Abu Dhabi: Fabio Leimer of Racing Engineering clinched the GP2 championship title as his arch-rival Sam Bird of Russian Time stalled at the start and Alexander Rossi of EQ8 Caterham Racing went on to clinch victory at the Yas Marina Circuit here on Saturday.
Rossi won the race ahead of Britain’s Jolyon Palmer by 2.1 seconds despite a late safety car after Mitch Evans’ car got stranded. It was Rossi’s maiden GP2 victory after scoring his first pole on Friday. Marcus Ericsson passed Leimer for third with three laps to go, but fourth was enough to crown Leimer as the champion ahead of the season-ending race at the same venue on Sunday.
“I’m really thrilled to win the championship as I started from fourth place. Bird was in front and I thought it would be really hard race because I thought he would be really quick,” Leimer said. “But I was very lucky that he stalled and that made things easy for me.
“I wanted to be on pole position but we couldn’t. It was disappointing as we struggled a little bit. In the race also I wanted to push hard for that third spot but Ericsson was on stronger tyres and the team wanted me to get the car home safely,” added Leimer, who is now hoping this F1 support series will help him realise his dream of an entry into the big league.
“In 2012 we were very unlucky as I lost many races, sometimes due to penalties, and this year I really wanted to do well. The team worked really hard and all credit to them. Hopefully this success will help me move ahead.”
Leimer now hopes that he can finish the season on a high by doing well in Sunday’s final race.
“Yes it would be nice to finish on the podium now that the pressure of the championship is off my back. I can go out there and press hard and I’m very much looking forward to doing that.”
With the temperature soaring, tyre strategy played a crucial part in Rossi’s win as he opted for a medium-medium strategy that proved to be key in outrunning Palmer.
Bird, after stalling at the start, switched off the super-soft tyre but failed to make much progress and couldn’t get to the ninth place that would have taken the championship fight to the final race. He was stuck in 10th spot at the chequered flag.
Result & standings
Abu Dhabi Race 1
1 A. Rossi (EQ8 Caterham Racing) 1hr 0min 16.414s
2 J. Palmer (Carlin) +2.130s
3 M. Ericsson (DAMS) +3.075s
4 F. Leimer (Racing Engineering) +4.687s
5 D. Clos (MP Motorsport) +5.218s
6 J. Calado (ART Grand Prix) +6.370s
1 F. Leimer 191pts
2 S. Bird (Russian Time) 173
3 F. Nasr (Carlin) 154
4 J. Calado 142
5 S. Coletti (Rapax) 135