F2 Drivers Share First Impressions of Supersoft Tyre on New 2024 Car

F2 Drivers Share First Impressions of Supersoft Tyre on New 2024 Car

The DAMS car of Jak Crawford photographed from the front in dark lighting on supersoft tyres

This weekend’s FIA Formula 2 Championship round at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit marks the first time the series’ supersoft tyre compound has been used in 2024, and drivers got to trial it on the series’ new Dallara F2 2024 car for the first time earlier today.

While returning drivers are still adapting to the new car, which mimics the current design philosophy of parent category Formula One’s cars, this has not had a significant effect on the behaviour of the series’ softest tyre compound, several said after Qualifying.

Prior to this weekend, teams and drivers ran the new car at the Bahrain International Circuit, which hosted both the three-day pre-season test in February and the opening round of 2024 last weekend, as well as at a shakedown at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in January intended to evaluate reliability rather than performance.

The Sakhir circuit is known for its abrasive surface, and series tyre supplier Pirelli allocated the hard and soft compounds for both the test and the race weekend.

Jeddah’s smoother track surface means that the prime and option tyres have each gone one step softer relative to last weekend, giving drivers effectively their first taste of the medium tyre and the supersoft tyre with the new car. This is the same allocation seen last year as well as in 2021, when Jeddah first hosted the series.

Drivers opted for the purple-walled supersoft tyre in qualifying. Prema driver Ollie Bearman took pole position with a time of 1:42.217, with Invicta’s Kush Maini, DAMS’ Jak Crawford and ART’s Victor Martins all finishing within two tenths of the Ferrari junior.

Bearman’s pole time today was, however, nearly a second off the 1:41.326 Martins set in qualifying at last year’s Jeddah round as well as a tenth and a half off his own best time in that session, which was good enough for second.

In Bahrain last week, Maini set the fastest time in qualifying before being disqualified, with a proportionally similar deficit of 0.793 seconds to 2023 champion Théo Pourchaire’s pole lap from last season.

Bearman told InsideF2 in a press conference after the Jeddah qualifying session that despite the increase in the session-best lap times, the tyre behaviour was ‘fairly similar’ to what he experienced at the circuit last year.

“In lap time, we’re a little bit slower than last year, but of course it’s always tough to compare with the wind, with different track temps year to year, and different track state as well,” he said.

“Any differences are just from the downforce level the car makes or something like this. In the end, the main thing is how you balance the car.

“The super soft gives you so much grip, especially on this track. It’s one of the grippiest of the year. When you go for that first quali lap, you really feel that step from the medium to the supersoft. It’s a really nice tyre.”

Alpine junior Maini said the supersoft tyres had ‘a lot of traction’ and noted the increase in pace relative to practice, in which drivers universally opted to use the medium compound. He finished that session, held earlier on Thursday, second with a fastest time of a 1:43.896, just over one tenth behind Dennis Hauger’s benchmark of a 1:43.793.

“I think it’s very similar to last year. The step is quite impressive from FP to quali,” he told InsideF2. “[As in] Bahrain, it feels very similar to the old car. Laptime-wise, we’re a bit slower, but we’re in the ballpark.”

Crawford switched to DAMS for 2024 after spending the 2023 season at Hitech GP. He explained how this change in scenery meant he approached this year’s Jeddah qualifying differently to last year’s, in which he finished 10th to earn himself reverse-grid pole for the Saturday sprint race.

“I obviously changed teams, so if I take the quali from last year, I peaked on lap one, and this year I peaked on lap two,” the Aston Martin junior told InsideF2. “So it was a bit of a different philosophy there. In the end, the feeling wasn’t too different. I think I was around the same lap time I did last year.

“The supersoft tyre’s just giving so much grip, especially around a track like this, where you use a lot of combined and stuff like that in the braking.”

While Bearman’s pole time was more than eight-tenths slower than Martins’ lap in 2023, it is notable that seven of the series’ 12 returning drivers, including both Maini and Crawford, saw their lap times improve from 2023 to 2024. In Bahrain, only two drivers saw year-on-year increases in their best qualifying times: Maini, whose lap was subsequently annulled following his exclusion on technical grounds, and Rodin Motorsport’s Zane Maloney, who went on to win both races.

Credit: Dutch Photo Agency

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The DAMS car of Jak Crawford photographed from the front in dark lighting on supersoft tyres