Racing Engineering's Fabio Leimer wins GP2 Feature Race in Malaysia
James Calado and Stefano Coletti complete podium
By William Esler
Last Updated: 17/09/13 1:18pm
The Swiss driver made a great start from fourth on the grid to leap ahead of Felipe Nasr and James Calado and challenge pole man Stefano Coletti into the first corner.
Behind the front two, Calado tried to make up for his poor start from the front row with a lunge on Nasr at turn four - both men ran wide, allowing debutant Mitch Evans, who was suffering from food poisoning, to take advantage and go from fifth to fourth.
The first lap action was far from over however. At turn nine Marcus Erricson ran into the back of Jolyon Palmer, sending the DAMS driver airborne and into the barriers. Meanwhile Johnny Cecotto, whom many felt was lucky to have only been sent to the back of the grid for his indiscretions in qualifying had charged through the field, crossing the line in 13th at the end of the first lap.
An off-colour Evans was clearly struggling in the Arden and Calado got past on lap three to move into a podium position, whilst Nasr also got past the Kiwi just a couple of corners later. The 18-year-old continued to fall through the field as the race went on, but did manage to pick up a point for 10th.
Adrain Quaife-Hobbs' first GP2 race ended in embarrassment when a mistimed move at the final corner on lap four took out team-mate Daniel De Jong, forcing both men to retire. The British driver picked up a five-place grid penalty for the incident, meaning he will start Sunday's sprint race from the back of the grid.
At the front Leimer and Coletti were embroiled in a tight battle for the lead, allowing the drivers battling for third to close the gap. The Rapax driver was obviously struggling with his option tyres and pitted as soon as the pit window opened on lap seven.
Leimer stayed out until lap 11, arguably a lap too long as his pace dropped, throwing away his chance to rejoin ahead of Coletti after the stops.
Britain's Sam Bird, who had started on the prime tyre, inherited the lead courtesy of the stops, but a drive-through penalty for not respecting yellow flags curtailed his charge. The RUSSIAN TIME driver eventually finished seventh.
Another British driver making the hard tyre work during his opening stint was Palmer. Having started 22nd, the Carlin driver found himself leading before making his mandatory stop on lap 22 - rejoining in sixth position, where he would finish the race.
Having spent the previous couple of laps side-by-side, Leimer finally took the lead on lap 27. Coletti went very defensive on the run to turn four, allowing Leimer to get a better exit on the racing line and surge in front.
By now Calado had caught up to the Rapax driver as well and made a late move at the final corner, but outbraked himself allowing Coletti back through. The Brit got back into the slipstream, however, sold the Monegasque a dummy into turn one and moved up to second.
The ART driver had no answer for Leimer however, who picked up the third GP2 victory of his career.
"It feels really great because last year we were fighting every time for the win but unfortunately we could never win," Leimer said.
"Now it's the first race of the season and I really wanted to win this one. I think it was important for me and the team that we're already at the front. Everything worked really well today. Mentally, this win is a real boost for me and the team. We've worked really hard during the winter and it's paid off."
GP2 - Malaysia Feature Race Results
1) Fabio Leimer (SWI) - Racing Engineering
2) James Calado (GBR) - ART Grand Prix
3) Stefano Coletti (MON) - Rapax
4) Felipe Nasr (BRA) - Carlin
5) Julian Leal (VEN) - Racing Engineering
6) Jolyon Palmer (GBR) - Carlin
7) Sam Bird (GBR) - RUSSIAN TIME
8) Stephane Richelmi (MON) - DAMS
9) Simon Trummer (SWI) - Rapax
10) Mitch Evans (NZL) - Arden International