifi won the race, after moving into the front on lap six and maintaining his advantage to the end.
Pirelli’s head of F1 and car racing Mario Isola: “Baku certainly lived up to its reputation, with a pair of lively and action-packed races in Formula 2. The challenge lay primarily in managing the tyres over a long lap in variable conditions, with a number of safety car periods and consequent re-starts as well. Jack Aitken handled these perfectly in the Feature Race, and we were delighted that he was able to present the Pirelli Pole Position award after an equally action-packed F1 qualifying.”