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.”

Winning return for Razia and Arden

Luiz Razia and Arden International got their 2012 GP2 Series campaign off to the best possible start after securing the feature race honours at Sepang, the venue for the opening round of the 2012 GP2 Series.

For Razia, the victory marked his first in GP2 since 2009 while for Arden; it was their first victory since the beginning of the 2010 campaign.

Having seen the original start aborted due to two stallers on the grid, Razia made the best start on the restart to take the lead immediately from Pole man Davide Valsecchi and the Brazilian never looked back, taking the chequered flag after thirty laps by 7.8s from Valsecchi.

Speaking about the race, Razia said: “I made a very good start and was able to open a sizeable lead during the first six laps. I tried to maintain a consistent pace, to extend tyre life, and radioed in to make a pit stop just before half-distance, as soon as I sensed that the tyres were starting to go off a little. We just fitted fresh rears, which was the correct call, and after that I ran at a slightly reduced pace to keep my tyres fresh at the end, just in case.

“Davide was very quick in the middle of the race, but less so towards the end and I was able to finish without any pressure. It was still very difficult, though, trying to adopt a sensible pace and monitoring what tyre strategies our rivals adopted. It has been a good day and I am now focusing on tomorrow. I hope to make another good start and will see how things progress. It will be tough making a single set of tyres last, so astute judgment will again be critical.”

For Simon Trummer, his first race of the season was a story of contact – having been collected on the opening lap at turn four before later being involved with Rodolfo Gonzalez as he finished twenty first overall.

GP3 Graduate Trummer said about his race: “I got away well and had passed several cars by the time I reached Turn Four, but somebody then hit me from behind. That caused damage to the rear of the car and upset the balance, so I made an early tyre stop and we changed all four wheels. My pace was quite good after that. I’m happy to have finished, but less so about the incident at the start. I hope to do better tomorrow.”

Points for Caterham Racing in Opening round

Giedo van der Garde brought home his Caterham Racing GP2 car to ninth place and two points in the opening round of the 2012 GP2 Series in Sepang, Malaysia. The Dutchman just missed out on the grid switch for the second race.

For van der Garde, the result of ninth was all the more impressive having dropped down the field to sixteenth position on the opening lap, but he worked his way up the order to finish ninth, but with a limited amount of life left in his tyres.

Speaking after the race, van der Garde said: “I had an issue at the start of the race and didn’t get off the grid as quickly as I had hoped. By the end of lap one I was down about eight positions but after that I found my pace and was able to challenge and put some good passing moves on the cars ahead. We were really fast early on, and again after the pit stop, but towards the end of the race the rear tyre grip went off and we were struggling a bit. We can learn from that and know what we have to do tomorrow so the aim is to keep pushing and build on our first points of 2012.”

Caterham Racing team-mate Rodolfo Gonzalez showed promise during the early stages of the race before seeing his race end prematurely on lap thirteen, after contact with another driver damaged his car.

Gonzalez said about his race: “I made a really good start and by turn four I had made up ten places and was running midfield, right in there amongst Ericsson and Giedo. Unfortunately I made contact with Ericsson which caused some problems and I dropped back. I managed to pick up the pace again but it wasn’t long before I was forced to end my race early. The positives are that I raced well, the car felt more consistent than in testing and I was keeping up with strong competitors and overtaking cars, which is all very encouraging.

“One of the key aspects of motor racing is precision, especially during qualifying on the 2012 Pirelli tyres. I want to work on ensuring I always qualify well and if I can continue to get good starts I am confident I can fight to finish in the points.”

Razia secures Sepang feature race honours

Luiz Razia - GP2 Feature Race

Luiz Razia backed up his qualifying result by securing the first victory of the 2012 GP2 Series at Sepang. Having taken the lead at the start, the Brazilian driver didn’t look back as he secured his first victory since Monza 2009 and Arden’s first since Barcelona 2010. Completing the podium was DAMS Davide Valsecchi and Carlin’s Max Chilton. For Chilton and Carlin, it was their first GP2 podium finish.

Razia seized the advantage at the start, as Valsecchi made a poor getaway which dropped him down to fourth, behind the fast starting Fabio Leimer (Racing Engineering), who had jumped up the order from fifth to lie second, while lying third was Scuderia Coloni’s Stefano Coletti. By the end of the opening lap, Razia had opened up a two second advantage and would never be caught by his rivals.

Behind, the battle for second started to heat up and it was Coletti who was intent on moving up the order, and he made his move on Leimer before allowing Valsecchi to gain the position and on the sixth lap, Valsecchi moved back into second, 5.1s behind Razia.

Valsecchi was on a charge and he went about setting the fastest lap of the race as he chased down Razia in the Arden International car but the Brazilian driver maintained the advantage to the Italian. Leimer, on the other hand, was struggling to keep Coletti and Chilton behind him while GP3 graduate James Calado (Lotus GP) and British Formula 3 Champion Felipe Nasr (DAMS) were in close company.

Coletti was the first driver in the lead pack to make his pitstop, while Leimer and Nasr followed suit a lap later. Chilton and Calado made their stops after that while Valsecchi waiting until lap twelve, which handed second place to Calado’s Lotus GP team-mate, Esteban Gutierrez, who had worked his way up from fifteenth on the grid.

