Although Fabio Leimer and Nathanaël Berthon had qualified 3rd and 16th respectively, penalties applied to the two Lotus GP drivers meant that they would start 2nd and 15th.
Rain before the race meant that the drivers were facing a wet but drying track and most drivers opted for wet tyres as the mandatory pit stop would give them the opportunity to change to slicks as the track dried further although two drivers opted to start on slicks.
As the lights went off Leimer made a good start but lost a place to Melker but the young Swiss was then able to pass pole sitter Van Der Garde to regain 2nd, and the Racing Engineering car, setting the fastest lap, finished the opening lap 0.8 behind Melker and 1.6 ahead of Van Der Garde. As the cars entered the breaking zone for the hairpin on lap 4 Leimer dived up the inside of Melker to take the lead.
The sun was out and track was now almost completely dry and as the pit stop window opened on lap 6 almost all the drivers, including Leimer, made their mandatory stop and switched to slick tyres. Leimer resumed the track in 5th place behind four cars that had yet to pit.
By lap 11 Leimer was up to third and was closing in on Richelmi and Cecotto who had gambled on starting on slicks and were yet to pit. Over the next few laps the gap between Leimer in 3rd and the leader, Cecotto, held steady at about 25 to 26 seconds.
As the race reached the halfway point Leimer was still holding a strong 3rd, 9.1s behind Richelmi and 5.5s ahead of Nasr. Richelmi stopped on lap 23 promoting Leimer to second and on the following lap Cecotto pitted. Leimer was now right on the tail of Cecotto as the Addax car resumed the track and both cars were pushing as hard as possible. With 8 laps to go Leimer was 5.5s behind Cecotto as the Venezuelan made best use of his much fresher front tyres.
With his tyres now well-worn after over 30 laps of racing Leimer settled for an excellent second place and he crossed the finishing line 9.6s behind Cecotto and 5.3s ahead of Richelmi.
Berthon made a clean start and gained two places on the opening lap to be in 13th place, 1.0s behind Calado and 0.9s ahead of Trummer. On lap 4, when trying to pass Guerin, he made contact with the Ocean Racing car which damaged the nose on the Racing Engineering Dallara. Stopping on lap 6 for new tyres and a replacement nose the young Frenchman resumed the track in 22nd place. By lap 13 Berthon had moved up to 18th and he was laying 1.5s behind Leal and 3.4 seconds ahead of Gonzalez.
Lap 25 saw Berthon close to within less than a second of Leal but he was now being chased hard by Haryanto who was 1.1s behind. Lap 29 saw the Racing Engineering car gain two places to take 16th place. Over the remaining laps of the race Berthon was able to gain another place to finish 15th at the end of the 38 laps.
Tomorrow’s Sprint Race will see Leimer starting from 7th on the reversed grid and his pace today has shown he will be a favourite to be on the podium again. For Berthon, starting in the lower half of the field, it will be a case of pushing as hard as possible to move up to a points scoring position.
Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering: "We had a great result with Fabio today, even if we would obviously have preferred to take the win. But it was not reasonable to gamble on slicks on the wet track at the start considering that we started on the front row. This worked out well for the only two cars on the grid starting on slicks, but they had nothing to lose given their starting positions. Fabio drove very well during the entire race, managing his tyres well, his pace and the gaps with other cars. Nat was fighting hard during the first laps and busy avoiding contact with other struggling cars. But unfortunately on lap 5 he had contact with Guerin, which forced us to not only change four tyres, but also his front wing. Then he fought his way back through the field showing some good overtaking. Good job from all engineers and mechanics, especially given these difficult decisions."
Fabio Leimer: "I think we can be happy with today's second place as starting in the front, we obviously went for the safe option of starting on rain tyres. At the start I was lucky to not stall, but compared to others I didn't get away that badly. Then I lost a position to Melker, but passed van der Garde myself. Then I tried to keep to Melker's speed, but he soon began to struggle so I passed him. Then I pushed for two more laps before coming in for the earliest pit stop I have ever had. After that I only concentrated on being able to finish the race on this one set of tyres. A huge thank you to the team as we had a really good car, it was not easy today as it was wet in the beginning, but we were really good throughout the race."
"The start was good, but Dillmann spun ahead me and to avoid contact I went off track and lost positions. So I could have actually been even higher up. When I tried I pass Guerin, he closed the door on me and I lost 8 seconds, but an additional 10 as my font wing had to be changed at the pit stop. After that I concentrated on managing my tyres and overtook quite a few cars to finish in P15."
Souce; Racing Engineering