For the first two Formula 2 rounds in 2017, Prema Racing thought outside the box to try and get an advantage on rival teams.
Charles Leclerc and Antonio Fuoco used different plans to other drivers during qualifying to help them find time – resulting in Leclerc having two poles already.
They have now taken six straight poles in the series since Belgium 2016, which is the best record since ART’s Stoffel Vandoorne’s six between the 2014 Belgian and 2015 Spanish rounds.
What Is The Plan?
Both drivers went out of the pit lane after rivals completed their first flying laps and returned to the pits.
Leclerc started his first lap with 12 of the 30-minute session remaining after Jordan King had set a provisional pole time of 1m29.585s.
In the end, though, both had to return in the final minutes after making errors on the initial try.
Why Could They Be Doing This?
Being on track later helps Prema to be alone, so they won’t be held up behind slower racers on out or in laps.
This is a worry in any series, potentially causing lap time loss, crashes or tire damage if they lock up trying to overtake cars in front. It was even more crucial as the Barcelona qualifying session was settled on the results of a few laps.
Different strategies prevent the possibility of other drivers being on track to cause yellow flag periods by stopping in run-off areas or crashing in separate incidents.
It also helps save on overall tire life – something which Leclerc struggled with during the first feature race.
The problem with this tactic is that pressure is put on the drivers to succeed immediately to put themselves in the best position.
This did not hurt Leclerc as he managed to find a two-tenths gap with a 1m29.285s to steal pole from Russian Time’s Luca Ghiotto. It was the final lap of the session and he was lucky to escape yellow flags from Johnny Cecotto’s late spin. Fuoco could only manage eighth quickest.
The time was 1.478s slower than last year’s pole, and Leclerc knew himself that he could have produced a better one with another chance.
“Strangely it doesn’t really feel like a pole because I made a big mistake in sector one which cost me a lot of time,” he said. “I kept going because I knew it was going to be the last lap and looking at the position when I crossed the line I was pretty surprised.”
Additional pressure may be on Prema in the next qualifying session in Monaco as no team has ever claimed seven straight poles.
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