Motorsport News - GP2
Leimer takes fighting 4th in Sepang GP2 Race 1 for Racing Engineering
25th March 2012
The 31 lap Feature Race started under cloudy skies with a possibility of rain later and as the lights went off Fabio Leimer made a superb start from 5th on the grid taking 2nd place as the cars braked into the first corner. The young Swiss new he was starting on a set of tyres that had already done quite a few laps in Free Practice in qualifying and that are normally not used in the race, so he knew that he couldn’t match the pace of leader Razia so he concentrated on not making any mistakes and keeping his track position.
By lap 3 the number 5 Racing Engineering car was 2.6 seconds behind Razia and 0.4 seconds ahead of Coletti. Leimer continued to drive carefully over the next few laps and he was now chased by the Pole Position man, Valsecchi, who had passed Coletti. On lap 6 Leimer was unable to keep Valsecchi behind him as his tyres continued to prevent him driving as he wished and he dropped a place to third.
On lap 10 Leimer made his mandatory pitstop and following the usual excellent work by the Racing Engineering team he was now battling hard with Chilton and Coletti. As the other cars made their stops Leimer was now in 4th place just 0.7 seconds behind Chilton and for the next 20 laps the two cars fought a hard battle around the Sepang circuit as both men lapped within a few tenths of each other.
Gradually pulling away from Coletti, Leimer continued to push Chilton hard but the two cars were too equally matched and, with some rain falling with 5 laps to go, at the chequered flag Leimer had to settle for 4th, less than a second away from the podium.
Nathanaël Berthon also made a great start gaining 5 places on the opening lap to be in 13th place as he started lap 2. The young Frenchman was fighting hard with Van der Garde and Ericsson and on lap 3 he lost a place to the Swede.
Berthon continued to look for opportunities to gain places and he soon moved up a place as he passed Haryanto. As the pit stops began Berthon temporarily moved up to 5th but following his own stop he resumed in 13th place chasing Haryanto and just ahead of Palmer. Passing Haryanto again on lap 22 Berthon moved up to 12th and he gained one more place in the remaining laps to finish 11th just 0.5 seconds behind Crestani.
With both Racing Engineering drivers having a very positive Feature Race both men can look forward to tomorrow’s Sprint Race. Leimer’s 4th place finish means he will start the race from 5th on the grid with an excellent chance of a podium whist and Berthon’s 11th place start means he will be looking for a good points finish.
Alfonso de Orléans-Borbón, president of Racing Engineering:
"Both drivers did an amazing job considering their respective situations. Fabio knew that the tires he started the race with weren't in their best conditions and was able to hold on to it until the pit stop. And Nat, starting so far back, knew that he would have a very long first stint which required him to take really good care of his tires. They both did the best possible race they could given the circumstances and showed a really good race pace. The pit stops of both were good and I think overall we should congratulate ourselves for the good job from everyone. Nat was so close to scoring his first point today, and it would be fantastic, if tomorrow both of them could finish in the points. We will therefore concentrate on the preparation of Sunday's sprint race now."
"I think we made the best out of it today. Due to me flat spotting a set of tires in qualifying, we were forced to change our strategy for this race and this was a big disadvantage. I had to start the race on the set of tires I used in free practice and they were quite used already. Therefore, until the pit stop, I was slower and I lost lot of time. It was important I had a very good start as otherwise I would not have been able to hold on to 4th place. Once I pitted, everything was back to normal and much, much better. I tried to overtake Chilton at several occasions, but pitting so early also meant I needed to manage my tires well during the second part of the race. Tomorrow everyone starts on the same with a new set of tires. But usually there aren't too many changes during the Sunday races, but if have a good start again and am able to attack during the opening laps, we will see what's possible."
"Well, the race was much better than qualifying. I had a very good car and was able to fight for positions. I knew that I needed to manage my tires very well at the beginning of the race as we decided to pit very late. I had a good pace, but was not pushing too much at the beginning. After the pit stop, I knew I had to push and be really quick. I overtook many cars and the pace was there. It's bit frustrating that in the end I could not score a point. Tomorrow I have the opportunity to have such a good race again. And I will do everything possible. It's important for me to start the next races from the front - everything starts at qualifying. If I do a good job in qualifying, I can be very, very strong during the next feature race."
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