Fabio Leimer - Photo Credit: Glenn Dunbar/GP2 Series Media Service

Leimer will start fifth on the grid for the first race of the GP2 season - Photo Credit: Glenn Dunbar/GP2 Series Media Service

Fabio Leimer was left to consider what might have been after claiming fifth on the grid in the first qualifying session of the GP2 Series season in Malaysia.

The Racing Engineering driver missed out on pole position by less than a tenth of a second in an ultra-close session, but said he could have improved had it not been for two mistakes during the session.

“This was really tight,” he said. “I made two silly mistakes on both my fast laps. I was faster on the option tires and improved my sector times, when I hit some traffic in the last sector, but then I missed my braking point. Pity as I could have set a faster time without this mistake.

“It wasn’t too bad for my first time in Sepang though and I think there was a bit of an advantage for drivers like Valsecchi, who already raced here before. Overall I am satisfied. The first five drivers in qualifying are within one tenth of a second, which is pretty close.

“As for the race, I think it will be quite demanding and it will be important to not make any mistakes. My goal will be to score points and if I see there is a possibility, I will try to attack, keeping in mind that I do not want to overheat the tyres. I hope for a good weekend to start the season.”

Teammate Nathanael Berthon qualified 18th on the grid for his first main series GP2 race, a result the Frenchman was understandably disappointed with.

“We expected qualifying to be much, much better than this, especially after free practice where I was quick,” he said. “My ideal lap time in free practice was P7 and faster than Fabio, I felt good with the car.

“In qualifying, to be honest, it’s hard for me to understand what has happened and it’s a bit strange. My feeling was that I had a pretty good lap without big mistakes. I felt the car being good with a good balance. So it’s hard to understand why it was very slow. Fabio improved a lot from free practice to qualifying, I did not, and we had the same car. We need to look into this now to understand what has happened.

“I have to start tomorrow’s race from the back, but I will do my best as usual. I am sure we are strong in the race and I like to overtake cars. My goal has to be finishing in the top 8 to have a chance on Sunday due to the reverse grid rule. It will be a long race where a lot can happen. Tomorrow is another day. I am sure we have a good car to do a good job.”

After a mixed session for his team, Alfonso de Orleans-Borbon commented: “Fabio did a good job. It’s a pity though he out-braked himself twice in the last corner on his fastest laps. Otherwise he would have had at least a front row start. It’s obvious that Fabio and the car are there.

“As for Nat, it’s a pity he only finished qualifying in P18 when we all expected much more after his good free practice session. Both drivers had the same car, so we need to analyse what has happened in Nat’s case. We will work on preparing for tomorrow’s race now as it will be tough and long, so a lot of things can happen. Good work from all the boys today.”