Fabio Leimer claimed his maiden GP2 Feature Race win today at Yas Marina Circuit. The Swiss racer took a lights-to-flag victory with a dominant drive, and in spite of his closest rival Luiz Razia's best efforts to try and reduce the gap, Leimer remained in perfect control of his Racing Engineering machine all race long and was never in danger. Jolyon Palmer in third pocketed his first GP2 podium finish.
When the lights went off, Leimer launched from pole position perfectly. Behind him, Dani Clos made a slower start from P2 and then found himself caught in between Josef Kral and Razia. With no space to go to at Turn 1, Clos and Kral came together ending the Rapax man’s race prematurely and sending the Czech into a spin. The incident allowed Razia and Palmer to get past and free to chase Leimer. But the Swiss drivers pace proved to be difficult to match for Palmer who in turn had to look into his mirrors to try and keep a charging Esteban Gutierrez at bay.
The Lotus ART man made a blazing start from P8 and looked hungry for more after a disappointing qualifying result. But the poor Mexican’s hopes for a podium today were crushed when he had to re-enter the pits in order to repair a damaged rear wing sustained when he was hit by Stefano Coletti at Turn 1 on the first lap.
(L to R) Luiz Razia (Caterham Team AirAsia), Fabio Leimer (Racing Engineering), Jolyon Palmer (Barwa Addax Team)
With Leimer maintaining a good gap at the front, Razia’s only hopes of stealing the lead was during the mandatory pitstops, but the Swiss man pitted two laps after the Brazilian. He re-emerged second ahead of Razia and behind Palmer who pitted a lap later and handed the lead back over to the Racing Engineering driver.
Behind the Leimer/Razia duo, Palmer who had had a rather lonely first stint, then had to hold off pressure from Marcus Ericsson. The iSport ace started from thirteenth on the grid and made a perfect start that put him in P8. His pace enabled him to move up to P4 after his pitstop on Lap 13 and he kept on pushing until the last lap. However, that was not enough and Palmer retained his first podium finish.
At the checkered flag, Leimer who had clocked in the fastest lap time for good measure savored his victory ahead of Razia and Palmer, and pocketed a perfect thirteen points. Ericsson finished fourth ahead of Kevin Ceccon. The final three points-paying places were claimed by GP3 graduates Tom Dillmann, Antonio Felix da Costa (who recovered from P15 on the grid) and James Calado. The Lotus ART man will start from tomorrow’s reverse pole.
Razia drove a focused and determined race this morning to secure second place on the podium in Abu Dhabi in the first of the two races of the final GP2 event of the year. The 22 year old gained two places at the first corner, avoiding the collision that took place between two cars ahead, and then drove what was undoubtedly one of his best performances this year. Aided by a swift rear tire change on lap twelve the Brazilian challenged race leader Fabio Leimer all the way to the checkered flag to take second place in style.
Razia said afterward “The start today was crucial and thankfully mine was great after lots of practice starts yesterday, although I did lose a little time to Leimer. On his first lap he gained about three seconds so it was difficult to put pressure on him but we were way ahead of everyone else, keeping the pace up and pushing hard throughout the whole race. After my pit stop I was unlucky to come back out behind Haryanto but I fought hard and passed him cleanly. At that point I managed to close in on Leimer but I was really working my tires and he continued to match my times. Towards the end my tires went off a little and I feel there was nothing more I could have done today. It is a great result - the team did a brilliant job with the pit stop strategy so all in all I am very happy!”
Rossi lost the front of his nose at some point, which also slowed him
Alexander Rossi moved up to tenth place in the opening laps of the race from fourteenth on the grid. Tire degradation pushed the team into an early pit stop on lap eight and thereafter his pace was good amongst the mid-field cars, finally bringing the car home safely in thirteenth place. “We have been struggling a little with brake issues since first practice and this is where I was losing most of my time today. I was working my rear tires a lot harder than we wanted to in order to protect the fronts and the braking, which in turn put more temperature through them and caused more wear. Despite that, after my pit stop my pace was ok but I got stuck in traffic and wasn’t able to capitalize in the braking zones where the passing opportunities come about, so I was not able to defend or go defensive, but I know we will have this sorted in time for the race tomorrow.”
Chief Engineer Humphrey Corbett “Luiz controlled it very well today. He made a really good start and was rewarded with a fantastic result. He now has the experience and knows how to look after the tires so after a fruitless race here earlier this year, and after a difficult test in Barcelona, he has regrouped and is back where he should be. His car was faultless and the team did good pit stops so I am very pleased for them. With Alexander I think the result today was a lot down to tire management. He did have a different set up to Luiz so we will be looking into this in more depth before the race tomorrow, but we had to pit him early due to high degradation to his rear tires. I think this has been a steep learning curve for him. He is very keen and this is his first proper race with Pirelli tires so there is a lot to learn. It doesn’t help being in the middle of everyone but he managed to gain positions and held his own during the race, so I look forward to seeing what we can do tomorrow.”
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