Razia pitted on lap fourteen and rejoined with a 9.7s advantage over Valsecchi, while Chilton had moved into the top three and then spent the remainder of the race defending his position from Leimer, while the battle for points and Pole Position for the second race saw Coletti, Nasr, Calado, Gutierrez, Giedo van der Garde (Caterham Racing) and Fabrizio Crestani (Venezuela GP Lazarus) all in a close battle, and Gutierrez secured seventh after Calado went wide at turn fifteen.

Rain approached the circuit and with four laps remaining, was reported at turn six. No drivers switched to the intermediate tyres and at the flag, Razia secured the victory from Valsecchi and Chilton. Rounding out the top ten was Leimer, Coletti, Nasr, Gutierrez, Calado, van der Garde and Crestani – positions three to nine were nose to tail while Crestani finished just two seconds behind.

Calado and Gutierrez form up the front row for the sprint race tomorrow, while Razia and Valsecchi will line up on the fourth row of the grid.

Pleasing qualifying for Caterham Racing

Giedo van der Garde

Caterham Racing enjoyed a pleasing qualifying session ahead of the opening round of the 2012 GP2 Series at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia, as Giedo van der Garde finished within two tenths of the Pole Position time in eighth.

For Caterham Racing team Manager, Phill Spencer, he is pleased with how the session went: “From the team’s perspective everything very went well today. We looked sharp on track and everyone worked hard to help us enjoy a decent start to our season. The race tomorrow looks like it is going to be very exciting – the top ten cars are covered by less than a second and attention to detail will be key to making sure we have a strong race.

“We have one car in the top ten and the other towards the back of the grid. Giedo showed how valuable his experience and outright pace will be this year in helping us achieve our targets. Rodolfo had a couple of issues on his quickest laps, but we have a good race strategy for both cars, so I am looking forward to getting out there and taking some points. A podium finish is definitely not out of the question.”

Van der Garde explains his qualifying session: “We stuck to our strategy today and went out and did two runs, using both tyre compounds. My first run didn’t go as well as we had hoped – we couldn’t find the performance on the hard compound so we came in, changed to the medium tyres and I did my fastest lap. To be honest it was not ideal. I made a small mistake which probably cost us two tenths, but overall it was good enough to finish in the top eight.

“Now we have some work ahead of us to make sure we have the right setup for tomorrow’s race. I am confident the team will give me a good race car and from eighth on the grid the aim is to work our way up and hopefully finish on the podium.”

Team-mate Rodolfo Gonzalez finished the session outside the top twenty after a qualifying session which saw both of his flying laps hampered by traffic. He wound up twenty-third fastest, having set a 1m46.962.

He feels that he can push for the top ten tomorrow with a good tyre strategy: “The car was very competitive today but I had traffic on each of my fastest laps which is a real shame. Despite that I feel confident with the car and I know we have a good strategy to help us have a good race tomorrow and if I can manage my tyres well we can certainly try for a points finish.”

Humphrey Corbett, Caterham Racing Chief Engineer isn’t concerned with the result in qualifying due to the closeness of the times: “The times today were incredibly close, so although we were hoping to be further up the field, with Giedo just over a tenth off the quickest time in P8 I am not overly concerned about where we ended up. He did not get a perfect lap but the pace was there so come tomorrow I am confident he can work his way through to the front of the field and have a strong race. During the recent tests we saw we have good pace over the long runs and I am happy with the race strategy we have been working on. We are still learning about the new tyres – there doesn’t seem to be much difference between the two compounds here, but both Giedo and Rodolfo seem happy with their cars and we know what to do to give us the sort of race we want to see tomorrow.

“Another very pleasing observation from today is to see just how well the whole team is working. The engineers are doing a very good job and the mechanics are working hard in the testing conditions. Both cars ran faultlessly today so I am very happy with our overall performance and I am looking forward to carrying that through to the race tomorrow and the rest of the weekend.”

DAMS and Valsecchi on Sepang Pole

Davide Valsecchi

Sepang has seen the 2011 Champions DAMS continue where they left off as Davide Valsecchi secured Pole Position for the opening race of the season.

Valsecchi, who was shown plenty of speed throughout the winter tests backed up his pre season form by setting his benchmark time early in the session and wasn’t beaten throughout the remainder of the qualifying session.

Valsecchi said about his pole position: “First of all, I’d like to thank my engineers and mechanics who have given me such a well-prepared car. I’m very happy for them – and also for myself – but the job isn’t done yet as we’ll have to confirm our performance in the race. In any case, we’ve got off to a great start.”

Team-mate to Valsecchi at DAMS is the 2011 British Formula 3 Champion, Brazilian driver Felipe Nasr. He gave the French outfit more reason to smile after qualifying tenth for his debut GP2 race. He will line up ninth after another driver recieved a grid penalty.

Nasr added: “My tenth place isn’t too bad but I’d have liked to do a bit better. This being said it’s my first race in GP2 and I’d like to thank my team for all the help they’ve given me. I’ll do my best to give them a good result this weekend.”

The qualifying performances show that the team will be right in the thick of the Championship battle, and with the blend of experience and youth, it sets the team up well for a successful 2012 season.

DAMS CEO, Jean-Paul Driot added: “Obviously we all feel very satisfied not only because of the pole position, but also because of the overall result of our two drivers. I’d like to congratulate them and the whole team who have laid down a marker right at the start of the season.”

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.