|The 30 minute morning free practice session was held in appalling conditions with an air and track temperatures of 17°, grey skies and heavy rain. With the weather forecast for the rest of the weekend predicting more rain it was important for the teams and drivers to use this session to set up their cars for the wet but with just three sets of wet tyres available for the weekend it was important not to wear them out.
Within a few minutes of the start of practice nearly all the cars were out on track and, with the wet weather Pirellis throwing up huge plumes of spray, visibility was virtually zero for any driver getting close to another car. Almost immediately cars were spinning and after just 7 minutes the session was red flagged as a car was stranded on track. Practice resumed after 4 minutes but two more red flags and numerous yellow flags meant that it was almost impossible to get an uninterrupted lap. With five minutes left and conditions worsening the session was halted with most of the drivers, including both Racing Engineering drivers, Fabio Leimer and Nathanaël Berthon, only managing 3 or 4 laps.
Conditions were no better for the afternoon qualifying session, indeed the air and track temperatures had dropped to 15° and the rain was still falling.
After 5 minutes of the session Leimer put in the fastest lap so far in his Racing Engineering Dallara with a time of 2:07.267 but, as the drivers got used to the track conditions, times soon began to drop. After 10 minutes Leimer reduced his time to 2:04.270 to again move to the top of the times. The young Swiss continued to show his mastery of the conditions when, with 15 minutes gone, he set a lap of 2:02.258 nearly 1.5 seconds faster than any other driver had managed at that point.
Nathanaël Berthon quickly began to adapt to the wet conditions and as the session reached the halfway mark he was lying 18th with a time of 2:06.250. With 11 minutes to go the young Frenchman improved his time to 2:04.140 to move up to 9th place, less than a second away from the third fastest time.
With 10 minutes remaining a car abandoned by the side of the track resulted in a red flag and all the cars returned to the pits. After a delay of several minutes the cars returned once again to the track but. just as all the drivers were looking to improve their times in the dying minutes, two yellow flags meant that few were able to improve.As the 30 minute session ended nobody had been able to get within 0.9 seconds of Fabio Leimer’s dominant fastest lap so the Racing Engineering driver will start tomorrow’s 29 lap Feature Race from pole position. Such has been his dominance today; Leimer must be considered the favourite for victory. Although the yellow flags at the end of the session prevented Nathanaël Berthon from improving his time he will start from 15th on the grid and his proven race pace mean that he should be able to move into a points scoring position, something he has achieved in the last six races.