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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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.

Leimer Secures Pole for Racing Engineering in GP2 Final.

Racing Engineering secured the perfect start to the non-Championship, season concluding GP2 final at Abu Dhabi as Swiss driver Fabio Leimer secured Pole Position for the Spanish outfit.

The opening day of the GP2 final at the Yas Marina circuit took place under dry and sunny weather conditions and the morning free practice session saw the teams’ drivers, Leimer and Nathanael Berthon, immediately on the pace.

At the end of the morning session, Leimer was second fastest with the time he had set with fifteen minutes remaining and he took his morning practice form into qualifying, where on his first attempt, he went fourth fastest.

The best was yet to come from the Swiss racer, as on his second qualifying run towards the end of the session, he bettered his original time by half a second to move to the top of the times. His 1m49.363 wasn’t bettered by anyone else in the field during the closing stages.

Leimer said after qualifying: “Everything went really perfect. We already saw we were quick during free practice and that everything would be possible in qualifying. I also knew that I myself could still go quicker. In qualifying everything fell into place and I would like to pass a big thank you on to the team as they gave me a really, really good car. I am really happy as it was actually my last possible lap when I set the fastest time. After that we had the red flag and there were no possibilities to improve anymore. I am also really happy as this is my first pole position. Now we will see what’s possible for tomorrow’s race, but the most important thing is to start in front. I am really, really happy.”

Team-mate Berthon ended the free practice session seventh fastest and within half a second of Leimer’s time. Come qualifying, the French driver didn’t have the same luck.

He was close to the top ten after his first run but his second run saw him gain a few hundredths of a second, before the red flags were shown. Once the track went live, Berthon was unable to improve and thus finished seventeenth overall.

Berthon was pleased with how Free Practice went but not so happy with qualifying, as he explains: “Free practice was really good today. I was not pushing to the maximum and therefore it was not so bad. In qualifying I didn’t have any clear lap, but I guess it was the same for everyone. I have to push more in the next qualifying, if there is another race in the future. I am not satisfied with today’s qualifying result, but the lap was not terrible and I am not so far away. I am sure it will be better in the race.”

With qualifying being a close run thing – Berthon in seventeenth was within a second of Leimer’s session topping time – tomorrow’s race is set to be spectacular and with Leimer up at the front, he is expected to be one of the favourites.

Racing Engineering President, Alfonso de Orleans-Borbon is pleased with how the day went for the team: “Another incredible performance from Fabio. His final attempt for pole was the right one and he was able to pull it off. When you need the best of him, he can deliver. What a talent, especially with such a strong line-up of drivers this weekend. As for Nathanaël, sadly traffic and some small mistakes did not allow him to show his full potential as in testing in Barcelona and this morning. Although, I am not too worried since I think tomorrow he will show his full potential and plough through the field. He has the talent to do it. Once again, I want to thank everyone in the team for a wonderful job. Now let’s get ready for tomorrow, where it really counts.”

Racing Engineering Confirm Barcelona Line Up.

Racing Engineering has confirmed their driver line up for the second of the post season GP2 tests, due to take place at Barcelona next Wednesday, 19 October and Thursday, 20 October.

Two weeks after the first post season test, the series hits the track again and for the upcoming two day test, Racing Engineering have confirmed two drivers for the two days.

Fabio Leimer, who dominated both days of the Jerez test, will test for the team alongside former Racing Engineering driver, Nathanael Berthon.

Twenty one year old Leimer tested for the team at Jerez and finished fastest in three out of the four sessions.

He made his GP2 debut during the 2009/2010 Asia Series and he secured his first victory at Barcelona, in the 2010 GP2 Sprint race.

The 2010/2011 Asia series saw him finish fifth overall before he replicated his 2010 GP2 Victory with the victory at Barcelona this season, and he finished his season off with a podium at Monza, behind Christian Vietoris, who was racing for Racing Engineering.

Berthon has come up the ranks in Renault series, having competed in both Formula Renault 2.0 and the Formula Renault 3.5 Series and he has experience of the GP2 car, having raced for Racing Engineering in the 2011 GP2 Asia Series. He showed promise despite being unfamiliar with the GP2 Dallara Chassis.

Having finished third overall in the 2011 GP2 Teams’ Championship, Racing Engineering are looking to build on their successes of the season just gone.

Three drivers for Racing Engineering at Jerez test.

Racing Engineering has confirmed the identity of the drivers who will test for them in the forthcoming GP2 test at Jerez, Spain. The two day test marks the first action for the field since the season finale at Monza two weeks ago.

The test, being held over the 28/29 September will provide all of the teams a chance to test some new, up and coming drivers as they look ahead to the 2012 campaign.

The 4.428km Circuito de Jerez is located near the Spanish city of Jerez de la Frontera is South-western Spain and it marks the home circuit for Racing Engineering, as they are based in Sanlucar de Barrameda. Jerez is the former host of both the Spanish Grand Prix as well as the European Grand Prix and it has become a popular test venue during the winter months.

