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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.”

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.

Four drivers for iSport at Jerez GP2 Test.

The two day Jerez test for the GP2 Series will see iSport International run two different driver combinations for the two days in Spain.

Wednesday will see the team run Jolyon Palmer, who competed in GP2 for Arden International last season and Carlos Iaconelli, who competed in GP2 back in 2008 and more recently has competed in Auto GP while Thursday will see GP3 contender Tom Dillmann step up alongside Formula Renault 3.5 regular Nathanael Berthon.

Gavin Jones, Chief Engineer at iSport International explains the plan for the two day test at Jerez: “We will be running a driver evaluation program with all drivers, running through qualifying simulations and full fuel race simulations to get a good idea of their strengths and weaknesses. It will be the first time at Jerez with the new car and Pirelli Hard tyres, so will be a good challenge for the team and drivers to find the best set-up to produce the fastest times.”

Wickens Doubles Up as Carlin Secure Teams’ Title.

Robert Wickens Celebrates His Race Two Victory on the Podium.

Two Pole Positions and two wins mean Robert Wickens (Carlin) leaves Silverstone with a healthy points advantage at the top of the Formula Renault 3.5 Championship Standings as he team, Carlin, celebrate their first Formula Renault 3.5 Teams’ Title on home soil.

Completing the race two podium was Alexander Rossi (Fortec Motorsports) and Daniel Ricciardo (ISR) – that was before Rossi and team mate Cesar Ramos were disqualified for a technical infringement, thus promoting Ricciardo to second and his team-mate, Nathanael Berthon to third.

Wickens had been held up in traffic heading into the circuit and this meant he missed the opening ten minutes of qualifying – the delay didn’t delay him from securing his sixth Pole Position of the season, ahead of team-mate and Championship Leader heading to Silverstone, Jean-Eric Vergne.

The Canadian driver said about qualifying and his race: “”The day got off to a strange start. I spent more than an hour in the traffic on the way to the circuit, so I missed ten minutes of the qualifying session. It’s been a perfect weekend, and we capped it off by winning the Teams title. I now have a good lead, but I still need to win races. I’m confident ahead of Paul Ricard HTTT, as everything went well for us on the circuit in collective testing over the winter.”

The second row saw the same result as the previous day as ISR annexed third and fourth, the only difference being Berthon ahead of Ricciardo on the grid. Berthon didn’t get the best of getaways at the start and was passed by Ricciardo and Albert Costa (Epic Racing).

Up at the front, Vergne had made a good start but it was Wickens who held the advantage as they headed into Copse for the first time. At the end of the first lap, Wickens held the advantage from Vergne, Ricciardo, Costa, Berthon, Rossi and Jake Rosenzweig (Mofaz Racing).

The top four drivers had set a blistering pace at the start of the second encounter and had built up an advantage over the chasing pack, which was led by Berthon in fifth. A number of drivers altered their pit stop strategies and Rossi was one of the first drivers to make their mandatory pit stops early.

Costa was the first driver from the race leaders to make their stop while the others bided their time. A pit stop battle ensued when Vergne and Ricciardo pitted at the same time and Ricciardo gained the advantage after a small problem for Vergne in the Carlin pit.

Wicken’s stop went like clockwork and the Marussia Virgin Racing F1 reserve driver rejoined from his stop ahead of Rossi (up from sixth), Ricciardo, Vergne and Costa – the French driver had slipped from second to fourth after his stop.

He soon set his sights on moving ahead of his fellow Red Bull backed driver but soon enough, Costa had joined in the fun over the battle for third. Berthon then became the fly in the ointment as he rejoined the track fourth, separating Ricciardo and Vergne – his strategy of pitting later than the others worked out.

Once the pit stops were completed, the race order remained largely unchanged as Wickens drove to his fourth victory of the season, ahead of Rossi while Ricciardo rounded out the podium, some twelve seconds behind Rossi.

Wickens win means that his Championship lead has been extended once again and for his Carlin team, Trevor Carlin and the team can celebrate their first Formula Renault 3.5 Series Teams’ title at home.

Berthon soon inherited third after the exclusion of Rossi for a technical infringement, while Ricciardo was promoted to second.

