Fabio Leimer has once again proclaimed himself as the man to beat this weekend as he dominated today’s qualifying session at Bahrain International Circuit. The Swiss driver set an impressive lap time of 1:39.427, nine tenths clear of Marcus Ericsson. Felipe Nasr finished third.
All the drivers had opted for soft Pirelli tires for this session. Simon Trummer was the first man to top the timesheet on his second lap, but his lap time was soon improved by Stefano Coletti, Alexander Rossi and Ericsson successively. It was then time for Leimer to remind the rest of the field of his presence. On his third lap he clocked in a time of 1:40.044 good enough to beat Ericsson by three tenths. Behind the pair, Nasr moved up to third.
Halfway through the session, the drivers made their way back to the pits for some fresh rubber and rushed back out on the track to try and find some extra pace. That was the case notably for rookie Robin Frijns who jumped from P18 to P6. Meanwhile, Leimer calmly waited in the pitlane, preserving his new set of soft tires. He rejoined the action with six minutes left on the clock.
The closing stages of the session heated up as Ericsson set the quickest first sector, a time immediately matched by Leimer. The Swiss crushed his rivals spirits and hopes by lighting up the other two sectors in purple. Ericsson settled for second ahead of Nasr whilst Series leader Coletti will start from fourth place on tomorrow’s starting grid. Tom Dillmann, Stéphane Richelmi, Rossi, Adrian Quaife-Hobbs (today’s best rookie), Sam Bird and Frijns rounded up the top ten. James Calado who finished the session in eleventh place will be dropped ten places on tomorrow’s grid following a penalty picked up in Kuala Lumpur’s Sprint Race.
Having already added a feature race win to his GP2 record this season in Malaysia, Leimer will be looking to repeat the performance tomorrow in Sakhir, a plan that his rivals will try to stop. With 32 laps to run in high temperatures and on an abrasive track, a cool head, a good strategy and tire management will be key.
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