The Racing Engineering team can celebrate a very well deserved Championship victory but there is still one more race to go in the 2013 season due tomorrow.
The weather was very hot as the cars lined up on the grid with air and track temperatures of 35° and 45° respectively and the three fastest cars on the grid had opted to start on the medium compound Pirelli tyres but the Racing Engineering team had chosen the Super Soft tyre for Fabio Leimer in 4th place on the grid.
Realising that Bird was in trouble Fabio took the first corner cautiously as it was important now to score as many points as possible and as the cars exited the corner Fabio had slotted into 3rd place.
As the cars entered the chicane there was contact between two cars in the middle of the field which caused the Safety Car to be deployed until lap 3. As racing got under way again Fabio was 3rd chasing Palmer and Rossi with Clos in 4th. The three leading cars got away cleanly and at the end of lap 4 Fabio was 1.5 seconds behind Rossi and 0.2 ahead of Clos with both men pulling away from Nasr. Over the next few laps Fabio was beginning to lose time on his Super Soft tyres and he was now 3.9 seconds behind Rossi and 1.3 seconds ahead of Clos.
The Racing Engineering car continued to pull away from Clos and on lap 10 he made his mandatory pitstop switching to the medium compound Pirellis as his team completed a typically fast and efficient stop resuming the track in 11th. Quickly passing Raimondo for 10th Fabio was now in clear air and he was able to start to lap quickly and he was now the fastest man on the track. On lap 17 Fabio was still in 10th place as the 9 cars ahead of him were yet to make their pitstops and he was effectively in 3rd place.
Fabio continued to be one of the fastest cars on the track as the remaining cars made their pitstops and his clear intention was to bring the car home in 3rd place as, with Bird back in 11th place this would be enough to secure the 2013 GP2 Drivers Championship. However a further Safety Car incident on lap 24 caused the field to close up and Fabio was now right behind Rossi and Palmer but in turn Ericsson was right behind the Racing Engineering driver.
The Safety Car pulled in with four laps remaining with Fabio still in 3rd and Bird needing to finish 7th to keep his hopes alive. As racing resumed Ericsson was right on the gearbox of Fabio and with the young Swiss driver’s tyres now 17 laps old he was unable to keep the Swede behind him and he dropped to 4th and Bird now just need to finish 9th to keep the Championship alive to tomorrow’s Sprint Race.
The race was now being run to the one hour limit and Fabio was still 4th as the cars started their final lap with Bird in 10th and with Bird unable to gain the place he needed Fabio crossed the line in 4th to take the Championship.
Julián Leal made a clean start and at the end of the opening lap he was lying 19th, 0.3 seconds behind Ghirelli and 0.3 ahead of Quaife-Hobbs. Following the Safety Car incident Julián passed Ghirelli on lap 16 and was now chasing Haryanto and on the following lap the young Columbian passed the Addax car to move up to 17th. The Racing Engineering car had now closed in on to the gearbox of De Jong and the two cars now began an intense battle.
Julián took his mandatory pitstop on lap 18, returning to the track in 20th place behind Quaife-Hobbs but as the final cars took their pitstops he moved up to 15th place 1.3 seconds behind Quaife-Hobbs. With four laps to go, as the Safety Car returned to the pits, Julián was now in 14th but an off-track incident dropped him to 18th but he was able to gain two more places to finish 16th at the chequered flag.
The Racing Engineering team can celebrate a very well deserved Championship victory but there is still one more race to go in the 2013 season due tomorrow. Fabio will start the race in 5th position on the reversed grid and he can look forward to racing with no pressure on him. Julián will start in the middle of the grid and, as always, he will fight hard to gain as many positions as possible.
Alfonso de Orléans-Borbón, president of Racing Engineering: "What a great moment! I think Fabio and the whole team got the reward that they deserved from the hard work this season. It was not easy, the level of the drivers was very high, so we had to fight until the very last lap. One more race tomorrow, which will be business as usual and then we start preparing for 2014. Congratulations to Fabio, Julian, our engineers, mechanics and all of the people back home for helping to make this happen."
Fabio Leimer: "I think we can be really happy with today. We were lucky Sam Bird stalled on the grid, which helped us a lot. We knew we had to finish at the front to take the title. The start was good and I was almost p1. It took off the pressure as I wanted to finish the race, which was quite long today. I was already sure that I could finish on the podium as I manage tyres very well.
But the second safety car allowed Ericsson to close in on me on soft tyres. I knew I needed to finish p4. I would also like to thank the team for the great job this season. We never had any technical issue and the engineers always worked hard on putting the best car on track. Me and the team did a good job this year and deserve to win the championship."
Julián Leal: "Starting from the back complicated things a bit for today. At the start we kept our position, but there was an incident in turn 5 while I overtook a car on the outside. To avoid contact, I went off track and lost positions. After the safety car we gained some positions, but there was too much traffic, so I lost time behind other cars.
Therefore we took the decision to enter earlier than planned for the pit stop, but when I went out, I was caught up in traffic even more. After that I was 14th and Rosenzweig crashed into me in turn 7, so I lost positions again. The car had some damage on the front wing during the last 2 laps and I just tried to make it to the finish line.”