The weather for today’s Feature Race was much warmer that it had been for yesterday’s qualifying with an air temperature of 25° and a track temperature of 44°. Fabio Leimer and Julián Leal, Racing Engineering’s two drivers, lined up 6th and 24th on the grid for the 34 lap, 175.032 km, race and with a choice of either the Pirelli Medium or Super Soft compounds there was no consensus as to which tyre to start the race on with some drivers, including Fabio and Julián, opting for the Medium tyre whilst others chose to start on the softer option.
At the end of lap 4 Fabio was still in 6th, one second behind Calado and 0.6 seconds ahead of Binder, he gained a place on the following lap as Nasr made an early mandatory pit stop and was now chasing Calado with Rossi now 6th. Within two laps Fabio was up to 3rd as the cars ahead pitted and this became 2nd on lap 9.
Lap 11 saw Fabio stop take on four new medium compound tyres from the very efficient Racing Engineering pit crew, he resumed the track in 15th place but this became 16th as he was unable, on cold tyres, to prevent Rossi from overtaking. By lap 17, the halfway point in the race, Fabio was now 15th, 1.7 seconds behind Rossi and 3.3 ahead of Abt. Over the next few laps the Racing Engineering car began to close in onto the back of the Caterham car and he was now involved in a big eight car battle for 6th place.
Fabio continued to sit on the gearbox of the Rossi car but he had to drive carefully as he had Dillmann less than half a second behind him and on lap 27 he passed the American to take 9th place and one lap later he pulled off a great move to overtake Nasr and with Trummer making a very late pitstop the young Swiss was now in 6th place, one second behind Richelmi.
The race was now being run to a one hour time limit due to the earlier safety car period and as the cars fought for position on the 32nd and final lap, in an amazing move, Fabio passed both Richelmi and Frijns on the last corner to finish in a very well deserved 4th place.
Julián made a good start but after the Safety Car period he had a left the track resulting in a quick spin on lap 4, losing two places in the process but on lap 9 he gained a place as he made a great overtaking manoeuvre on Abt. The young Columbian was now in 16th as many of the cars ahead took their pitstops and by lap 13 Julián was up to 11th but he was still to take his pitstop and he continued to gain places as he stayed on the track, setting some very competitive lap times although his tyres were now getting worn.
Julián pitted from 7th place on lap 21 returning to the track in 22nd place and on lap 23 he set the fastest lap of the race with a time of 1:43.041s. Unfortunately the Racing Engineering driver lost two places on lap 24 as a result of a drive-through penalty and, with the race reduced to 32 laps, he had to settle for 22nd place at the flag.
Tomorrow’s 24 lap Sprint Race will see Fabio start 5th on the reversed grid with an excellent chance to take a podium place while, despite his fast race pace today, Julián will have to start from the rear of the field.
Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering: "As expected today's race has been quite interesting with different strategies used by the different teams and drivers and again, there were big differences in pace during the last 5 laps. Fabio managed to finish in P4, a tenth of a second away from the podium. It is positive because we scored points but it is not enough, the pace could have been better during the first half of the race and we will continue to work hard to achieve even better than that, the aim is to fight for podium and wins. On the other hand, Julian had a really good pace throughout the race but made two mistakes that kept him out of the points, a spin at the restart and then a drive through penalty for exceeding track limits. It is a shame as it was possible to score points with Julian as well and then start further up in race 2. Tomorrow's race will be another challenge and many things can happen as the drivers won't all start with the same tyre strategy."
Fabio Leimer: "The start was OK given the fact that I started on the hard compound. I was able to keep 6th position and after that the race was not too eventful for me as I mainly concentrated on saving the tyres. When I saw that those who had already pitted were setting much faster lap times, we decided to change tyres as well. Towards the end of the race I was able to attack and passed some drivers. In the last corner, when Coletti, Frijns and Richelmi came together, I could take advantage of better traction and crossed the finish line in 4th; it was really, really close."
Julián Leal: "At the start I had to be very careful as Quaife-Hobbs and Ceccon came together. I had to lift my foot off the accelerator to avoid the scene of the accident. The car very good then and I immediately overtook Berthon and Abt. I was then behind Trummer and in turn 8 and 9 I tried to push to pass him, but I was too close, went straight and spun. Even though my tyres suffered from this, I had a really good rhythm and set the same lap times as the front runners. But then a drive-through took away my chances to finish the race in a much better position."