Leimer claims points lead with victory
7 September 2013 – Racing Engineering driver Fabio Leimer held off an advancing Sam Bird to claim victory in Saturday's GP2 Feature Race at Monza. The Swiss driver now moves into the title lead, with fellow title contenders Felipe Nasr and Stefano Coletti retiring.
A strategy gamble to start on the Option tyres worked out for Leimer as he gained greater traction off the line, emerging from the first chicane ahead of pole-sitter Bird. The chasing pack filed through without incident, and there was little change amongst the front-running positions. A rare clean first lap was followed by a tangle between Simon Trummer and Mitch Evans on Lap 2, creating a brief traffic jam at Turn 1.
The early stages of the race saw Bird stay within an arms-length of Leimer, despite lapping on a theoretically worse tyre compound. The first major event in terms of the championship picture came as the pit-stop phase began, with Coletti being handed a drive-through penalty by the stewarding panel for speeding after a lock-up on entry. The Rapax driver would later limp to a disappointing retirement in the final laps.
With Coletti’s poor form continuing, the stage was then set for Nasr to take full advantage of a sixth consecutive non-scoring event for the Monégasque. But the championship story was to take another twist; having demonstrated good race-craft in a tight battle with Hilmer Motorsport’s Adrian Quiafe-Hobbs, the Carlin driver developed a terminal engine problem on Lap 18, and was forced into retirement.
Meanwhile, Leimer had pitted from the lead, allowing Bird the opportunity to try to pull out a sufficient gap in clear-air. With tyre-management not proving to be an issue, the Briton looked to have done enough as he came in for his compulsory stop on Lap 19, a change to the options expected to sure-up an eventual win. But a delay with his right-rear tyre gifted Leimer the de facto lead, leaving the Russian Time man with work to do in the closing stages if he was to record his fifth victory of the season.
The 26-year-old quickly set about reducing Leimer’s lead margin, becoming the first man to dip into the 1m32s with eight laps to go. His efforts proved to be in vain; having cruised up to the gearbox of his rival with two laps left, Bird lost crucial momentum in dirty air. From this point, Leimer was left with a clean run to the chequered flag, the Swiss becoming the man to finally displace long-time points leader Coletti.
A distant Tom Dillmann rounded out the podium positions for Russian Time, the Frenchman comfortably ahead of Stéphane Richelmi. Julián Leal and Force India reserve driver James Calado were next up, followed by Quaife-Hobbs and Alexander Rossi. Sergio Canamasas and Vittorio Ghirelli completed the top ten runners.
In the championship standings, Leimer sits on 153 points, with Bird moving up to second on 145. Coletti is still stuck on 135, while Nasr is now 23 points adrift.
Sunday’s GP2 Sprint Race gets underway at 10.35am local time (GMT +2)