Three different drivers will test for the team over the two days: the opening day will see Fabio Leimer and Rodolfo Gonzalez in the car while the second day will see Gonzalez replaced by Rupert Svendsen-Cook.

Leimer has previous experience of GP2, having raced for Rapax this season – he secured a podium at Monza behind Christian Vietoris – he came up the ranks via Formula BMW, Formula Renault and International Formula Master before making his GP2 debut in the 2009/2010 GP2 Asia series.

The twenty one year old Swiss driver secured his maiden GP2 victory at Barcelona during the 2010 Sprint race and he repeated the feat in 2011. Between those victories, he finished fifth in the 2010/2011 GP2 Asia series.

Gonzalez also has prior GP2 experience. The twenty five year old Venezuelan raced for Ocean Racing Technology in 2011. Prior to making his GP2 debut during the third round of the 2008/2009 GP2 Asia Series, Gonzalez started off in Formula Renault before competing in both the British and European Formula 3 series.

He has yet to secure a top three finish during his two seasons in the series but he has proved that he has the potential to run at the front.

The third driver, Svendsen-Cook is currently competing in British Formula 3, having made his debut in 2010. His run out at Jerez will mark the twenty one year olds first experience of the GP2 series.

Svendsen-Cook, who is of Norwegian heritage started off in karts before switching to Formula BMW. He moved into British F3 for 2010, and in his first season secured a victory and four other podium finishes. He currently sits sixth in the 2011 Drivers’ Championship with two race weekends to go.

The 2011 GP2 Series saw Racing Engineering finish third overall in the Teams’ Championship and they are looking forward to giving Leimer, Gonzalez and Svendsen-Cook their opportunity in their race winning car.

Vietoris Success Sees Racing Engineering Finish on a High Note.

Racing Engineering rounded off their 2011 GP2 Series campaign on a high note as Christian Vietoris secured the final victory of the campaign at Monza, and which ensured the Spanish outfit finished inside the top three in the teams’ Championship.

Feature Race: Vietoris Finished inside Monza Top Six.

The penultimate race of the 2011 GP2 Series took place in warm, dry conditions at Monza. At the start, Vietoris held on to his seventh position while team-mate Clos make a poor getaway and dropped two positions to ninth and the following lap, Vietoris was demoted to eighth, so the two Racing Engineering drivers were running nose to tail.

During the pit window, the two drivers were temporarily up as high as second and third and the first stop for the team came on lap thirteen when Vietoris pitted, with Clos doing the same the lap later.

Lap fifteen and the two of them were running together in eighth and ninth, Vietoris trailing Carroll by 1.5s while Clos was leading Leimer by 0.2s. Sadly for the team, any chance Clos had of a good result was taken away from him when he was given a drive through penalty for speeding in the pitlane, while a few laps later, Vietoris benefitted from a penalty given to Parente as he moved into sixth, and by lap twenty one, he had a comfortable gap to Leimer behind.

After his penalty, Clos was down in fourteenth position but with a gap of 25s to the final point in eighth, the Spaniard wasn’t going to pick up any points in the Feature race. Even so, he chased down Ericsson in thirteenth and on lap twenty seven, he moved into thirteenth.

Clos reckons the penalty ruined his race, as he explains: I didn’t have a good start, but my race pace after was really good. Chris and I had a very good rhythm, whereas I think my car was even faster than his. I waited for his tyres to degrade more. When I entered the pits, I thought the speed limiter was already on, but this wasn’t the case. With the drive through penalty my race was pretty much over.”

The duo finished in sixth and thirteenth, and ahead of the Sprint race, Vietoris would line up third and with a chance of a final race podium while Clos, who was back in thirteenth, would look to end his campaign with some points.

Vietoris said after the feature race: “This wasn’t a very exciting race. My start was good, but not perfect. I had a safe first lap and then everyone pretty much drove at his own rhythm. Race pace was good and also the pit stop. I start tomorrow’s race from P3 and who knows, what’s still possible. A race win to finish the season would not be too bad.”

Racing Engineering President, Alfonso de Orleans-Borbon said after the Feature race: “It’s a pity about the race. We are tied up with iSport in 3rd position in the teams’ championship now. But tomorrow we will fight back and with Chris starting from P3, we have good options. The whole team did a very good job and we hope that tomorrow this will translate into points.”

Sprint Race: Vietoris Signs Off in Style.

Racing Engineering signed off the 2011 GP2 Series on a high note as they secured victory in the Sprint race at Monza and with it, a top three position in the teams’ Championship.

Christian Vietoris lined up third on the reverse grid and he was able to take advantage of the poor starts made by those ahead of him to lead before the first corner – once through the first corner, he started in a close duel with Leimer for the lead of the race, while dropping those behind them.

During the opening laps, Leimer kept the pressure on Vietoris and looked to move ahead of the young German driver on a couple of occasions – but Vietoris rebuffed the attempts made by Leimer. From the sixth lap onwards, Vietoris started to pull out a slight gap, opening up an advantage of between 0.6 and 0.8s.

His Racing Engineering prepared car was working perfectly and he was able to hold the lead until the chequered flag, having led from start to finish and signing off his GP2 Campaign in the best possible way.

