Fourth place for Leimer in Sepang

Fabio Leimer got his and Racing Engineering’s 2012 GP2 Series campaign underway with a strong haul of points in the opening race of the season, as he took the chequered flag in fourth position, having run as high as second during the early stages.

The Swiss driver started the race on a set of used tyres and this meant that he was unable to match the pace of Razia, who was the race leader. Off the start, Leimer had jumped from fifth on the grid and into second, and set about defending his position.

By the end of the sixth lap, Leimer was demoted to third by Pole Position man Valsecchi, and he made his mandatory pistop on lap ten and after his stop, he was battling for the final podium position with Chilton and Coletti.

For the next twenty laps, the three drivers would fight over the podium position, until Chilton and Leimer slowly built an advantage over Coletti. Once the rain started to fall, Leimer was unable to find a way past the young British driver and settled for fourth, less than a second off the podium.

“I think we made the best out of it today,” said Leimer. “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.”

For team-mate Nathanael Berthon, he lined up eighteenth on the grid but the opening lap saw him climb five positions to thirteenth, which became fourteenth on lap three after Marcus Ericsson moved ahead of him.

During the pit stop cycle, Berthon moved up the order to fifth before dropping back to thirteenth once he had pitted. He moved up to twelfth on lap twenty two, when he took Rio Haryanto and he moved up to eleventh during the final few laps to cross the line half a second off tenth and the final point.

“Well, the race was much better than qualifying,” explained Berthon. “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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