F2 Feature races are the most fascinating races of the F2 weekend as race strategies come into play. It’s not just a Sprint race from lights to flag. Let’s talk about F2 race strategies in 2021 and whether we could be seeing a change from previously favoured decisions.
Guanyu Zhou winning from pole position is far from the whole story of the Bahrain F2 Feature Race. Zhou lost several positions at the start of the race and only regained the lead in the later stages. The intriguing factor though is that he and UNI-Virtuosi opted to run the Prime strategy. For those who don’t know, in the F2 Feature race there is a mandatory pitstop. Drivers are required to use both types of tyre compound available during the weekend in the race. They must also wait for the pit window to open which is usually on lap five of the race.
Option F2 Race Strategy Explained
The Option strategy is where the drivers will start on the softer compound of the weekend, called the Option tyre. Prime strategy refers to starting on the hard tyre. Traditionally in F2 and GP2 before it, the polesitter and the fastest qualifiers will elect to start on the Option strategy. The goal is to sprint clear of the pack while the hard tyres are slowly building temperature and hopefully pit for fresh rubber before the option tyre grip goes off of the so-called cliff. Then with their new hard tyres, the drivers will scythe their way through the Prime runners and usually end up back at the front by the end of the pitstop phase.
Prime F2 Race Strategy Explained
The Prime strategy is often employed by drivers with nothing to lose. So if a front runner or championship contender has had a poor qualifying session they might gamble on the Prime strategy. The goal is to run your hard Prime tyres as late as possible into the race before switching to soft Option tyres when your car is on low fuel. The difficulty with the Prime strategy is ensuring you can get through the pack as efficiently as possible when you are on the faster tyre. The driver will generally need to pull off some overtakes to maximise the strategy. Take too long to make a pass and your tyres can become too worn to make the strategy work.
Complicating the picture in Bahrain is the famously abrasive tarmac made using imported Welsh stone. This helps the cars deal with sand on the track and is an absolute tyre killer! Charles Leclerc brilliantly won the F2 Sprint Race in 2017 despite pitting for a change of tyres. There was also a mid race safety car this year. This may have really helped the Prime runners with their strategy.
Felipe Drugovich and Christian Lundgaard elected for the Option Strategy in this race. It helped to rocket them into the lead at the start but they fell back at the end. Dan Ticktum and Richard Verschoor both went for the Prime strategy and finished the race 2nd and 4th respectively.
View from the Grandstand
It’s far too early in the season to say if this a change in F2 race strategies in all of 2021. But it is certainly intriguing to see more teams and drivers willing to experiment with the Prime strategy last weekend. Monaco will certainly be interesting when the softest compounds possible are brought to the Principality.