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pic 21/09/12 5th place for Fabio Leimer and Racing Engineering in qualifying at Singapore today.

The GP2 teams and drivers were greeted by rain at the start of the afternoon free practice....
The GP2 teams and drivers were greeted by rain at the start of the afternoon free practice although it gradually ceased during the session. Even though the track temperature was at 30°, the humidity was 88% meaning that it would take longer for the track to dry than is normal so, although a dry line to begin to appear by the end of the 30 minutes, wet tyres were needed throughout.

As this was the first race for GP2 cars on the Marina Bay street circuit, all the drivers took to the track as soon as the green light was shown in order to maximise the number of laps they could run. Conditions on track were difficult with a lot of standing water and leaves off the racing line on several corners. After eight minutes Nathanaël Berthon went quickest for Racing Engineering with a time of 2:21.717s but lap times were dropping quickly as the drivers got used to the circuit and the track conditions.

As the session reached the halfway point Fabio Leimer went 2nd fastest with a time of 2:17.294s with Nathanaël just over a second slower in 13th. Fabio continued to get faster and, with one minute remaining, he improved his time to 2:14.671s to stay in 2nd spot, one of only two drivers to get under the 2:15s mark. Nathanaël also went quicker and quicker to end the session in 13th with a lap of 2:16.461s.

The track was dry for the evening qualifying session with the GP2 drivers running under floodlights for the first time, the track temperature had fallen to 27° and the humidity to 77%.

Fabio was immediately on the pace, setting the second fastest time of 2:00.860s after 10 minutes with Berthon some two seconds slower and searching for a clean lap. Most of the cars pitted after 15 minutes to fit new tyres and make some final adjustments and with just 8 minutes remaining both Racing Engineering cars were back on track and looking to improve their times.

Fabio was fast once again and with just 3.5 minutes left on the clock he set a time of 2:00.113s for 2nd fastest but with 1.5 minutes left, just as the young Swiss was looking to go faster still, an accident to Melker saw the session red-flagged and the Racing Engineering driver had to settle for 5th on the grid. Nathanaël was similarly affected by the red flag just when he was looking to set his fastest lap and the young Frenchman was left in 12th place with a time of 2:00.695s.

Although both Racing Engineering drivers would have preferred to have started higher up the grid, they will be looking to gain positions in tomorrow’s Feature Race with Fabio aiming to finish in a podium position and Nathanaël wanting to score more points and get a good grid position for the Sunday Sprint Race.

Team Comments:

Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering:
“Today was even more exciting than expected because heavy rain started shortly before the free practice so no one had an opportunity to do a single lap in dry conditions before the qualifying session. All drivers and teams had to stay confident in their preparation and apply it to the dry qualifying session. Obviously, lap times have improved during the whole session as drivers have pushed the limits further each time. Fabio did a good job but unfortunately got blocked in the third sector of his fastest lap by Melker so we could have seen him higher up than the 5th place where he finished after the session has been red flagged. Nat struggled on the first part of the qualifying and was not feeling comfortable but he did the 12th fastest lap time on his second set of tyres. A faster lap was also possible but he did not the chance to push for an extra lap as the session got interrupted by the red flag.

Overall it is not a bad result and we can have both drivers scoring good points tomorrow. This track difficult and demanding so tomorrow’s race should be quite interesting and drivers will have to be very focused from light to flag to in order perform at their best between Singapore's walls.”

Fabio Leimer: “It was not easy on the track today as it was our first time here and it was wet in free practice. Therefore we went into qualification with no idea where the braking points are or what to do about the setup, so to begin with I was just learning the track and I was feeling very comfortable. We put the second set of tyres on and I knew I could go quicker and I was pushing immediately and I was on a quick lap when I was delayed by Melker, I'm sure I could have been third or better. However I am still happy although it’s not easy to overtake but the track is long and fast and I like it here.”

Nathanaël Berthon: “Free practice was very good as the car went well although I wasn’t pushing hard. I am a bit disappointed with qualifying as I wasn’t happy with the setup of the car on the first set of tyres and I only had one lap on the second set as the red flag came out just as I was improving but P12 is not a disaster. The circuit is wonderful and it’s good to drive here, the track has a lot of grip, it’s a great experience.”

Race 1: Sat 22 Sep 2012, 16:00 (GMT+8)
Race 2: Sun 23 Sep 2012, 16:10 (GMT+8)
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