In a determined and skilful drive Fabio Leimer took the win in today’s Feature Race at Sepang and to make the day even better Julián Leal finished 5th in his first race for the Spanish team.
It was very hot once again as the cars completed their warm and as the lights went off Fabio made a superb start from the second row to challenge pole man Coletti for the lead into the first corner and he moved into second place ahead of Nasr as the cars began their opening lap.
On lap 10 Fabio made his pit stop to switch to the hard Pirelli compound as the Soft compound he had started on were now wearing badly in the Malaysian heat.
A typically fast stop from the Racing Engineering pit crew saw Fabio resume the track in 7th place which as five of the cars in front had yet to stop was effectively 2nd.
Fabio was now running about 1.5 seconds behind Coletti, who had stopped four laps before the Racing Engineering driver, preserving his tyres for the end of the race.
As the race entered its 20th lap Fabio closed right in on Coletti and began looking for a place to pass, it was clear the tyres of the Racing Engineering car were in better condition and, although Coletti was driving very well, it seemed it was only a matter of time before Fabio made his move.
With just 5 laps to go Fabio ran side by side with Coletti as both cars raced down the long straight and as the cars exited the following corner the Racing Engineering car made a much better exit and passed the Rapax car on the outside.
Fabio quickly moved away from Coletti who then lost another place to Calado and as the cars crossed the finishing line at the end of 31 laps the Swiss driver took a superb win 2.045 seconds ahead of Calado.
Julián Leal made a good start from 11th place on the grid and as he raced around the first lap contact with Haryanto saw some damage to the front wing of his car, however despite this problem at the end of the first lap Julián had moved up to 10th chasing Bird with Palmer right behind.
The young Colombian had, like his teammate, started on the Soft compound Pirelli which meant an early pitstop to switch to the hard tyre.
By lap 14 Julián was running 12th just behind Evans and ahead of Richelmi but with four cars ahead still to stop the Racing Engineering car was effectively in 8th place and on the following lap a good overtaking move at the end of the straight on Evans saw Julián gain a place.
Within four laps Julián was now lying 8th and chasing Cecotto and with two cars still not pitting he was now an excellent 6th.
Lap 24 saw Julián ahead of Cecotto and he was now 5th but with a big gap to Nasr in 4th and a comfortable lead over Palmer the Racing Engineering driver concentrated on bringing the car home with only seven laps remaining and as he crossed the finishing line after 31 laps he was able to celebrate an excellent first race with his new team.
Tomorrow’s Sprint race will see Fabio start from 8th on the reverse grid and his race pace today means he a favourite for victory whilst Julián will start 4th and will be looking for a podium finish and more points.
Alfonso de Orléans-Borbón, president of Racing Engineering: “I am so proud of the team today. Everyone did an absolutely fantastic job in all aspects. The drivers were fantastic and Julián is showing the amazing potential he has. Two drivers in the top 5 is a good start of the season. But let’s not rest on our laurels and prepare for tomorrow properly. There is still a lot or work to do.”
Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering: "A very good result for the team today with Fabio's victory and Julian's 5th place, this really is the result of the work of everyone. Technically, strategy and the driving, it all went well. Parts of today’s results are based on the strategy chosen in yesterday's qualifying.
Both drivers had good starts today, being aggressive, but not taking too high risks. Julian could have been even higher up, but was pushed to the outside, which damaged his front wing. We adapted our strategy to the situation and kept our cool. Both drivers did a good job from the beginning to the end.
Our put stop went well; I think we were even the fastest. That Fabio lost a bit of time on the last lap before pitting was anticipated. It's great to have results like these in race 1 and show the potential of the drivers and the team. The conditions were very difficult and I would like to thank everyone in the team for the work done."
Fabio Leimer: "I am really happy as in the end our strategy worked just as planned. The start went really well and I almost made it to P1. But then I saw that Nasr was braking so late and to avoid contact I backed off. I saw that Coletti had problems with his tyres really early.
I tried to push so he might make a mistake and also tried to pass him twice, but it was not possible. When he pitted really early, we decided to stay on track a bit longer to have better tyres towards the end of the race.
And this was exactly the right strategy. We had really, really good tyres towards the end of the race and I was just waiting for Coletti to have problems with his. I saw Calado was closing in, but continued to wait and finally overtook Coletti on the outside.
This was actually easy as I had good traction. From that moment on I just drove to bring this win home. I think this was the hardest race ever, but this was the same for everyone. I ! am really happy with this win and also for the team. We had a perfect strategy and it's great to start the season like this."
Julián Leal: "This was a very good race for me. The car was fantastic from the very beginning of the race on. I did have contact with another car at the start going into corner 1 and damaged my front wing.
This resulted in some understeer in fast corners, but it was not too bad. After the pit stop the car and pace were quite good, so I was able to overtake several other cars, which allowed me to finish in this position."