|As in yesterday’s qualifying session today’s 31 lap Feature Race would take place under the Yas Marina’s floodlights and once again the early evening temperatures were cooler than during the day with air and track readings of 25° and 29° respectively. There was a mixture of tyre choices amongst the cars with most opting for the Pirelli P Zero White Medium compound tyres cars but some chose the Pirelli P Zero Red Super Soft compound. Stefano was starting from row four in 8th position and Lello on the seventh row in 13th place after his five place grid penalty, both drivers were on the Medium compound.
Stefano made a clean start and tried to gain places into the first corner but he had to settle for 8th which he held until the end of the opening lap when the Safety Car was deployed to remove some cars stranded on the track. Racing resumed at the start of the 3rd lap and Stefano was now battling with Haryanto ahead with Cecotto just behind. The cars that had started on the Super Softs began to pit on lap 6 as the Racing Engineering car passed Haryanto but lost a place to Cecotto and by lap 7 he was lying 4th but he still had to take his mandatory stop.
By lap 10 Stefano was 1.1 seconds behind Cecotto and 5.8 seconds ahead of Berthon but all three cars were lapping in very similar times as they looked to preserve their tyres for as long as possible before switching to the Super Softs. By lap 16, just past the half-way point, Stefano was 1.7 seconds behind Cecotto and 8.5 seconds ahead of Berthon. On lap 20 Stefano made his mandatory stop and a typically efficient job by the Racing Engineering pit crew saw him regain the track in 10th spot. Further pitstops ahead of the young Monegasque saw Stefano up to 7th and he was soon battling hard with Richelmi for 6th. However as the race entered its closing laps Stefano found his tyres going off and he was now under pressure from Pic but he held on to 7th place at the finish
Lello lost several places on the opening lap and he dropped to 17th and at the end of lap 1 he was left with a lot of work to do. As the Safety Car pulled off the track the young Italian was able to gain two places on the 4th lap moving up to 15th and he soon passed Canamasas for 14th. Pit stops promoted Lello to 6th on lap 8 but he had yet to make his own but he was lapping very quickly and he had closed in on Berthon and he was looking for a way to pass.
The Racing Engineering car continued to apply pressure to the Frenchman but the two cars were very evenly matched and by lap 17 the gap was just 0.4 seconds and on the following lap Lello found a way ahead of the Lazarus car and he quickly pulled out a two second lead.
On lap 22 Lello, in 3rd place, took his pitstop dropping him to 10th position 2.5 seconds behind Haryanto and within three laps he had caught and passed the Caterham car. His next target was Pic who was four seconds ahead but as his Super Soft tyres began to go off he lost places to Haryanto and De Jong to finish 11th at the chequered flag.
Tomorrow’s Sprint Race will see Stefano start from 2nd on the reversed grid and he will be looking for a win to finish his season on a high whilst Lello will start from the 6th row and he will be driving as hard as ever to finish as high as possible.
Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering: “This was a disappointing race, but considering the positions we were in after lap 1 and having to fight the way back to the top 8, it wasn’t too bad. Lello was good at the start, but was squeezed in between the two Trident cars before corner 1. To avoid contact, he had to give up positions and he dropped back to P17. After, the strategy and his pace on primes allowed him to make up ground again, but the last part of the race was hard for everyone and in the end he finished in 11th. Stefano fought well and deserved to finish in the points. He was strong on primes, but made a big flat spot which forced him to come into the pits for his tyre change earlier than we planned. This made the closing laps of the race more difficult for him. He will start tomorrow’s race from P2 and given our pace on the primes we hope we can translate this into a podium finish.”
Rafaele Marciello: “My start was OK even though I had a bit less grip than the cars around me as I was on primes. I was stuck between Canamasas and Cecotto, so decided to take it easier into corner 1, but I dropped to P17. Right after the safety car I was able to recover positions until I was behind Berthon. It’s hard to overtake at this track, and I lost quite a lot of time behind him. When Berthon started to struggle with his tyres, I passed him and opened a gap. Then I pitted for options and had one really good lap, but destroyed my rear tyres and wasn’t able to fight for P8 anymore.”
Stefano Coletti:: “I had a good pace on prime tyres, but I had to pit earlier than expected because of a big flat spot. I therefore rejoined the race behind Nasr and Richelmi. I tried to pass them, but pushed too hard, so I had to manage my tyres to finish the race in 7th. I am happy that I will start the last race of the season from the front row.”