• GP2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race 1

Leimer makes winning start to GP2 campaign

ESPN Staff
March 23, 2013
Fabio Leimer won the opening round in the heat of Sepang © Getty Images

Fabio Leimer won the opening round of the 2013 GP2 Series after a tense race-long battle with Stefano Coletti and James Calado in Malaysia .

Leimer made a strong start from fourth on the grid to tuck in behind Coletti, who held first position after starting from pole. Calado fell back a couple of places to fourth and spent the rest of the race making back the two positions to eventually finish second ahead of Coletti in third.

The field was relatively well behaved in the first two corners with only minor contact, but Marcus Ericsson provided GP2's almost-obligatory first lap incident when he misjudged his braking for turn nine and launched his car over the back of Joylon Palmer, who had made a strong start from 22nd.

Once the race settled into its rhythm it became clear that tyre degradation would play a part and Mitch Evans was one of the first of the early front runners to stop for tyres on lap six. At the front Coletti held off attacks from Leimer in what would become a race-long battle for the lead.

Coletti was the first of the two leaders to pit on lap seven, which left him with 24 laps to complete on the hard compound - a factor that came into play towards the end of the race. Leimer and Calado, who was back up to third by this point, pitted on lap 10 and came out behind Coletti to rejoin battle.

Sam Bird took the lead as he had yet to pit, but his chances were dealt a blow when he received a drive-through penalty for overtaking under yellow flags. Combined with his pit stop for new tyres he dropped well outside the top ten, forcing him to mount an impressive fight back in the following laps.

Palmer also started on hard tyres and led the race for a brief period before pitting on lap 20. It was impressive performance considering his lowly starting position and he went on to finish sixth. Once all the mandatory pit stops had been made, Coletti emerged in the lead again but had Leimer right on his gearbox.

Leimer attempted a couple of failed moves and finally made a pass stick on lap 26 when he overtook Coletti around the outside of turn five. By this time it was clear that Coletti was struggling with his older tyres and Calado took advantage of his rival's problem by passing on the inside of turn one.

Outside the top three Felipe Nasr had a strong race to fourth ahead of Julian Leal and Palmer. Bird finished an impressive seventh despite his penalty ahead of Stephane Richelmi, Simon Trummer and Evans who took the last of the points in tenth.