Vietoris reflected on his victory: “Obviously at the start the goal was to win the race, we made some changes over night, some worked some didn’t but we had a good pace and then just needed to drive to the end (laugh)!! Leimer was always in my tow so I could not get away but I managed the gap.”

After his drive through penalty in the feature race, Dani Clos lined up thirteenth on the grid and after a good start; he completed the opening lap in eighth position, just behind the cars of Esteban Gutierrez and Adam Carroll, who were sixth and seventh respectively.

Clos moved into seventh on lap fourteen and then chased down sixth placed Gutierrez over the final seven laps, and finished half a second off the young Mexican driver.

Clos reflected on his race: “It has been an intense race. Today I started well and I was able to put myself in a good position. I was very aggressive from the beginning trying to get in the points for the team; I almost managed it but was not quite able to take Gutierrez. I am happy with the third position of the team in the championship after the hard start and even though I would like to have scored more points in the Driver this year it was not to be.”

Alfonso de Orleans-Borbon is pleased to have finished inside the top three in the teams’ Championship and is ready for the 2012 season already: “A fantastic job by both drivers. Great starts, especially Chris, and a well-deserved race win for him. Congratulations to the entire team. Not only did they do a fantastic job this weekend, but also the whole season. Finishing third in the team championship is a just reward. Even if we had a difficult start to the season, the hard work paid off and we are more than ready for next year.”

Victorious Vietoris at Spa.

Christian Vietoris Splashing his way to Victory at Spa.

Christian Vietoris secured the honours in the GP2 Feature race after mastering the difficult, changing conditions in the Ardennes Forest.

Having secured a dominant Pole Position, the twenty five lap feature race started off in sunny conditions but there were threatening black clouds overhead and despite a dry racing line, offline was still damp and thus made overtaking tricky.

As the lights went out to start the feature race, Vietoris made the perfect getaway to lead from Bianchi and Grosjean. He pushed on during the opening lap to open up his advantage over the chasing Frenchman and as the rain threatened, Vietoris had opened up a 2.5s gap over Bianchi by the fourth lap.

The following five laps saw the two drivers remain static as they matched each other’s times and as the skies darkened, the entire field stayed out on track to ensure that they wouldn’t have to make two pit stops.

Lap thirteen saw the hit the circuit and this signalled the start of the pit stops and the following lap, Vietoris, Bianchi and Grosjean all pitted to switch to wet tyres. The Racing Engineering team performed a slick pit stop to ensure they retained their race lead and at the end of lap fifteen, the young German had stretched his advantage to 3.2s.

With the rain coming down harder, the Safety car was deployed to help with the clear up of a number of spinners and accidents, this negating the advantage Vietoris had built up. Once the Safety car had been withdrawn, Vietoris made the perfect restart to secure the honours in difficult conditions.

Vietoris said after the race: “I had a quite good start and a very good first lap. I controlled the gap during the following laps. The car was very consistent and we are improving it with every race. We are competitive under all conditions, dry and wet. Good job from the team. For tomorrow I definitely want to be in the points and if it rains, I think even the race win is possible.”

Team-mate Dani Clos lined up twelfth after qualifying and he had an exciting race as he worked his way up the field. At the end of the opening lap, he was eleventh and chasing down Cecotto for tenth, a position which he gained a lap later. He then set his sights on ninth place Kral.

The sixth tour saw Clos lose out to Cecotto but he was back ahead of the Ocean Racing Technology driver within a lap and he then resumed his battle with Kral.

Clos made his mandatory pit stop on lap fourteen and as he was before the pit stop, he resumed behind Kral. He was clearly faster and on the exit of the Bus Stop chicane, he made his move just before the Safety Car was deployed due to the number of spinners due to the weather.

He was lying seventh behind the Safety Car and with the one hour time limit approaching; there was enough time for a one lap sprint to the finish.

At the restart, Clos was lying sixth after a driver ahead of him had retired. At Eau Rouge, he looked to take fifth from Hartley but the spray meant that his view was nonexistent and he settled for sixth.

Speaking after the Feature race, Clos said: “My start was good considering that I had to start from the wet side of the track. You could see a big difference between those on the right and on the left side. The opening laps were quite intense with several passes. I was also overtaken, but took back the position. Then I was waiting for the rain, everyone came in the same lap. The team did an awesome job at the pitstop. I had good opportunities to overtake and took 6th place. When the safety car left, Hartley brake tested me twice which is quite dangerous given the fact that the visibility was so low. Good job and we have a pretty good car. Tomorrow good things are possible.”

Racing Engineering President, Alfonso de Orleans-Borbon added: “What a great job from the whole team today. The drivers drove a difficult race in extreme conditions and did it wonderfully. The mechanics made a perfect pit stop for both cars and the engineers really nailed the set up. Congratulations to everyone for getting both drivers in the points and a win for Christian. Now, after some celebrating, let’s get ready for the race tomorrow since both drivers have a chance to be on the podium and hopefully another win.”

Picture Credit: Alastair Staley/GP2 Media Service