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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Pole for Valsecchi in Malaysia

Davide Valsecchi

Davide Valsecchi secured the opening Pole Position for the 2012 GP2 Series at Sepang, ensuring that the DAMS outfit continued their 2011 Championship winning form.

Joining Valsecchi on the front row is his 2011 Caterham Team Air Asia (Now named Caterham Racing) team-mate, Luiz Razia, who joined Arden International over the winter. Rounding out the top three is Max Chilton for Carlin.

Valsecchi set his Pole Position time on his third lap of the session and wasn’t beaten, but four others came close to bettering the Italians time, as the top five were covered by a tenth of a second.

The early running was set by Lotus GP’s Esteban Gutierrez, before Rodolfo Gonzalez (Caterham Racing) topped the times, beating Gutierrez’s best effort by a tenth of a second. Valsecchi soon bettered Gonzalez time and moved to the top of the times, having dipped below the 1m46 mark.

Valsecchi’s DAMS team-mate, 2011 British Formula 3 Champion Felipe Nasr soon made it a DAMS one, two but soon, Racing Engineering saw Fabio Leimer move into P2, 0.09s slower than the Italian driver.

Gonzalez brought out a yellow flag having run too wide and once the track was green again, Chilton was soon on the move and slotted into P2, closing to within 0.06s of Valsecchi, and Stefano Coletti soon put the Scuderia Coloni car into P3 as he took advantage of a clear track.

The final ten minutes saw the battle for Pole Position intensify and it was Razia who soon moved up to P2, having been fastest in the second and third sectors, and his time left him 0.6s off Valsecchi, while Chilton, Coletti and Leimer all finished within a tenth of the DAMS driver.

The top nineteen drivers were covered by 0.9s, and the top ten was completed by GP3 graduate James Calado (Lotus GP), Jolyon Palmer (iSport International), Giedo van der Garde (Caterham Racing), Fabio Onidi (Scuderia Coloni) and Nasr.

Valsecchi will face a tough fight tomorrow to secure the victory as the tyre strategy will be one to watch, as preserving the Pirelli tyres will be key to having a good race in the heat and humidity of Malaysia.

GP2 Qualifying Results:

Position Driver Team Time
1 Davide Valsecchi DAMS 1m45.494
2 Luiz Razia Arden International 1m45.554
3 Max Chilton Carlin 1m45.558
4 Stefano Coletti Scuderia Coloni 1m45.577
5 Fabio Leimer Racing Engineering 1m45.588
6 James Calado Lotus GP 1m45.638
7 Jolyon Palmer iSport International 1m45.758
8 Giedo van der Garde Caterham Racing 1m45.773
9 Fabio Onidi Scuderia Coloni 1m45.810
10 Felipe Nasr DAMS 1m45.942
11 Johnny Cecotto Barwa Addax Team 1m46.012
12 Fabrizio Crestani Venezuela GP Lazarus 1m46.138
13 Stephane Richelmi Trident Racing 1m46.150
14 Josef Kral Barwa Addax Team 1m46.160
15 Esteban Gutierrez Lotus GP 1m46.186
16 Tom Dillmann Rapax 1m46.264
17 Rio Haryanto Carlin 1m46.392
18 Nathanael Berthon Racing Engineering 1m46.428
19 Nigel Melker Ocean Racing Technology 1m46.489
20 Marcus Ericsson iSport International 1m46.557
21 Jon Lancaster Ocean Racing Technology 1m46.662
22 Julian Leal Trident Racing 1m46.868
23 Rodolfo Gonzalez Caterham Racing 1m46.962
24 Simon Trummer Arden International 1m47.004
25 Ricardo Teixeira Rapax 1m48.113
26 Giancarlo Serenelli Venezuela GP Lazarus 1m49.620

Kral and Arden denied Abu Dhabi Podium.

Josef Kral and the Arden International team were denied a podium finish during the feature race of the season finishing GP2 Final at Abu Dhabi, after being spun out of contention at the first corner.

Having lined up third after Friday’s qualifying session, the Czech racer was ahead of Dani Clos heading into the first corner but he was on the outside line and the two cars touched as they attempted to take the corner two abreast.

