Bad Luck for Racing Engineering in the Abu Dhabi Sprint Race.
With the two Racing Engineering drivers, Leimer and Berthon, starting 8th and 9th respectively on the reversed grid and with the race only lasting 22 laps it was important that both men made a good start. As the cars left the grid both Racing Engineering cars got away well and at the end of the first lap Leimer was in 9th place chasing Rossi and his team-mate Berthon was right behind in 10th.
The next few laps saw an intense battle develop between the cars running from 6th to 11th, with the two Racing Engineering cars right in the middle. Although this made for close racing it meant that the drivers involved had to be very careful not to make any mistakes as even a small error could result in losing several places.
Lap 7 saw Berthon loose a place to Ceccon but he stayed close to the tail of the Coloni car in an effort to regain the place. Unfortunately for the Frenchman any hope of a good result was then lost when it was announced that he, and two other drivers, had to serve a drive-through penalty for a jumped start. Berthon took his penalty on the next lap resuming in 24th place, some 3.7 seconds behind Chilton.
Leimer, still in 9th position, was now involved in a very close fight with Coletti, who was 0.4 seconds ahead of the Swiss, and Ceccon who was 0.7 seconds behind. However the intensity of their battle meant that the three men were slowly dropping away from the cars ahead.
A drive-through penalty to a car in front of Leimer promoted him to 8th on lap 13 as his battle with Coletti and Ceccon continued. Meanwhile Berthon, who was now 22nd, was fast closing the gap to Chilton whilst pulling away from Melker. Another driver penalty on lap 17 saw Leimer move up to 7th position as he continued to put maximum pressure on Coletti as he fought to move into the top six.
On lap 18 Leimer made several attempts to pass Coletti but with Ceccon right behind him the Racing Engineering driver had to be very careful not to leave the door open for the Coloni car. On lap 20 the pressure finally paid off for Leimer has he passed Coletti to take 6th and immediately began to attack Rossi for 5th.
As the cars entered their last lap Leimer continued to look for a way to pass the Caterham Team AirAsia car and with just a few corners left he made a successful overtaking manoeuvre. However the American tried to retake the place and Coletti tried to overtake both men but the Scuderia Coloni made contact with Leimer. Coletti went off-track himself and badly delaying Leimer who could only cross the finishing line a disappointed 10th. Berthon continued to drive as hard as he could for the whole race despite his penalty and the Frenchman eventually finished 19th, a result that did not reflect his race pace.
Alfonso de Orléans-Borbón, president of Racing Engineering: "What a race today. Our strategy to wait until other had their tires get used up, and then attack with better tires, paid off. Fabio did a fantastic job, although the others got a bit excited by this. Sadly this ended in Coletti touching Fabio and spinning off. Sadly, this damaged Fabio's car and he was not able to end 5th as he deserved. As for Nat, if he did not get a drive through penalty, I think he would have also finished in the points. He did a great job keeping out of trouble, but it did not pay off with the penalty. Either way, everyone did a great job the whole weekend and Fabio won over the weekend. So congratulations to everyone. See you next season."
Fabio Leimer: "It was a really difficult race because the start was actually quite good, but when I tried to overtake on the outside in the first corner, I realized it was the wrong thing. I lost some positions there. Then it was difficult as I had Coletti in front of me, who at the beginning was quite quick as well. I couldn't get into his slipstream to pass, which was not too good as it opened up a gap to the guys in front. I saw he started to struggle towards the end of the race; I pushed more and passed him. I was behind Rossi, who was really slow, struggling with his rear tyres. When I tried to pass him, he pushed me off the track a bit and I had to go straight. This meant I had to give him back the position. When I passed Rossi the following lap, Coletti tried passing the both of us and our cars touched. I had a flat spot after that and had to see that I brought the car back to the finish line."
Nathanaël Berthon: "Regarding the jump start, I don't understand why I received this fine. I lost positions at the start as my start was actually quite bad. I didn't start before the lights went off. I might have not managed the start too well today, but the first corners after that I improved from yesterday to today. After two laps I was able to overtake Fabio, but I preferred to wait until the end, managing the tyres well and not push too much. After the drive through I pushed for some laps and was quite quick. At the end I couldn't overtake because my rhythm was destroyed by the cars in front of me being so slow, braking so much earlier. This means you are not having the same balance in the corners and cannot exit them the way you want. Yesterday I could overtake cars as they went at the same speed, but at the end of today's race it became so difficult to pass the slower cars."