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Third row start for Leimer in Malaysia

Fabio Leimer

Fabio Leimer proved himself to be one of the fastest drivers around the Sepang circuit in Malaysia as the Racing Engineering driver secured himself a third row start for the opening race of the 2012 GP2 Series.

Practice and Qualifying for 2012 has been made that bit more interesting with the introduction of two different compound tyres from Pirelli. Each driver has been allocated three sets of hard drivers and one set of medium compound tyres.

With the introduction of the two types of tyre, the decisions which had to be made: do the drivers use their medium compound tyre in either practice or qualifying and if yes, at what stage, or do they go for a quick lap early on to avoid the traffic, or wait until the end and waste a set of tyres in traffic.

Both Racing Engineering drivers, Leimer and team-mate Nathanael Berthon used the thirty minute practise session to continue the set up work on their cars and they would up eleventh and fourteenth fastest as neither driver went for outright speed.

Qualifying was held in dry conditions and after the opening ten minutes, Leimer had shown his speed by slotting into P2 on the grid, as most of the teams’ had used the hard option Pirelli to secure a banker lap time.

Traffic then proved to be an issue and Leimer would get caught out by drivers getting their tyres up to temperature. Leimer was on course for Pole Position as he charged down the back straight. He caught two cars that were warming their tyres up and this hampered his progress, as he locked up under braking for the final corner.

His effort earlier in the session was good enough for fifth on the grid, and leaving him within a tenth of Pole Position, while the top nineteen drivers were covered by less than a second.

Leimer said about his qualifying session: “This was really tight. I made two silly mistakes on both my fast laps. I was faster on the option tires and improved my sector times, when I hit some traffic in the last sector, but then I missed my braking point.

“Pity as I could have set a faster time without this mistake. It wasn’t too bad for my first time in Sepang though and I think there was a bit of an advantage for drivers like Valsecchi, who already raced here before. Overall I am satisfied. Free practice wasn’t bad and we saw where we needed to improve, which worked out quite well.

“The first five drivers in qualifying are within one tenth of a second, which is pretty close. As for the race, I think it will be quite demanding and it will be important to not make any mistakes. My goal will be to score points and if I see there is a possibility, I will try to attack, keeping in mind that I do not want to overheat the tire s. I hope for a good weekend to start the season.”

Berthon was also setting fast times in qualifying and he wound up eighteenth overall, eight tenths off his Swiss team-mate. He will be hoping to score points tomorrow, given the closeness of the whole field.

The French driver said after qualifying: “We expected qualifying to be much, much better than this, especially after free practice where I was quick. My ideal lap time in free practice was P7 and faster than Fabio, felt good with the car.

“In qualifying, to be honest, it’s hard for me to understand what has happened and it’s a bit strange. My feeling was that I had a pretty good lap without big mistakes. I felt the car being good with a good balance. So it’s hard to understand why it was very slow.

“Fabio improved a lot from free practice to qualifying, I did not, and we had the same car. We need to look into this now to understand what has happened. I have to start tomorrow’s race from the back, but I will do my best as usual. I am sure we are strong in the race and I like to overtake cars.

“My goal has to be finishing in the top 8 to have a chance on Sunday due to the reverse grid rule. It will be a long race where a lot can happen. Tomorrow is another day. I am sure we have a good car to do a good job.”

The first race of the season will be run over 31 laps, getting underway at 11am Malaysian time and will be live on Sky Sports F1 from 01.55 UK time.

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