Nancy Knapp Schilke, GP2 Correspondent
The final qualifying for the GP2 Series 2011 season was very close on the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, UAE. This event is a non-championship race but still the drivers are going all out to land rides for the 2012 season including those who are making their debut in a GP2 car this weekend. Fabio Leimer, despite a spin earlier in the session, never gave up the fight for the pole honors with five minutes to spare, he set the fastest time.
Leimer said, “I am really happy as it was actually my last possible lap when I set the fastest time. After that we had the red flag and there were no possibilities to improve anymore. I am also really happy as this is my first pole position. Now we will see what's possible for tomorrow's race, but the most important thing is to start in front. I am really, really happy."
The Racing Engineering driver turned his hot lap with a time of 1:49.363. Dani Clos was second for the Rapax team with his best at 1:49.570 and third went to Josef Kral with a 1:49.612 for the Arden team.
The Swiss pole winner showed his speed in the morning practice and he did have a slight bit of luck when a red flag stopped the action and by the time the field was let loose again, there were not enough minutes on the clock left to find the needed flying lap.
"Everything went really perfect. We already saw we were quick during free practice and that everything would be possible in qualifying. I also knew that I myself could still go quicker. In qualifying everything fell into place and I would like to pass a big thank you on to the team as they gave me a really, really good car,” said Leimer.
Clos was the first to lay down a hot lap but Kral answered back and knocked the Spaniard off the top of the timesheet. A yearlong familiar battle between Clos and Kral was the scene for several laps. The Czech driver was the first to break the 1 minute 50 second mark but Clos made the comeback before Leimer topped them all.
Clos said, “This is my first time with Rapax and in their car. It’s quite different from what I’m used to. I’m happy because they gave me the opportunity to come again to GP2 in this race. I’m just happy that Rapax trusted me for this weekend. They gave me a good car and I did the job I think."
“Anyway P2 is good and I’m happy with the team because we’re working very fast. I got used to the car very quickly. They have a really potential. They struggled a bit this year so I want to do a good job a stay in front tomorrow,” added the Spaniard
Kral admitted he blew his potential best lap time but the Czech driver is ready for the first of the two races. “I think first of all I am happy with this result. P3 is the best result I’ve had in qualifying since I started racing in GP2. I’m really happy for that. Of course, I wanted pole very badly and it was very close but unfortunately it did not go as well as I wanted because I made a mistake in my quickest lap. Then I could not improve. So I’m still happy for having finished third because it’s a good starting position to get a good result in the race.”
Also on the second row for Saturday’s race 1 standing start is Luiz Razia with a time of 1:49.649 for Team AirAsia.
Fifth on the grid will be Jolyon Palmer who is a Formula Two star driver but he did race at Abu Dhabi earlier this year in the Asian GP Series. Driving this weekend for the Addax Team, Palmer’s best was a 1:49.697. Next to Palmer will be Max Chilton for the Carlin team with a lap time of 1:49.737.
Rounding out the top 10 is Kevin Ceccon (Scuderia Coloni), Esteban Gutierrez (Lotus ART), Tom Dillmann (iSport) and Stefano Coletti (Scuderia Coloni).