The GP2 Series has adjusted two of its primary sporting regulations ahead of the 2014 season, in order to bring it slightly further in line with Formula One.
Friday morning’s free practice session has been extended from 30 to 45 minutes, while the tyre regulations have been adapted to ensure both sets of available slick compounds will be used in the Feature Race.
GP2 Series CEO Bruno Michel welcomed the changes to these regulations. “I am very satisfied that we could extend free practice sessions to forty-five minutes during race weekends. The additional track time will most definitely help our young drivers learn the circuit, giving them even better preparation for the qualifying session with no additional cost for the teams.”
While these changes may not appear to significant game changers on the surface, according to Michel altering these regulations may do enough to shift the balance of a weekend. “Looking at how last season unfolded, we felt it was important that teams and drivers display their strategy over the course of both races. Just like in Formula One, during our Saturday Race, each driver will have to use both tyre compounds. I am sure we will see some great racing and interesting strategies again this season with even more enthralling Sunday races.”
Although one acknowledges that the move to copy Formula One for Formula One’s sake is little more than a folly, the change to the tyre regulations could do much to realign GP2 as a competitive championship. With only five sets of dry tyres available over a race weekend (three prime; two option compounds), the rules regarding tyre management were always going to become a sticking point.
Under the old rules, it became increasingly common to see team and driver combinations sacrifice one of their weekend races, based what they could or couldn’t do with their qualifying position and how the tyres fared at certain circuits.
If nothing else, the previous regulations determined that drivers would either push with all new tyres in the Feature Race, condemning them to significantly used rubber for the Sprint.
Alternatively, they would play a conservative game for the Feature Race, thereby sacrificing top positions in the hope a good reverse grid starting position and set, or even a half-set, of fresh rubber.
These regulations did little to encourage a driver and team combination to push for the front over the course of an entire weekend, pressing some of the top runners to choose a race in which to be competitive, rather than pressing home natural advantage.
As an aside, adding fifteen minutes to the Friday practice session is merely common sense, but I can only imagine difficult to arrange. A thirty-minute practice session for a championship at this level simply wasn’t good enough.
One must also remember that championships such as GP2 (and other ladder categories) are not – or at least should not – be about outright entertainment, but rather pertain to driver education and advancement.