Fourth fastest time in Bahrain qualifying for Fabio Leimer and Racing Engineering.
Fabio Leimer will start tomorrow’s Feature Race at Bahrain from the second row of the grid after setting the 4th fastest time in today’s qualifying.
The morning practice session took place in very hot conditions, the air temperature was over 30° and the track was a scorching 41°. Both of the Racing Engineering drivers waited until the session was nearly half over before setting a time with young Frenchman Nathanaël Berthon the first to complete a flying lap taking the 12th fastest time. Fabio Leimer was immediately on the pace a few minutes later when the Swiss driver set the 5th fastest time.
At the end of the 30 minute session, which was only interrupted briefly by one yellow flag, Leimer finished in 6th place just 0.9 seconds away from the fastest time whilst Berthon was 0.7 seconds slower in 13th.
The track temperature had dropped to 31° at the start of the 30 minute afternoon qualifying session and all 26 cars immediately went out on track as the pit lane lights turned green. With just seven minutes gone Leimer moved into 5th place and Berthon took 17th on his first flying lap.
After 12 minutes Berthon improved his lap time to move up to 12th as Leimer pulled into the pits to fit the softer compound Pirelli tyres to his Racing Engineering car. A red flag for debris on the track meant that the session was suspended for several minutes and as the cars returned to the track there were still over 16 minutes of qualifying left.
With 7 minutes remaining Leimer moved up to 4th with a time of 1m 41.798s, 0.6 seconds slower than the fastest time set so far. With just a few seconds remaining Berthon began his last flying lap but his fastest time of 1m 42.427 was only good enough for 18th on the grid.
Starting tomorrow’s Feature Race from the second row of the grid will give Leimer an excellent chance to finish on the podium and he will, of course, be looking for the race win. For Berthon his main aim will be to move up into a points scoring position and get a good grid position for Sunday’s Sprint Race.
Alfonso de Orléans-Borbón, president of Racing Engineering:
"I am very happy with the work of Fabio today, but it was obvious that experience does make a difference. Although he was also unlucky to pick up traffic, Nat still needs to improve on his qualifying, but I am sure we will get interesting driving from both drivers tomorrow. With Racing Engineering not having done the Asia Series in the past, this is obviously a disadvantage compared to the other teams as well. So, considering all these things, we did pretty well. Now we have to get ready for tomorrow."
"When I was here for the last time, we drove on the long track, so the new track configuration includes two corners that are new to me. Also, when I drove here it was with a different car and tyres. Therefore the driving style was completely different and you cannot really compare it. Today we decided to only go for two fast lap times in free practice. Doing this we were able to save tyres as was our plan. Qualifying was OK, I think there was more possible, but 4th position is not too bad as a starting position for tomorrow. I have to have a good start again and then I am sure a podium finish is possible. This wouldn't be too bad, keeping in mind the championship."
"In free practice we only pushed for two laps. This was a bit hard for me, but we did save tyres for the race, this was the main goal as racing here is very hard on the tyres. Then we decided to play the same kind of game during qualifying. I went out on options and hoped to be able to keep a set of four new tires for the race. Initially I was around P10, but then I dropped back, so I needed to go our once more towards the end of the session. But it wasn't possible to improve the position anymore. Tomorrow I will have better tyres than the others, that was the goal. I am obviously disappointed as on my fast lap I found traffic and I know I could have set a much better time. I think P10 would have been possible for me today. But I start 18th, a position we didn't expect, but we had the right strategy. I will have to push throughout the entire race, but I am used to it and my goal is to make it to the top 8 for the reverse grid for the sprint race. It's a very hard job to do and I will also need some luck to achieve this. But I am sure I will have a good race pace."