Today’s 30 lap Feature Race was held under blue skies with an air temperature of 26° and a track temperature of 46°. A number of penalties had been applied following yesterday’s qualifying, as a result of which Nathanaël Berthon moved up to 15th on the grid.
As the lights went off Leimer made a great start to take 5th going into the first corner and began challenging Nasr for 4th. On lap 2 the Racing Engineering car moved ahead of Brazilian to take 4th and was now chasing Gutierrez. By lap 4 Leimer was 2.0 seconds behind Gutierrez and 1.8 seconds ahead of Ericsson.
The young Swiss driver began to lap faster than Gutierrez and on lap 6 he was just one second behind the 3rd placed car and 3.0 seconds ahead of Ericsson. The Racing Engineering car continued to close in on Gutierrez and on lap 9 he was right on the gearbox of the Mexican driver. Lap 9 saw Gutierrez try to pass Van der Garde; the two cars appeared to make contact and in an instant Leimer had passed both of them to take 2nd place.
Debris on the track saw the Safety Car deployed on lap 13 and the Racing Engineering team took advantage to call Leimer in for his mandatory pitstop. Racing resumed on lap 17 with Leimer right behind race leader Calado who was yet to make his pitstop.
No sooner had the race got underway than there was an accident amongst the backmarkers and the Safety Car was back on track again. The safety Car returned to the pits on lap 21 leaving just 9 laps to the finish.
As racing started Gutierrez locked his brakes into the final corner, mounted the kerb and made contact with Leimer causing him to leave the track which cost the Racing Engineering driver three places, dropping him to 5th. Just as Leimer closed in on Razia and was looking for a way past the Safety Car was deployed for the third time as Serenelli spun at the back of the field. Calado made his pitstop promoting Leimer to 4th but the race was now approaching the one hour mark and time was running out.
The Safety Car returned to the pits once again with just 5 minutes racing left which left Leimer with insufficient time to gain any more places.
Berthon made a hesitant start but was still able to move up to 14th place and at the end of lap 1 he was 0.6 seconds behind Chilton and 0.4 seconds ahead of Series leader Valsecchi. Over the next few laps the young Frenchman gradually opened up a gap over the DAMS car and by lap 5 he was 1.3 seconds ahead.
Berthon made his mandatory pit stop on lap 10 resuming the track in 15th position and becoming involved in a very tense battle with the cars from 10th to 16th separated by just four seconds. As the cars ahead made their pitstops the Racing Engineering car was now up to an excellent 8th place and was now chasing Haryanto for 7th.
On lap 18 Berthon gained a place as a car ahead made a pitstop and as the Safety Car returned to the track he was still chasing Haryanto with Chilton behind him in 8th. As the race entered the final laps Berthon moved up to 6th as Calado pitted and he held onto this position at the chequered flag, an excellent result after starting 15th.
Tomorrow’s reversed grid for the Sprint Race will see Berthon start 3rd and Leimer 5th giving both men an excellent chance of finishing on the podium.
Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering:
"Generally a strong race from both drivers showing a strong pace throughout the entire race. Strategy and pit stops have worked out well, but unfortunately we suffered at the restart when Gutierrez had contact with Fabio pushing him towards the outside of the corner, almost sending him into a spin. This made him lose three positions and I guess we can say today's race win. This is obviously disappointing for all of us. As for Nat, he had a strong race to recover from P15 on the grid and we are satisfied with his result as he scored points five times in a row now. Both drivers have good starting positions for tomorrow's sprint race, so we expect to take more points, which would be very rewarding for our mechanics and engineers, who have done a great job so far this weekend."
"I had a very good start and made up positions during the race. I think I was one of the fastest drivers on track, but then Gutierrez drove into my car. In my opinion this move was not fair and he destroyed my race. I was actually lucky as I was close to spinning and then even P4 would not have been possible. I am sure I could have won today and from P7 to P1 that's not bad. My race was pretty good and the car very, very good. I felt really comfortable and everything went well. We would have really needed to finally take the win.
Esteban usually drives hard, but fair. Today, in my opinion, he overdid it as he also crashed into Van Der Garde, therefore destroying both Giedo's and my race. The championship is not decided in one race, so one can race hard, but it should stay fair. For tomorrow the goal will be to once more try to make up positions and score as any points as possible. We definitely have the speed, so we will see what tomorrow brings."
"I almost stalled at the start and was therefore did not get away from the grid too well, but the cars around me didn’t either, so I didn't lose too much there. Then I had really good braking into the first corner, which allowed me to recover some positions. Once again another car crashed into the back of my car and I drove the entire race with a broken diffusor. In the end I was able to finish in P6, which is a fantastic result. We had a really good strategy, which allowed me to push hard and set good times when alone on track. This was the right thing to do. The car was pretty good compared to the others and that's why I could finish in P6 today, but I have to admit with a bit of luck. Tomorrow I start the race from P3 on the grid and that's very good. We can do a fantastic race, if I have a good start."
Source: Racing Engineering