Ricciardo sums up his weekend: ““It’s a good all-round result for the team this weekend. We suffered a bit more out there today. I was up with the pace of the Carlin drivers at the start, but I felt the car’s performance drop little by little. He had a good pitstop which allowed us to finish on the podium, but it was a defensive race for us. We’ve won a lot of points and we’re moving forward, but now we have to win.”

Picture Credit: World Series by Renault

Silverstone Win Promotes Wickens to P1.

Robert Wickens Leads From Pole Position into Copse at Silverstone.

Having secured Pole Position ahead of the first Silverstone race, Canadian racer Robert Wickens (Carlin) went on to secure the victory and with it, the Championship lead in Formula Renault 3.5.

Following Wickens home was Daniel Ricciardo (ISR), on his return to the circuit where he made his Formula One debut a few weeks previously while the third step was filled by American Alexander Rossi (Fortec Motorsports), having been outfoxed by Australian Ricciardo. This meant the podium didn’t feature a European driver.

Wickens left the field with not a lot to smile about after recording his fifth Pole Position of the season in qualifying. The Canadian driver is a qualifying expert. Lining up alongside him on the front row was Rossi while the second row was an all ISR affair, as Ricciardo and Nathanael Berthon lined up third and fourth. For Berthon, it was his best qualifying result of the season.

On the formation lap, the first twist of the afternoon came as Championship Leader Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin) stalled on the grid and thus had to start from the pit lane – and he could only watch as Wickens made the perfect start from Pole Position.

For the first few laps, the Marussia Virgin Racing reserve driver led from Rossi, Ricciardo, Berthon, Albert Costa (Epic Racing) and Formula Renault 3.5 debutant Nick Yelloly (Pons Racing).

The lead trio soon set about building up an advantage over the chasing pack, which was being led by Berthon, while Costa, Yelloly and Sten Pentus (Epic Racing) were all primed to take advantage of any slight chance to make an overtaking move.

Up at the front, Rossi was piling the pressure on Wickens and there was another battle forming between Berthon and Costa over fourth position. Spaniard Costa chanced his luck on a number of occasions but was unable to find an opening.

Rossi said about his early laps, chasing Wickens:”I was better than Robert [Wickens] in the first sector, and I tried to attack but I could never find an opening. My cars performance dropped and I really wanted to finish. Daniel [Ricciardo] overtook, and then I knew there was a big gap between fourth place and that I had to reach the finishing line. We’ll need to work to ensure that we don’t find ourselves in the same situation tomorrow.”

Vergne was still in the race albeit down the field in seventeenth position, after his pit lane start. With thirty minutes of the race remaining, he had time to work his way up the order further.

At the ten minute mark, Ricciardo made a surprise move on Rossi for second and he succeeded in moving ahead of the American and he then set his sights on race leader Wickens.

The gap to the leader was too great however but this didn’t deter Ricciardo and he set the fastest lap of the race – a new lap record for FR3.5 – in his pursuit.

Ricciardo said after the race: “Second place feels like a victory for me and the rest of the team after the weekend we had in Budapest. I’m happy that I managed to overtake Alexander Rossi in the final laps. I’d expected to finish third, but my car became quicker and quicker. I even managed my fastest lap at the end of the race, which is something that rarely happens in this discipline. Life in the World Series by Renault paddock is more relaxed than in Formula One. It’s nice to be able to breathe a bit. I had no problem switching from one car to the other

Ultimately, Wickens held on for his third victory of the season and the Championship Lead as his nearest rival, Vergne, finished thirteen and without a point to his name. Rounding out the podium were Ricciardo and Rossi.

The result meant that Wickens jumped from four points behind Vergne to twenty one ahead and extended his lead over the chasing pack; with a fifty seven point advantage over Rossi in third heading into Sunday’s race.

A delighted race winner said afterwards: ““It’s not easy to overtake on this circuit, so I wanted more than anything to get a good start – which I did. I didn’t make things easy for myself by going a bit wide on the second lap, but fortunately there was tarmac on the other side of the rumble strip. I calmed down after that, because I’d really been on the attack in the opening laps. It’s an important victory in terms of the rest of the championship. And it feels good.”

Picture Credit: World Series by Renault