Adrian Quaife-Hobbs rues tyre choice after Valencia Auto GP defeat
|By Peter Mills||Saturday, March 31st 2012, 16:39 GMT|
Auto GP points leader Adrian Quaife-Hobbs was left to rue a last minute tyre choice decision that he felt hindered his chances of taking another race win at Valencia on Saturday.
Polesitter Quaife-Hobbs (Super Nova) had originally planned to start the race on a new set of medium compound Kumho tyres, but opted to switch to soft tyres, in line with the rest of the grid, shortly before the start.
Euronova Racing's Sergey Sirotkin made an even later decision to change to fresh medium tyres, the only driver to do so, and the 16-year-old Russian duly became the championship's youngest ever winner.
"The key to the race was the tyres," said Quaife-Hobbs. "We did a long run on mediums during testing on Thursday, and I was quite happy to start the race on my new set of mediums. But, as I was about to roll out of the garage on my brand new mediums, I noticed that everybody was on softs, so we thought we would go with what everyone else was doing.
"We had the pace, as we were on pole, so we thought we would cover off everyone. We thought if we did the same we would still be fastest, but Sergey changed to mediums about 30 seconds before the pitlane closed, when I was already on the grid."
Sirotkin, who is also competing in the supporting Italian Formula 3 event and is set to take part in five races over the weekend, confirmed his decision had been the correct one.
"The tyres were pretty good and I could use them throughout the race," said the Formula Abarth Europe champion. "I could create a big gap in the first few laps and after that I just needed to maintain it. In free practice, maybe the soft tyres were faster for two or three laps, but for long distances the mediums were faster and more consistent."
Auto GP tyre supplier Kumho introduced the soft compound tyre at round two of the championship at Valencia this weekend, and teams and drivers are developing their understanding of the new tyre's character.
"Although I was the fastest on the soft compound tyre in the race, it looked like his tyres had a peak in the first couple of laps," continued Quaife-Hobbs. "Mine were new and took a while to come up to temperature. In the first couple of laps I was just sliding. I was hoping that with the late-race safety car I could get a run on Sergey into Turn 1, but at the end my tyres had no grip and Sergey had more traction out of the last corner."
Quaife-Hobbs entered the meeting tied for the points lead with Virtuosi UK's Pal Varhaug. But second place moves the former GP3 title contender four points clear of the Norwegian, who completed race one's podium. Sirotkin's maiden Auto GP win propels the Russian into third in the drivers' standings on 38 points.