Fabio Leimer and Racing Engineering dominate at Abu Dhabi.
As the lights went off for the start of the 31 lap race Leimer made a perfect getaway to lead the field into the first corner chased by the AirAsia car of Razia. Berthon too made a good start further back in field moving up to 13th; the Frenchman lost a place to Rossi later in the lap but still finished the first lap in 14th place.
Leimer immediately established himself as the fastest car on the track as the Racing Engineering driver quickly pulled out a 1.4 second gap on Razia and on laps 3 and 6 he set the fastest laps of the race so far. Over the next 10 laps the Swiss driver gradually pulled away from Razia and by lap 10 he had a 3.8 second advantage as the two leading cars opened out a big gap over the rest of the field.
Berthon was making good progress passing Melker on lap 4 to take 11th place and move onto the tail of Rossi. The Racing Engineering driver soon dealt with the American passing him on lap 7 to take 9th as several cars began to make their mandatory pitstops.
I am very happy because the team gave me a really good car
Berthon made his stop on lap 11 and very fast work from the Racing Engineering team saw him on his way in a fantastic 29.4 seconds resuming the track in 14th place. It was Leimer’s turn to stop on lap 14 and once again the Racing Engineering pit crew did their job to perfection and Leimer was back on track in the lead as Palmer, who had taken the lead during Leimer’s stop, made his own pit visit.
By lap 17 Leimer was leading Haryanto, who had yet to stop, by 4.7 seconds and Berthon was 12th right on the gearbox of Rossi. The following lap saw Leimer set the fastest lap of the race so far with a 1m 52.131s as he pulled away from Razia who had now regained second place.
Berthon passed Rossi for the second time on lap 21 to move up to 10th position, 0.8 seconds behind Calado and on the following lap both the Frenchman and Calado demoted Coletti. Berthon was now lying 9th and looking to pass Calado for 8th and win the reversed pole for tomorrow’s race.
Leimer was still flying at the front of the field setting yet another fastest lap on lap 23 with a 1m 51.493s, which would remain the quickest time of the day, and he was now leading Razia by 4.5 seconds.
At the end of the 31 laps Leimer crossed the finishing line 6.9 seconds ahead of Razia having dominated the race in the best possible way, pole position, leading from start to finish and setting the fastest lap. Despite Berthon’s best efforts he was unable to close the gap to Calado finally finishing 9th. Tomorrow will see the two Racing Engineering drivers starting 8th and 9th in the 22 lap Sprint Race and both men will be looking for a podium finish and for Leimer, such was his dominance today, another win is a very strong possibility.
Alfonso de Orléans-Borbón, president of Racing Engineering: "Amazing drive from both drivers. Fabio not only won, but also made fastest lap, Nat passed the most cars during the race. What talent from both drivers, Bravo! Now let’s prepare for tomorrow and hope to get another win, although starting from 8 and 9, it won't be so easy, but we will give it all we have. Well done to the whole team, they did a fantastic job!"
Fabio Leimer: "I am very happy because the team gave me a really good car, a really comfortable car, I felt very comfortable. So at the beginning a really big thanks to the team because they did a really good job throughout all the tests and now during this race weekend. I am very happy as this is my first feature race victory. Things went well already all weekend long. I took pole position, which is important for the feature race and then in the race the start itself is crucial as well. I had a quite good start and then it was just driving it home, saving on the tyres and having an eye on what the others are doing. We had a good pit stop as well, so I am happy with the weekend so far."
Nathanaël Berthon: "Well, today was much better than yesterday. I think I drove better. The car was really good, as it was yesterday. I was able to manage the car better than yesterday. The race was also a big pleasure for me as I overtook many cars, but no one was able to overtake me. At the beginning I made some small mistakes which I think cost me the eighth position and for sure the pole of tomorrow's race. But I am quite happy with my race, I enjoyed it a lot. There were only small mistakes I made and won't make any more in the future. Thanks a lot to the team."