Kral was spun out of contention and dropped to the rear of the field, where he then had to restrict the damage on his race.

He managed to recover to fifteenth position before more contact, this time with GP3 graduate Nigel Melker. He suffered front wing damage in the collision and despite racing on for a few laps with the damage, he was then forced to pit for repairs and he finished a lap down in twentieth position.

“I got a good start and thought I was in a strong position to get ahead of Dani Clos,” explained Kral. “I couldn’t see that he had Luiz Razia to his inside, though, so the situation was a bit more cramped than I realised. I tried to move left, but Clos was coming to the right and we touched, which caused me to spin and damaged my rear suspension. After that I pushed as hard as I could and gained a few positions after my pit stop, but then I came up against Nigel Melker. He was very aggressive and I ended up losing part of my front wing. I continued to drive as quickly as I could, but then I had to pit again and the day turned into a bit of a disaster.

“There are no pit stops in tomorrow’s race and there is no chance to gain a strategic advantage, but I’ll do what I can to make up ground from a lowly grid position.”

GP2 debutant and team-mate Simon Trummer had a solid opening lap as he moved up to eighteenth from his starting position of twenty second and was able to lap consistently alongside the lower end of the midfield until his race came to a premature end after a collision with Jake Rosenzweig.

Trummer is looking to learn from his race ending mistake but admits that he faces an uphill task in the second Abu Dhabi race: “The race began well enough, but the balance of my car changed on the second set of tyres and I lost front-end grip. That’s partly why I made a mistake and crashed out at Turn Eight. It hasn’t been the greatest of starts to my GP2 career, but I’ll learn from it and move on. I face an uphill battle tomorrow, but I’ll do the best I can.”

Unlucky Feature race for Trident

Trident Racing saw their drivers; Julian Leal and Stephane Richelmi come home sixteenth and nineteenth in the feature race at Abu Dhabi, with Richelmi being particularly unlucky as he lost a lap right at the start of the race with an overheating problem.

For Leal, he stayed out of trouble for the entire thirty one laps of the feature race, but his strategy failed to pay off as he lost rear grip towards the end of the race and dropped back.

The beginning of the race however saw him putting in some quick lap times as he looked to work his way up the order.

Afterwards, Leal said: “My start hasn’t been one of the best possible but in the first few laps I managed to get several spots back. I hoped to fight for a place in the top-10 but our strategy with an early pit-stop didn’t prove efficient like I expected. In the closing part of the race my tires got worn out really bad and a lost a lot of spots in the closing laps.”

Richelmi saw his hopes of a points finish dashed after his overheating problem at the start of the race, and he explains what happened: “My race has been conditioned by an issue we had while I was lining-up on the starting grid. At the start of the pit-lane there was a stopped car and we ended up in queue. I held onto the clutch for some seconds and as it got overheated, I couldn’t get back going. I went back on-track while the race was underway and one lap back already, so there were zero chances for a points spot. It’s a pity because I expected my race pace to be quite good and I believe I could have aimed at something better.”

The final race of the Abu Dhabi GP2 Final will see Leal lining up on the eighth row while Richelmi lines up on row ten, with the race due to get underway at 09.30 GMT.

Leimer Secures Abu Dhabi Feature Race Honours

Fabio Leimer secured the feature race honours in the non Championship Abu Dhabi race from Pole Position, securing a dominant victory from Caterham Team AirAsia’s Luiz Razia and Jolyon Palmer, who secured his first GP2 Points finish with a podium finish for Barwa Addax Team.

Swiss driver Leimer got the perfect start in his Racing Engineering car while fellow front row starter Dani Clos (Rapax) made a slower getaway and soon found himself in between Josef Kral (Arden International) and Razia – Clos saw his race end at T1 while Kral spun.

This incident allowed Razia and Palmer the chance to chase down Leimer out front – his pace, however, was hard for Palmer to match and he had to keep his eyes on what was happening behind as Esteban Gutierrez (Lotus ART) was on a charge, having lined up eighth.

Gutierrez was making up for a poor qualifying performance but his hopes of a podium finish were dashed after having to make an unscheduled pit stop for repairs to be made to his damaged rear wing, having been collected by Stefano Coletti (Scuderia Coloni) in the first corner.

