Fabio Leimer to start from the 4th row of the grid for Racing Engineering following a very wet Spa qualifying.
Appalling conditions greeted the GP2 teams and drivers this morning for the 30 minute free practice session with grey skies and very heavy rain. Nearly all of the cars took to the track as the session began but times were largely meaningless as the drivers slid all around the circuit as they fought for grip and several cars were soon spinning off the track.
At the 15 minute mark Fabio Leimer took the 3rd fastest lap with a time of 2:26.175s and then with just over 4 minutes remaining a lap of 2:22.580s saw the young Swiss move to the top of the timing sheets.
An accident to Cecotto caused the session to be red flagged with 2 minutes remaining leaving Leimer nearly a second faster than anyone else with Nathanaël Berthon in 24th with a time of 2:31.938s.
The afternoon qualifying session saw the weather conditions still poor and, although the rain had stopped by the time the cars took to the track 15 minutes later than scheduled, the surface was still very wet and all the cars were using the Pirelli wet tyres. Once again all the cars took to the track straight away in order to discover the conditions first hand and to set a time in case of further rain.
Leimer’s first flying lap saw him go third fastest with a time of 2:21.625s but the times were dropping rapidly and his second lap was nearly two seconds faster. With 16 minutes gone, as track conditions continued to get better, Leimer improved to 2:18.163s to take 3rd place.
With 10 minutes remaining most of the drivers called into the pits to make some final adjustments and fit new tyres.
Berthon was also lapping quickly from the start and a time of 2:22.179s saw him in 16th place after 10 minutes and a one second improvement on the next lap moved him up to 13th, and with less than 2 minutes remaining the young Frenchman took 12th place with a 2:19.721s.
As the session drew to a close Leimer’s last lap saw a slight improvement but it left him in 8th place and Berthon’s earlier time was good enough for 12th place. With the weather forecast tomorrow predicting a dry race, both of the Racing Engineering drivers will be looking to gain as many places as possible in the 25 lap Feature Race and with the long Spa Francorchamps circuit offering a number of overtaking opportunities their chances of a podium finish are good.
Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering: "Today we faced quite difficult track conditions with an extreme amount of water, especially in free practice. After the good result by Fabio in free practice, where he set the fastest lap time, we can only be disappointed by not being in the top 3 in qualifying. The circuit was drying a bit towards the end of the session, and we were not able to take full advantage of this. However, 12th position for Nathanaël shows good progress under these conditions from our rookie. The rest of the weekend should be dry and it will be a challenge for drivers and teams to prepare tomorrow's race as it will be this weekend's first dry session."
Fabio Leimer: "Free practice was very good, although at the beginning of the session it was quite dangerous with so much water on track. In qualifying the track conditions were better with less water, which also meant the track itself changed. I think towards the end of the session we suffered a bit from this as our car's balance was set up for more water on the track, so qualifying was not perfect today. But we will work on the preparation for tomorrow's race now and I will push hard to finish on the podium."
Nathanaël Berthon: "I am quite happy about the job we did between free practice and qualifying, I wasn't really worried after free practice, but it's always good to confirm the pace. 12th position in qualifying was not the maximum, but the balance of the car kept me from making a better lap time. But I think we improved in the rain and it's always good gain some more knowledge."
Source: Racing Engineering