Stefano claimed 6th starting spot, while Marciello - 9th.
The 10th season of GP2 Series racing began today in Bahrain as Free Practice and Qualifying got underway at the Sakhir International Circuit. For this season there has been a change in the regulations for Friday’s Free Practice and for 2014 it will now last for 45 minutes, an increase of 15 minutes.
As Free Practice got underway under sunny skies with a air temperature of 24° and a track temperature of 45° both of the Racing Engineering drivers, Raffaele Marciello and Stefano Coletti, were amongst the first out on the track as most of the teams used the first 10 minutes to carry out installation laps. The track was initially slow as the surface was slippery due to dust and sand that recent adverse weather had deposited and all the teams were using the orange hard compound Pirelli tyres.
As the session entered the last 15 minutes most of the drivers returned to the pits for some final adjustments and with just under 10 minutes left Lello and Stefano returned to the track but a red flag in the closing minutes meant that Lello did not improve on his time and finished 3rd while Stefano made a small improvement to 1:42.607s for 12th.
Qualifying took place under the Sakhir floodlights for the first time but the night-time conditions meant that the air and track temperatures had dropped significantly from the morning at 21° and 25° respectively. Once again all the drive! rs took to the circuit as soon as the lights turned green to enable them to learn about the new track conditions and this time they were on the softer yellow compound Pirellis.
Stefano’s first flying lap put him 8th with a time of 1:39.918s and a few moments later Lello took 5th on 1:39.639s as the times quickly began to fall. Lello soon reduced his time to 1:39.449s with Stefano close behind him on 1:39.695s. As the session reached the halfway point all the drivers returned to the pits for new tyres as they prepared for the final minutes of Qualifying.
As the clock ticked down to ten minutes remaining the cars began to return to the track but one of the RUSSIAN TIME cars had spun at the first corner causing a red flag. As the session resumed Stefano was immediately setting personal bests in all three sectors to take 6th fastest with 1:39.271s. Lello was unable to improve on his earlier lap and finished in 9th place.
With both of the Racing Engineering drivers starting in the top ten both men will be looking to gain positions and score as many points as possible to get the first race of the 2014 season off to the best possible start. The GP2 field looks to be as competitive as ever this year with the top 18 cars separated by less than one second.
Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering:
"We had the first qualifying of the 2014 season today and even though the results are not perfect, we have both cars in the top 10. Free practice went quite well, while qualifying was a bit more complicated with yellow and red flags. The first stint for Stefano was not good enough; he wasn't pushing hard enough yet. In Lello’s case the first stint was better, but he didn’t improve enough on the second set of tyres. Stefano, like most drivers, was then hindered by the red flag and it was down to one push lap at the end of the session. It wasn’t a perfect lap and he could have finished in the top 3. But both our drivers have the chance to score good points tomorrow, so we will work hard now on preparing the cars for tomorrow’s race."
"Free practice was quite good today and I finished it in P3, so I was looking forward to qualifying. On my first set of tyres things went well, I was in P6, even though I made a mistake so I knew there was a margin. It’s a shame I did the same mistake again on the second set, and I lost a lot of time there, there were 2-3 tenths of improvement. It’s a pity as there was the potential to be in the top 5, but in the end it’s only P9. I think, however, that I can do a good race tomorrow. I need a really good start and overtake a few cars there, then my chances are really good for the race. So, I need a good start and I think for the rest I am fine."
"On my first set I didn’t push enough; I wanted to set a good lap time but realized I was a bit too slow. On the second run I was preparing to push much harder, but there was a red flag when I began my lap so we had to stop. When the session started again I was on a push lap, but had to slow down once more as all other cars were on a slow lap. In the end I had 4 laps on the tyres before I could push. So I think there is a bit of time there. I also hit some traffic. Qualifying was a bit chaotic today, so I am in P6, I think pole was difficult to take today, but P2 or P3 were possible, so let’s prepare for tomorrow. I think with a good start and strategy we can finish at the top. The goal for tomorrow will be to finish on the podium. The exact position will depend on how good we are on the tyres.”