With less than 10 minutes of the session remaining both Fabio and his main title rival, Sam Bird, were sitting in the pits preparing themselves for a final fast lap.
The weather was perfect with blue skies as the cars took to the track for the 30 minute morning Free Practice session. All the cars were using the medium compound Pirelli compound and although most of the cars took to the track immediately Fabio Leimer waited in the pits until the Racing Engineering team decided the time was right for the young Swiss to take to the track.
With less than 10 minutes of the session remaining both Fabio and his main title rival, Sam Bird, were sitting in the pits preparing themselves for a final fast lap. Returning to the track with three minutes to go Bird went top of the timing screens but Fabio was on a very quick lap and as the session finished the Racing Engineering car took the fastest time of the session with a lap of 1:51.766s, 0.158 seconds ahead of Bird.
Julián Leal was setting some quick laps from the start of the session and although his final time of 1:52.973s was only good enough for 16th fastest he was less than 0.5 seconds away from the 7th fastest car.
The weather continued to be good for the evening 30 minute Qualifying session with the track now under lights and the track temperature much lower than it had been for Free Practice at 32° although the air temperature was similar at 31°. All of the teams had now fitted the Pirelli Super Soft compound tyre to maximise grip levels for a fast lap.
Fabio and Julián took to the track as soon as the session began and both men were on the pace with Fabio going 7th with a 1:50.355s lap with Julián 9th on 1:50.639s. At 12 minutes into the session Fabio improved his time to go 3rd on 1:49.498s and as the session reached the half-way point all the cars returned to the pits for some last minute adjustments before going for their final fast laps.
With nine minutes of the session left the cars began to return to the circuit and start looking for some clear track but almost immediately Abt left the track when a rear wheel came off his car and the session was red flagged. With just six minutes left as the session resumed there was little time for anybody to find some space on track and set a fast time.
Fabio was immediately out on track, as was Julián, and the young Swiss, with three minutes left, immediately began to lap quickly but despite finding some space he could only improve to 1:49.485s for 4th position. Julián also improved slightly on his previous best time to 1:50.553s for 19th on the grid.
Tomorrow will see Fabio start from the 2nd row of the grid for the 31 lap Feature Race, right behind his main competitor Bird, who qualified 2nd, the Racing Engineering driver will look to get ahead of the RUSSIAN TIME car and increase his Championship lead. Julián will be aiming to gain as many places as possible to maximise his starting position for Sunday’s Sprint Race.
Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering: "This was a very tight qualifying session. We are obviously slightly disappointed as we were aiming for pole position after P1 in free practice. In qualifying the conditions were different and we weren’t able to be the quickest. However, starting from P5 leaves us with options to score good points tomorrow to bring us closer to the title. Julian's qualifying didn't go too well and we will work on it together to analyse where he lost time."
Fabio Leimer: "I think today is a bit disappointing as we went for pole, but unfortunately we were a bit off in qualifying. But I set the 4th fastest time and even though it's not perfect, it's good that Bird isn't on pole. Tomorrow is a long race and a lot can happen. Rossi will push for the victory and Bird has to be careful to score in both races. My goal has to be to finish the race ahead of Bird with this very open championship, which is fantastic for those watching on TV. Let's see what happens."
Julián Leal: "The car's set up was good and there are only small things to improve. I was not able to take advantage of the first set of tyres properly. When I came to the pits to pick up the second set, shortly after re-joining the track there was the red flag, so I had to come back to into the pitlane again. When the session was restarted, most drivers were aiming for two push laps. On my first push lap I was fast, but made a mistake in the last corner and went off the track. I was able to re-join and had another push lap, but the rear tyres had already suffered quite a bit and even though I improved my lap time, I know much more was possible for us today.”