Photo:Alastair Staley/GP2 Series Media Service
Fabio Leimer started his GP2 title bid with victory in the opening race of the season in Malaysia.
The Swiss driver made a flying start from fourth on the grid, looking for a way past pole-sitter Stefano Coletti before settling for second place initially.
Coletti used up his soft tyres quickly and came under pressure from Leimer before making an early stop on lap seven.
Leimer stayed out on track for a few more laps, but Coletti regained the virtual lead when he rejoined.
Coletti reassumed the race lead when everyone had made their pitstop, but fell into the clutches of the fresher-rubbered Leimer and lost his lead with five laps to go. The Racing Engineering man went on to collect his first win for more than a year.
Pre-season favourite James Calado lost some ground at the start but came through to finish second after also getting by Coletti, crossing the line two seconds behind Leimer. Coletti fell back towards Felipe Nasr but held on to complete the podium.
While the front four were in a league of their own, Leimer?s new teammate Julian Leal by-far bettered his best GP2 result to date with a fine fifth place. After starting down in 22nd place, Jolyon Palmer stayed out in the lead of the race on hard tyres until switching to the softs late on, rejoining in sixth place.
Sam Bird would have finished higher than seventh on his first weekend back in GP2 had he not been one of several drivers given a drive-through penalty for ignoring yellow flags. He sealed seventh with a fine double move on Stephane Richelmi and Mitch Evans as the pair forced each other wide at turn one.
Richelmi took eighth spot in the end to seal the reverse grid pole position for Sunday?s sprint race. Simon Trummer was ninth, but was another who would have finished further up without a penalty. Evans ran as high as third after the start on his GP2 debut, but fell back to tenth by the finish.
Marcus Ericsson got his season off to a bad start as he ran into former teammate Palmer on the opening lap and went off, while there was also an early end to MP Motorsport?s debut race as their drivers Adrian Quaife-Hobbs and Daniel de Jong came together at the final turn and retired on the spot.
The sprint race takes place at 12:15 local time on Sunday, or 04:15 GMT.
|1||Fabio Leimer||Racing Engineering||31 laps in 57:49.385|
|2||James Calado||ART Grand Prix||+2.045|
|5||Julian Leal||Racing Engineering||+28.837|
|7||Sam Bird||Russian Time||+41.183|
|10||Mitch Evans||Arden International||+1:13.730|
|11||Rene Binder||Venezuela GP Lazarus||+1:16.137|
|12||Johnny Cecotto||Arden International||+1:18.357|
|13||Conor Daly||Hilmer Motorsport||+1:20.096|
|14||Tom Dillmann||Russian Time||+1:21.812|
|15||Pal Varhaug||Hilmer Motorsport||+1:23.754|
|16||Kevin Giovesi||Venezuela GP Lazarus||+1:35.775|
|17||Kevin Ceccon||Trident Racing||+1:47.928|
|18||Jake Rosenzweig||Barwa Addax Team||+1:53.252|
|19||Sergio Canamasas||Caterham Racing||+2:00.257|
|20||Rio Haryanto||Barwa Addax Team||+1 lap|
|21||Ma Qing Hua||Caterham Racing||+1 lap|
|Nathanael Berthon||Trident Racing||19 laps|
|Daniel Abt||ART Grand Prix||9 laps|
|Daniel De Jong||MP Motorsport||3 laps|
|Adrian Quaife-Hobbs||MP Motorsport||3 laps|
|Marcus Ericsson||DAMS||0 laps|