The annual Formula 2 prize-giving ceremony at the Luna Lounge in Abu Dhabi, overlooking the amazing Yas Marina paddock, featured a number of special prizes awarded by Pirelli: including the prestigious Rookie of the Year award.
This prize, as the name suggests, is given to the best rookie of the season – who gets to take home a specially-created trophy, commissioned by Pirelli and depicting the image of a Formula 2 car in full flight, complete with four prominent P Zero tyres connecting it to the track.
The winner of the coveted prize was voted for by an international panel of more than 20 journalists, from a wide variety of publications, websites and TV channels that have covered the championship all year. They were simply asked who, in their opinion, was the best rookie of 2017 – using any criteria that they judged fit.
The response was practically unanimous, which was no big surprise for anyone. PREMA driver Charles Leclerc, at the end of an astonishing season that made him champion, was voted ‘Rookie of the Year’. And not even his fiercest rivals were going to argue with the verdict…
Handing over the stunning prize was Pirelli’s head of car racing Mario Isola, who was accompanied at the ceremony by Pirelli’s head of motorsport operations Gianni Guidotti: two architects of Pirelli’s Formula 2 tyre programme, which is designed to prepare drivers for Formula 1.
However, the F2 tyres are subtly different: there is still a degree of deliberate degradation engineered into all the compounds, so that that drivers learn to manage them in the best possible way. When they get to Formula 1 – which is almost certainly Leclerc’s destination next year – they already have a good knowledge of how to extract the maximum possible performance from the tyres at every phase throughout a race.
It’s a vital skill that the Monegasque driver is already well on the way to mastering, having also shown that he’s not averse to bold tyre strategies this year – such as choosing to make a pit stop in the Bahrain sprint race, where stopping for fresh tyres isn’t mandatory, and still winning the race.
Other highlights of his season have included a pole position on his home streets in Monaco, as well as an emotional win and second place in Baku dedicated to his father. Then there was the way in which he ended the season in style, snatching victory in the Abu Dhabi sprint race on the very last lap: demonstrating not only his brave overtaking skills but also how to get the most from the tyres.
Here is a recap of the tyre strategies during last week’s Feature Race in Abu Dhabi.
Rowland – Supersoft (new) 6 laps // Soft (used) 25 laps
Markelov – Supersoft (new) 6 laps // Soft (used) 25 laps
Fuoco – Supersoft (new) 6 laps // Soft (new) 25 laps
Leclerc – Soft (new) 23 laps // Supersoft (used) 8 laps
Ghiotto – Supersoft (new) 6 laps // Soft (new) 25 laps
De Vries – Soft (new) 23 laps // Supersoft (used) 8 laps
Latifi – Supersoft (new) 6 laps // Soft (used) 25 laps
Matsushita – Supersoft (new) 6 laps // Soft (new) 25 laps
Albon – Soft (new) 24 laps // Supersoft (new) 7 laps
King – Supersoft (new) 6 laps // Soft (new) 25 laps
Sette Camara – Soft (new) 24 laps // Supersoft (used) 7 laps
Delétraz – Soft (new) 25 laps // Supersoft (used) 6 laps
Malja – Soft (new) 24 laps // Supersoft (used) 7 laps
Palou – Supersoft (new) 7 laps // Soft (new) 24 laps
Nato – Supersoft (new) 6 laps // Soft (new) 25 laps
Ferrucci – Supersoft (new) 7 laps // Soft (new) 24 laps
Gelael – Supersoft (new) 7 laps // Soft (new) 24 laps
Merhi – Supersoft (new) 7 laps // Soft (new) 23 laps
Norris – Supersoft (new) 6 laps
Jeffri – 0 laps