GP2 Silverstone polesitter Fabio Leimer says he was confident heading into qualifying that he would be fast in the wet conditions.
The Racing Engineering driver explained in the press conference after the session that he had felt comfortable during the soaked practice session earlier in the day. He was relieved that he was able to put fast laptimes in without them being interrupted by yellow or red flags.
“Actually I'm really happy because in free practice already I was really quick, I was the first sector around 8/10ths, 9/10ths quicker than in the second one, but the problem was all the red flags and yellow flags in the morning,” said Leimer, who was nine tenths clear of anyone else.
“I was already sure when I went out for qualy that I could be really quick, I was already pushing on the first lap or two for lap time because I was sure that it would be the same as in the morning, many red flags and yellow flags, but in the end it was quite nice.
“It was really fun to drive because the car was really good, and I could actually improve every time, more and more. They were telling me that I was one second or more away, and I was really happy and was pushing more and more. In the end they told me Cecotto is 9/10ths behind me and the red flag was coming out, so we came in for new tyres for another flying lap, but then we had a little problem with the car. But in the end it was enough for pole position.”
The result was Leimer's first pole in GP2, having shown good pace all season.
“We have been fighting all year for a pole position, and sometimes you are close, like in Malaysia or Barcelona, but it was not enough: every time it was just a small, small gap which we had to improve for P1, but finally now we did it,” he said.
“I’m really happy because, for me, P1 is the most important thing for tomorrow because in the race we are really strong, like we saw in Valencia, and I think when we start at the front, and can have a good start, then we have a good chance to win the race.
“The most important thing is to have a good start, and then it’s just driving and saving the tyres. We will see how the weather is tomorrow, because at the moment we don’t know if it’s raining or dry.”
Second place put Johnny Cecotto back on the front row, having claimed pole before winning in Monaco. That was despite his car stopping at the red flag with around ten minutes to go.
“In the moment I completely forgot about that, and also we had problems with the radio so I had absolutely no idea what position we were: at the moment I came in I knew we were P2, but after that I had no idea in the last ten minutes what position I was, so I just had to push the hardest I could,” explained the Barwa Addax driver.
“Then I came back to the pitlane and I asked five times what position I was: everybody was like ‘congratulations, congratulations’, and I kept saying ‘yeah, but what position am I?’ and they just kept saying ‘congratulations, congratulations’ [laughs] In the end I thought okay, I guess it must be a good position, at least! [laughs] So in the end I was happy, but it was quite a difficult session.”
Cecotto praised Leimer's performance, saying pole was out of reach for him. He is however remaining optimistic about the race.
“Fabio did an amazing job today: I had a little bit of problems in the session today, but for sure better than P2 today was impossible, and I think we did the best job we could do but Fabio did an amazing job today. Tomorrow let’s see, but tomorrow everything is open. I’m usually better in the race than in qualifying, so tomorrow I think everything is open.”
Home racer Jolyon Palmer claimed his best qualifying result to date in GP2 in third place. It was a result that he was happy with.
“Yeah, especially after practice where I only did one flying lap, and it was a complete mess,” said the West Sussex racer. “I didn’t really know what my pace was going to be like, or anyone’s pace would be like, so to finish P3 in the end and it was drying as well, so everyone was getting quicker, I’m pretty happy with that.”
Palmer's best time came with his final effort of the session.
“The conditions were getting better, and I was always up there before the red flag I think between P2 and P6, I kept being told on the radio, and then after the red flag I didn’t get a lap in at all with all the traffic and yellow flags and all sorts, so the last lap I just did a tidy lap, no mistakes, and picked it up to P3.”
With the prospect of wet conditions throughout the weekend, the team's tyre allocation could have been an issue. But Palmer felt they performed well in qualifying and that will not be a problem.
“I think they were pretty good,” he said. “It’s impossible to tell from free practice really, because we had so little running, but they held out quite well. We lost the rears a little bit as the track started to dry, but overall I think even if it stays wet we’ve got enough tyres to last a weekend.”
Palmer, who had to run on foot into the circuit to be ready for free practice in the traffic chaos, feels that the high level of GP2 means that local knowledge is unlikely to help him in the race.
“Probably not really, because these guys are experienced, and everyone at the front is experienced: it’s GP2. I don’t mind if it’s sunny and hot, because I really like the track, and hopefully there will be a good crowd. If it’s dry or wet I think a good result is possible, so my focus isn’t really on the weather: just getting here on time [laughs] and focussing on a good result.”