Motorsport News - GP2
Fabio Leimer and Nathanaël Berthon in the points for Racing Engineering at Sepang
26th March 2012
The clouds were black and heavy with the threat of rain as the 22 lap Sprint Race started. Fabio Leimer made a clean start as the lights went off, gaining a place as Coletti ran wide but losing it again as Van der Garde passed him, both men fighting cold Pirelli tyres.
A tense battle now began for the top six places with Leimer looking to pass Van der Garde without losing a place to the pursuing Coletti. For the next 10 laps the gaps between the top six drivers remained constant with Leimer 0.6 seconds behind Van der Garde in 5th and Coletti 0.7 seconds behind the Racing Engineering car.
Over the next few laps Leimer began to pull away from Coletti and by lap 16 the gap was 3.2 seconds as the top 5 cars continued their battle at the front of the field.
As the leaders entered the closing laps of the race it was clear that a number of cars were starting to struggle with worn tyres as a track temperature of 48° took its toll. Leimer was one of the drivers suffering from a lack of grip and with just two laps to go the young Swiss had to give way to a hard charging Razia. At the chequered flag Leimer took a hard fought 6th place.
Nathanaël Berthon drove an excellent race from his 11th place on the grid, keeping out of trouble at the start, he lost one place but quickly passed Crestani to regain 11th. The young Frenchman was now involved in a long fight with Ericsson and Haryanto and by lap 12 he was just 1.2 seconds behind the Swede and 1.0 ahead of the Marussia car.
Lap 13 saw an accident involving Valsecchi and Ericsson which promoted Berthon to 9th and he now began a battle with Chilton, on lap 16 the Briton ran wide allowing Racing Engineering car ahead but two laps later it was Berthon’s turn to miss the apex of the corner and Chilton was ahead again. The two cars now closed in on Coletti and with a few laps remaining both men passed the Coloni car. At the end of the 22 laps Berthon was in a points scoring 8th place.
With 3 points scoring finishes in the two Sepang races, two in the top six, Racing Engineering can look back on the Sepang weekend as a very positive experience. They now return to their Sanlúcar de Barrameda headquarters in Spain to prepare for the next round of the 2012 GP2 Series, Bahrain in one month’s time.
Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering:
"Very strong first part of the race from Fabio. He pushed hard at the beginning, was very fast during the first half of the race and set the fastest lap time at that point. But this was maybe a bit too much for the tires which used up their potential, which made him struggle during the final laps. Nathanaël managed this the other way around. He was more conservative during the beginning, but one of the strongest cars in the end, which allowed him to make it to the points. The Teams and drivers are very close together this season, which makes the championship interesting. It's good we were able to score points with both cars today. We have a lot of data from this weekend we will analyse it now to be well prepared for the Bahrain event."
"Today's race wasn't as good as yesterday's. The start was OK, but not perfect. I was able to hold on to 5th position and when Coletti missed his braking point, I passed him for 4th. But van der Garde immediately overtook me. Then the race just continued and it was actually a bit boring as we were simply lined up one car behind the other. In the second half of the race the tire degradation started and towards the end of the race it became quite bad. Generally it is important we scored points in both races. It was not perfect though and although we scored well, we will work on the preparation of the Bahrain weekend now, where the goal is to win. But it's a long championship."
"I am quite happy. I think yesterday I did a better race than today, but I am happy as my pace was really good. I also scored my first point. With a better qualifying we can be very strong. I had a normal start today, not too good, but not too bad. Then I tried to manage the tires and therefore in the end I was one of the quickest on track. I think one of my strengths is that I manage the tires well and am therefore pretty strong during the races. I need to improve in qualifying though; I have to find the grip for that one lap. We also start to understand better and better what I need as a driver. I am happy with the two races here, but the weekend starts with qualifying and after my results on Friday, I knew it would be hard for me. These two races gave me a lot of confidence and I will work hard to improve further."
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