The 30 minute morning practice session began with overcast conditions and a gusting wind making driving conditions difficult. As they have done in recent practice sessions, both Racing Engineering drivers waited until almost 15 minutes had elapsed before taking to the track but a red flag incident, caused by an accident to Gonzalez, meant that both Fabio Leimer and Nathanaël Berthon lost a valuable 5 minutes of track time.
Despite this handicap Leimer was immediately on the pace and ended the session with a lap of 1:48.627 for 7th fastest, just half a second away from the quickest time. Berthon was a little slower with a time of 1:50.126 for 20th fastest on his first visit to the Valencia street circuit.
It was several degrees warmer and the sun was out as the 30 minute afternoon qualifying session got underway with most of the cars using the soft tyre option with the notable exception of Series leader Davide Valsecchi and the two Racing Engineering cars of Leimer and Berthon who were all using the super-soft Pirellis.
As the cars completed their out and warm-up laps and were about to start their first flying lap the strategy of the three cars on the super-soft tyres was hampered by Serenelli spinning and blocking the track causing a red flag incident which forced all the cars back to the pits.
Leimer’s first flying lap after the session resumed was ruined by running wide but his next lap was quick with very fast times in the first two sectors but the young Swiss was delayed slightly in the third sector by traffic but nevertheless he still set the 6th fastest time so far in the session, just 0.4 seconds behind the quickest time.
With 12 minutes of the session remaining most of the cars returned to the pits to change to the super-soft Pirellis whist for the Racing Engineering cars and Valsecchi their only choice was to change to the, theoretically slower, soft option. In fact the super-soft tyre proved to be no faster and at the end of the 30 minutes Leimer finished with a time of 1:47.779 in 7th position despite being unable to get a traffic-free lap.
Berthon, although happy with his car, had a disappointing qualifying setting the 16th fastest time with a lap of 1:48.518. With neither driver as high up the grid as they would have hoped Leimer will be aiming to gain as many places as possible in tomorrow’s 30 lap Feature Race to add to his points tally whilst Berthon will be looking for a good finish to give him a high grid position for Sunday’s Sprint Race.
Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering:
"Fabio's results could have been a bit better with a clear lap in today's qualifying. But unfortunately he lost some tenths of a second due to other drivers staying on the racing line while on their slow laps. But the traffic seems to have been a general issue today for many drivers. Disappointing results for Nathanaël today as he felt the car was good and he had done a good lap without any problems with traffic. On the other hand it was only his fourth fast lap on this circuit and knowing his race performance, we can expect better results for the races. Overall we expected both drivers in better starting positions, but the race will be challenging given the combination of raising temperatures and soft tyre compounds. We will work hard to prepare tomorrow's race."
"During today's qualifying session I actually didn't have a single clear lap. Every time I wanted to set a fast lap, I had traffic. The car was pretty good and I felt good as well. When I saw that I was only 0.4s off the fastest time, I knew that pole was possible today, but that's racing. It's not always the fastest on pole; you also need a clear track to do it, and today I simply didn't have a chance. The problem is that drivers stay on the racing line, don't look in the mirrors when they are on their slow laps and could easily go one meter towards the left or right. It's not really correct, when others have to pass them on track while on their flying laps. Tomorrow we start from 7th position and I know much more would have been possible today. But we will try to have a good start and push from the very beginning to pass as many cars as possible and drive at the front."
"The results show that this was not what we expected. But I am nevertheless quite happy with my lap and the car as well. The car wasn't too bad and I therefore really do not know why I am so far from the top. But I think we have a pretty good chance in tomorrow's race as I have an advantage compared to the others. This is my first time at the Valencia Street Circuit and I have to say it's a very fast track with some fantastic braking areas, so I expected to be higher up than in P16. But tomorrow is another day and we know we are strong during the races. I am sure I can fight for a position in the top 8 in tomorrow's feature race."