Fabio Leimer and Racing Engineering to start tomorrow’s Sprint Race from the front row.
As the cars lined up on the grid there was a long hold before the lights went off, this caused several drivers to be a little slow away including Fabio Leimer who lost two places into the first corner. At the end of the opening lap Leimer was holding 6th place 0.6 seconds behind Razia and 0.5 seconds ahead of Chilton. It was a disappointing opening lap for Nathanaël Berthon who spun following contact with another car and dropped to last place.
Over the next few laps Leimer began a hard battle with Razia as he began to open out a gap on Chilton and by lap 9 he was 0.6 seconds behind the Arden car and 3.5 seconds ahead of Chilton. The mandatory pitstops began on lap 7 and by lap 13 Leimer, who was yet to stop, was leading the race.
On the following lap Leimer made his stop changing both rear tyres but a small problem with the left rear wheel cost the Swiss driver a couple of seconds and he resumed the track in 9th position. A collision between two of the leading cars saw the Safety Car deployed on lap 16 and it was three laps before racing could resume.
At the restart Leimer, now lying 7th, passed Clos to take 6th and immediately began to close on Gutierrez. On lap 22 Leimer dropped back to 7th when Dilman was able to slipstream past the Racing Engineering car on the long main straight.
Leimer did not give up and kept the pressure on Dilman as the racing was now very close at the front with the gap from 2nd to 7th less than six seconds. Refusing to give up Leimer hounded Dilman for the remaining laps of the race but had to settle for 7th, just 0.6 seconds behind the Rapax driver.
It was a lonely race for Berthon, his first lap spin saw him resume in last place, over 7 seconds behind the next car. Although the young Frenchman fought hard and was able to gain several places a late race retirement due to another incident with the same driver from his opening lap accident saw him fail to finish.
Today’s 7th place will mean that Leimer will start tomorrow’s Sprint Race from the front row of the grid and his race pace today must make him a strong contender for the victory. For Berthon his retirement means he will start towards the rear of the field but the Frenchman has shown his overtaking ability before and he will be looking to gain as many places as possible.
Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering:
"A disappointing start as the track was really dirty outside the racing line. Fabio, who was starting the race on prime tyres, was able to hold on to the cars in front of him, which were on option tyres. This allowed us to pit later than the others, which was promising, even if we lost a bit of time during the pit stop. But when Nasr and Cecotto collided and the safety car neutralized the race, this was working against our strategy. Then Fabio suffered from a big front lock up of the tyres in turn 10 while fighting for a position. This had a negative effect on the tyres and made it hard for him during the last laps of the race, but he was still able to continue with a reasonably good pace. As for Nat, he had contact with another car at the very beginning of the race and this broke his rim and bent his steering. Luckily he could continue and recovered from the incident making up positions, but contact with van der Garde and Crestani and another spin after the pit stop sent him to the end of the field. Because the steering system was completely bent, which made the handling of the car really difficult for him; he had to retire from the race in the pits. Better results were possible today."
"Today my start wasn't good and I lost positions. During the pit stop we also lost some time and I re-joined the race behind the group of drivers we thought we'd jump. Then our strategy didn't work the way we wanted and had planned it. But I am pleased that I crossed the finish line in the points and can start tomorrow's race from the front. But today there was more possible. It's certainly a good starting position for tomorrow and the goal will be to win and score more points. A very good start will be important and it's important for me and the team to win the race."
"I had a crash at the beginning of the race when I thought I had made a correct move, but the guy in front of me closed the door quite hard on me. From that moment on my car was not at all easy to drive as several things broke due to the contact. The steering was completely bent and the car pulled towards the right side. But I did the entire race with the bent steering and it was not easy to stay on track. Given this disadvantage, our strategy wasn't bad and we were lucky with the safety car as my tyres were in very good shape. I tried to overtake and made up some positions, but one driver, the same one I had contact with on lap 1, closed the door on me in the exact same way and the exact same place again and sent me into a spin again. After the second accident with the same driver the car was undrivable and I stopped for safety reasons as it was really hard to keep it on track - in corners and on the straights. It was a very hard race. Tomorrow I am starting in the back and it will be a hard race again, but I will try to do my best. Finally, I would like to apologize for the situation when I entered into the pits for the tire change as I didn't see what happened behind me. Due to the crash I had a broken mirror and I am really sorry for the others behind me, but I didn't see them."