Racing Engineering’s Fabio Leimer appeared to have the perfect setup for the Pirelli rain tyres as the Swiss racer was the dominate racer at Silverstone’s qualifying rain dance. Leimer easily grabbed the pole for Saturday’s GP2 Series Featured race.
With his hot lap of 2:01.889, Leimer edged out Johnny Cecotto and homeland favorite Jolyon Palmer in what was a contest of bravery as the drivers had to control their single-seaters in conditions that were precarious due to the heavy rain, potential spinning cars at any given moment, along with air and track temperatures steadily falling. It was not a pleasant day but for Leimer, it ended with celebration.
"We have been fighting all year for a pole position, and sometimes you are close, like in Malaysia or Barcelona, but it was not enough: every time it was just a small, small gap which we had to improve for P1, but finally now we did it! I'm really happy because, for me, P1 is the most important thing for tomorrow because in the race we are really strong, like we saw in Valencia, and I think when we start at the front, and can have a good start, then we have a good chance to win the race," said a confident Leimer.
Barwa Addax Team’s Cecotto was over a full second off the pace of the pole winner, but his time of 2:02.804 landed the Venezuelan on the front row.
Palmer was in control of his iSport International racing machine, and just missed the front row with a 2:02.872. The Briton was pleased with his third position. He was pleased and said, “Especially after practice where I only did one flying lap, and it was a complete mess! I didn't really know what my pace was going to be like, or anyone's pace would be like, so to finish P3 in the end and it was drying as well, so everyone was getting quicker, I'm pretty happy with that.”
The eventual pole winner’s early battle on the wet circuit was with the points leader, Davide Valsecchi, but in the end the DAMS driver ended his run for the pole early.
While Cecotto kept putting down faster lap times, his other rivals took up the fight to snatch the pole but he was on the move and replied to his challengers with flying laps. The one and only red flag was due to two slow cars on the circuit; one of them being the speedy Venezuelan, and the other was Marcus Ericsson. While the Swede had to sit idle in his iSport, Cecotto was able to restart after being pushed by the marshals into his area since he rolled to a stop at the entrance to pitlane.
Cecotto explained, “It was quite dramatic! [laughs] About 16 or 17 minutes into the session I had some problem with the car, an electrical problem and the engine switched off, and luckily I saw there was a red flag so I thought okay, I'm not going to impede anybody if I roll back into the pits, and I managed to just arrive close to the entrance to the pitlane, and the marshals were able to push me into the pitlane. Then the mechanics did a really good job, managed to find the problem right away and fixed it, and we managed to go out once more and improve just a little bit more.”
The track started to dry as the rain let up, and yet most of the drivers were slowing down and some coming to a stop but were able to park off the racing surface, and allowed the marshals to use just local yellow flags.
Palmer had a clear track when he laid down his best lap to move into third while at nearly the same time frame, Cecotto improved his lap time to place second. Losing ground in the final minutes were Stefano Coletti whose time of 2:03.004 for the Scuderia Coloni team landed him fourth. Lotus GP’s Esteban Gutiérrez was fifth with a 2:03.258.
Rounding out the top 10 were James Calado, Rio Haryanto, Max Chilton, Luiz Razia and Giedo van der Garde.
In other news, there has been an apparent rift between the GP2 organizers and the Scuderia Coloni team with drivers Coletti and Fabio Onidi.
Per the GP2 statement: the following decisions have been agreed between Coloni Motorsport and the Organiser:
Scuderia Coloni will not participate in the Series from the 2013 season
Scuderia Coloni forfeits all the points received or to be received by it as a team in the 2012 season