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 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.

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.”

Leimer Secures Abu Dhabi Pole Position.

Fabio Leimer took the Racing Engineering team to the top of the times for the GP2 feature race at Abu Dhabi tomorrow morning, having secured top spot with five minutes of the session remaining.

The Swiss driver had showed some speed during the morning practice session and he finished with a 1m49.363s, having recovered from an earlier spin at turn nineteen.

Spanish racer Dani Clos took Rapax to the top of the times during the early stages but the first driver to break the 1m50 mark was Josef Kral for Arden International, who had opened up a gap of half a second over the rest of the field.

Kral’s session topping time was unbeaten for the vast majority of the session and the chasing pack were busy trying to close the gap and the next drivers to dip below the 1m50 barrier were Leimer and Clos, Clos finishing a mere 0.02s off Kral.

After ten minutes, Leimer put his head down and his spin at turn nineteen was down to him pushing even harder and this ended his chance of Pole Position and as the session reached the mid-way point, Kral was still on top of the times – ahead of Clos, Luiz Razia (Caterham Team AirAsia), Jolyon Palmer (Barwa Addax Team), Kevin Ceccon (Scuderia Coloni) and Leimer. The top nineteen drivers were covered by a second as the field returned to the pits.

Hoping for a clear track, Clos was the first driver to return to the track but on his fast lap, he lost out as cars on their out lap hampered his effort, while Esteban Gutierrez (Lotus ART) was also in the hunt and he managed to find a clear lap but his efforts weren’t enough and the morning session topper couldn’t improve on his sixth place.

Leimer found some extra speed in the Racing Engineering car with five minutes remaining as he found the clear lap he required to set the fastest time of the session to secure himself pole position.

Clos’ efforts left him second on the grid, just ahead of Kral, while further back, Gutierrez saw his session finish prematurely as he stopped out on track with technical gremlins. This brought out the red flags with three and a half minutes remaining, and once the session resumed, nobody could match Leimer’s lap.

Behind the top three drivers, Razia finished fourth ahead of Palmer, Max Chilton (Carlin), Ceccon, Gutierrez, top GP3 graduate Tom Dillmann (iSport International) and Stefano Coletti (Scuderia Coloni).

Fabio Leimer to drive for Sauber in Abu Dhabi Test.

Fabio Leimer will get his first experience of a Formula One car during the “Young Drivers” test at Abu Dhabi over the 15 – 17 November, as he tests a Sauber C30-Ferrari alongside the teams’ official reserve and test driver, Esteban Gutierrez.

The three day test, which is held after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, is for those drivers who have completed less than two Formula One Grand Prix’s.

Twenty two year old Leimer from the Kanton Aargau in Switzerland has been competing in GP2 and GP2 Asia Series describes the opportunity to test for Sauber as a very special honour – as a Swiss racer, he will be testing for a Swiss team: “When I found out that I will definitely take part in the Formula One test I realised for the first time what this actually means. Being a racing driver, of course, you always dream of Formula One. That this dream is now coming true is almost unbelievable. On top of that not many Swiss drivers have ever had the chance to test for the Sauber F1 Team. For this reason it is an even more special honour for me to be able to get my first laps in an F1 car under my belt as a Swiss for the Swiss team. I am very much looking forward to that challenge and want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has made it possible.”

“We are pleased we can offer Fabio this opportunity“, said Monisha Kaltenborn, CEO of the Sauber F1 Team. “The test opportunities for young drivers are extremely limited nowadays, and it is always exciting to see how they deal with all the complexity of a Formula One test.”

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.