|The morning practice session saw very warm conditions with air and track temperatures of 27° and 33° respectively and, although they increased during the forty-five minutes, it was not as hot as it can be at the Yas Marina circuit. As the twenty six cars took to the track all of them were running the Pirelli P Zero White Medium compound tyres.
After ten minutes of the session, as the times began to fall, both Lello and Stefano were in the top ten and on their fourth laps Lello went top with a time of 1:51.697s with Stefan right behind his teammate in third on 1:51.992s. On his seventh lap Stefano improved his time to 1:51.205s and Lello reduced his times in the first and second sectors but heavy traffic in the third meant he did not improve.
After 20 minutes of the session most of the cars returned to the pits for some setup adjustments and on resuming the track and with just under fifteen minutes remaining Lello moved up to 5th with a lap of 1:51.012s and Stefano improved to 7th on 1:51.122s. With a few minutes remaining Stefano returned to the pits for a setup adjustment and as the session came to a close neither of the Racing Engineering drivers improved on their earlier times.
It was cooler for the 30 minute qualifying session with air and track temperatures of 24° and 29° respectively as it was now 19:10 local time and the cars were running under the Yas Marina floodlights. All the drivers were now using the Pirelli P Zero Red Super Soft compound tyres.
Stefano was quickly into the top eight with a lap of 1:50.051s with Lello right behind on 1:50.286s and the young Italian soon improved to 1:49.783 to go 8th and then it was Stefano’s turn with a time of 1.49.326s for 4th. As the session approached the halfway point all of the cars returned to the pits for final adjustments and a fresh set of tyres as drivers prepared for their final quick laps.
With less than ten minutes remaining both Racing Engineering cars returned to the track and with three minutes remaining Lello went 4th on 1:49.034s and Stefano was one place behind on 1:49.326s. Both men then took a cooling down lap before one final effort to set a faster time and Lello improved to 1:49.023s but Stefano was unable to go faster.
Lello qualified 8th but he faces a 5 grid position penalty following his collision with Palmer in the Sochi Sprint Race and so he will now start from 13th. This is the eleventh time in eleven races that Lello has qualified in the top eight, the only driver in the 2014 Series other than Drivers’ Champion Jolyon Palmer, to achieve this. Stefano finished in 9th but his teammate’s penalty promotes him to 8th.
Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering: “We have both drivers in the top 9 in qualifying, but this is not what we were working towards and hoping for. We were caught out a bit by tonight’s track conditions, so were not able to get the best out of our cars. Top 5 was definitely possible for both our drivers, but we were not in a position to fight for pole today. Unfortunately, Lello will start tomorrow’s race 5 positions further back due to the penalty he carried over from Sochi. We will work on the analysis of today’s night session to properly prepare for the Saturday feature race. It will be difficult to start in the middle of the field, especially for Lello, but our aim is to have both cars finishing in the top 8, and in Stefano’s case, we definitely hope for a good amount of points.”
Rafaele Marciello: “I tried my best in qualifying, I think we worked well and tried our best, but it didn’t work out today. Now we have to look and analyse what was wrong as I think this was the limit today. Tomorrow we have a long race and I want to finish it in the top 8.”
Stefano Coletti:: “In today’s qualifying I had a good first stint setting the 4th fastest time. We then improved the car a bit for the second run, but I didn’t put a lap together. We had the potential to be between P4 and P7, but I am very confident for tomorrow’s race.”