Leimer was able to maintain a good gap up at the front and this meant that Razia’s only hope of securing the race lead was during the pit stops. Leimer pitted two laps later than Razia and the Swiss driver rejoined the track second, ahead of Razia but behind Palmer, who pitted a lap later and this gave the Racing Engineering driver the lead once again.

Behind the top two drivers, Palmer had a lonely first stint was soon holding off iSport International’s Marcus Ericsson – the Swedish driver had started down in thirteenth position but having made a perfect getaway, he was soon up to eighth and his pace enabled him to move up to fourth after his pit stop on lap thirteen.

Ericsson continued to push until the chequered flag but it wasn’t enough and Palmer was able to hold on to him maiden GP2 podium finish.

At the flag, Leimer secured the victory and maximum points – he set the fastest lap of the race on lap twenty three – ahead of Razia and Palmer, while the top eight was completed by Ericsson, Kevin Ceccon (Scuderia Coloni) and three GP3 graduates, Tom Dillmann (iSport International), Antonio Felix da Costa (Ocean Racing Technology) from fifteenth on the grid and James Caado (Lotus ART) – Calado will start tomorrows sprint race from Pole Position.

Ceccon and Coletti Secure Top Ten Starts in Abu Dhabi

Scuderia Coloni started the GP2 Final at Abu Dhabi with a good result in qualifying as both Kevin Ceccon and Stefano Coletti finished inside the top ten and line up on rows four and five.

Had the red flag not been shown with four minutes remaining, the result could have been even better for the team – the top eighteen runners were covered by a second at the flag.

The stoppage affected both Ceccon and Coletti – both drivers were on course to improve their grid positions and Ceccon was on for a front row start having set some storming sector times.

Once the track went live for the final four minutes, both drivers went out to improve their position but with the amount of traffic out on track, neither driver could improve – leaving Auto GP Champion Ceccon seventh and Coletti tenth.

Paolo Coloni believes that the teams’ race pace will mean that they can improve on their grid positions and they are aiming to finish on top in the two race non-Championship finale: “Being so damaged by the red flag was a pity, but we aren’t too worried because the race will be long and both our drivers have a pace that is much better than what this qualifying session is telling.

“Ceccon’s split times were particularly impressive, he even had the best third sector overall, so with a good race management tomorrow there’s no limit to what we could achieve. Besides this, we have to remember that this GP2 Finale is made of two races: our aim is to score more points than everybody else at the end of the weekend, and we will do our best to achieve that.”

Trident Racing Suffer Disappointing Qualifying.

Trident Racing will line up nineteenth and twenty first after qualifying for the season closing GP2 Final at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, the non Championship event which supports the penultimate round of the 2011 FIA Formula One World Championship.

The team, with Julian Leal and Stephane Richelmi driving the two cars saw their weekend start with Free Practice and for Leal, his session was compromised as he had an off track moment which cost him valuable track time.

This meant that he had to make up for lost time in qualifying and the session was interrupted with four minutes remaining after a car stopped out on track and forced the session to be stopped.

Once live again, the sheer amount of traffic on track meant that nobody was able to improve and this meant that the two Trident cars finished nineteenth and twenty first fastest.

Leal admits that his Practice incident has affected his day but he isn’t dissatisfied with how qualifying went: “My day has been largely jeopardized by an off-track exit that virtually ended my practice run after just a few minutes. I started qualifying without many references and in the end, all considered; I wasn’t really dissatisfied with how it went”

Richelmi, who made his GP2 debut at Monza with the team as a stand in for Stefano Coletti wasn’t pleased with how qualifying went for him: “This qualifying session hasn’t been easy at all. With the first set of tires I faced a slowing down car and I lost the chance to clock a good laptime in the last few corners. Then with the second set there was an awful lot of traffic on-track, and I just couldn’t complete a whole clean lap. I hope for better luck on race day because this is a track that offers many passing opportunities.”

The first race of the weekend is due to start at 9am CET, with a thirty one lap duration while the second race will start at 10:30am CET, with the race due to be run over twenty two laps.