Nancy Knapp Schilke, GP2 Correspondent
From pole to victory, Leimer takes penultimate 2011 race win
Today’s Feature race for the GP2 Series does not count in the championship points but Fabio Leimer took off when the lights went out and drove a perfect race to dominate the action on the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Luiz Razia placed second followed by Jolyon Palmer.
Taking the win, the Racing Engineering driver smiled and said, “I did my first pole position yesterday and that’s my first win in a feature race. I’m really happy and I would like to thank the team for this. They gave me a really good car. I felt really comfortable during the race and you can see on the result that I was leading from the start until the end.”
Racing for Caterham Team AirAsia, Razia never gave up the chase as he did all he could to try to reduce the gap but to no avail. Still it was a good effort by Razia considering the bog down at the start when Dani Clos got off to a slow start from second on the grid. The Rapax driver ended up making it a tight side-by-side battle of three cars as he, Razia and Josef Kral (Arden) headed into the first turn. Clos and Kral made contact and it was the Spaniard who was out of the race. Czech driver Kral did continue after he spun but now was at the back of the pack. Razia and Palmer were then free to attempt to put the pressure on Leimer who by then had sailed away.
“I could have gone quicker but I was driving smoothly to save the rear tyres to make sure that if there was a safety car at the end I would have no problem. I was lucky that it went well,” said Leimer.
Razia commented, “Today, the start was crucial. I had a very good run to the first corner. I overtook Clos and Kral. Then, Leimer built up a gap early on and I couldn’t really catch him. Around lap 10 I had a bit of problem with my tyres. I decided to pit. After I came out again, the car was very good. I was pushing all the time until the end but I just couldn’t get Leimer. He was really strong today. Well done.”
For Palmer, it was his first GP2 podium and he said, “It’s great. It’s been a pretty difficult year this season with not a lot of rookies in the field. To take a podium today is great and I want to thank Addax for the opportunity. They’re done a pretty good job.”
Palmer not only attempted to stay with the Brazilian, he also was fending off Esteban Gutierrez. The Lotus ART driver from Mexico had an amazing start off the line and moved from eighth on the grid to put the pressure on Palmer. At one point, it seemed that Gutierrez had the power to overtake Palmer and possibly Razia on the opening lap; however he had to dive into pit lane to repair his rear wing. The damage was caused when he was hit by Stefano Coletti (Scuderia Coloni) in the first turn.
From that point on, Leimer only had to worry about the mandatory pit stop since that would have been the only time Razia could jump into the lead but the Swiss racer pitted two laps after Razia and was able to maintain his lead.
After the pits stops were completed, Palmer again came under challenge. This time it was a charging Marcus Ericsson but the iSport driver had to settle for fourth. Ericsson started 13th on the grid and with a brilliant start, he was in eighth and with the incidents plus a great pit stop, he moved into fourth.
Kevin Ceccon (Scuderia Coloni) placed fifth followed by a trio of 2011 GP3 drivers. Tom Dillmann (iSport), Antonio Felix da Costa (Ocean Racing) and Lotus Art’s James Calado whose eighth place places him on the pole for Sunday morning’s race due to the reverse grid.