Berthon will start on the front row for the Sprint Race after finishing seventh today for Racing Engineering.
The feature race of the GP2 Series in Hungaroring began under a totally clear sky and high temperatures of about 30º in the air and more than 45 on the bumpy asphalt surface of the Hungarian track.
Both of the Racing Engineering drivers were starting from the dirty side of the track, from eighth and twelfth positions, and although they made good getaways they could not avoid losing positions in the opening meters of the race, with Ericsson stalling his car and causing some confusion in the group. Fabio Leimer completed the opening lap in ninth position and Berthon in thirteenth, both then lost a place in lap 2, crossing the line with the Swiss driver in tenth position while the Frenchman was fourteenth.
A 'drive through' penalty to Canamasas, in the fourth lap, for driving over the track limits, allowed Berthon to get back up to the thirteenth position, and on the following lap Cecotto went off track so that both Fabio and Nathanaël were gained another place and were now ninth and twelfth respectively.
Soon after the pit stops began and the Racing Engineering drivers were among the first ones to take the mandatory change of tyres. Berthon stopped on lap 10, followed on the following lap by his team-mate Leimer who re-joined the track behind the Frenchman, with the Brazilian, Nasr, between them. The three soon were being slowed by Kral, who whose pace was slower that the group of cars ahead but, on a track where overtaking is very difficult, he was covering all the gaps and stayed ahead of the Racing Engineering car, which was heading the next group in fourteenth position when the race was close to its half-way point.
With six of the drivers who had started from the second half of the grid delaying their pit stops until late, the positions were false for a good number of laps. On lap 30 all the tyre changes were finally completed and Berthon remained stuck behind Kral, but had already moved up to eighth, whereas Leimer was tenth, attacking Nasr but also being pressed by Gutiérrez, who was coming on at a strong pace.
The close group in which the two drivers of the Spanish team were involved fell apart in the next three laps, when Kral retired and Nasr went off track. Berthon was then in seventh square, running finally with an open track ahead, whereas Leimer was ninth after having being finally overtaken by Gutiérrez.
In the last three laps, the Mexican was attacking Berthon but the young French driver from Racing Engineering was holding back the assaults of the Lotus GP car brilliantly to cross the finish line in a magnificent seventh position to score more points and that gives him a position on the first row for tomorrow’s Sprint Race. Leimer, for his part, crossed the chequered flag in ninth position, less than one second from eighth that gives the right to 'pole position' on Sunday. The good pace showed by Berthon in today’s race means that the Frenchman is one of the favourites for a podium position in the Sprint Race due tomorrow, in which he will start from second position. Starting from the fifth row of the grid, it will be more difficult for Leimer to fight for the top positions but his speed and consistency allow the Spanish team to be confident that its two cars will be again among the main contenders in the Hungaroring sprint.
Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering:
"As expected, the race was difficult for everybody today due to the hot conditions and the tyre degradation. The starts didn't go perfectly for our drivers as unfortunately some places were lost during the first laps but then they both kept a good pace on their option tyres. The pit-stops to change to the prime tyres went well but unfortunately, we could not help Fabio to "jump" Nasr & Palmer during the pit-stop as they arrived on the fast lane and we didn't release Fabio to avoid a possible drive through penalty. Nat gained some positions during the pit-stop sequence and has been able to stay in the top group, achieving a positive P7 finish. Fabio has scored some points by finishing P9 but it is disappointing as he misses the reversed grid pole for tomorrow and we were all hoping for a better result. We will now analyse the data of this race to adjust the cars for tomorrow's sprint race, with the hope to score good points with both drivers."
"The start was OK, but then I lost some positions during the first two corners. After that I was just doing my laps but even though I could have, the track layout didn't allow me to pass. At the pit stop we had to wait to avoid an unsafe release, which is a pity as otherwise I would have finished within the top 8 at least, allowing me a front row position at the start of tomorrow's race."
"First I would like to thank the entire team for the very good strategy and pit stop we had, I did my best during this race. The car was good after the pit stop and we still had a good pace at the end. Tomorrow we start second, so we can expect another good result."
Source: Racing Engineering