Unbelievable. How have two teams in consecutive feature races managed to make the same basic strategic error?
Lotus GP did it to James Calado in Valencia, this time it was Racing Engineering and Fabio Leimer.
Leimer, who took pole position in superb style yesterday, had romped away with the lead on the wet track and had a comfortable margin over his pursuers. But Racing Engineering were too slow to get his mandatory pit stop out of the way and he paid the price just as Calado did.
Coincidentally, it was Calado’s retirement that prompted the appearance of the Safety Car that wrecked Leimer’s race. He had just emerged from the pits when his car slowed. Calado rolled to a halt at the pit lane exit.
Oddly, he passed the pit lane entry long after his problem had become apparent. That and the fact that his team mate Esteban Gutierrez ultimately benefitted most from the Safety Car deployment might have led some to put two and two together.
From that moment Leimer’s race was ruined – when the Safety Car came in he was the only driver left in the entire field who hadn’t pitted. Making matters worse, the Safety Car was soon out yet again when Stefano Coletti spun and stopped on the Hangar Straight.
Disappointingly, the race had started behind the Safety Car and stayed that way for eight of the 29 laps before the go was finally given. During that time Daniel de Jong, making his third start and now confirmed as the replacement for Bahrain sprint race winner Tom Dillmann, managed to run into the back of Rodolfo Gonzalez at Copse.
Leimer’s demise left Gutierrez to collect the win. He had pitted before the Safety Car period and so jumped ahead of Johnny Cecotto Jnr and Jolyon Palmer – they started second and third and finished there.
Nigel Melker finished fourth with Luiz Razia on his tail, the latter taking a three-point lead in the championship from Davide Valsecchi. The DAMS driver finished seventh behind his team mate Felipe Nasr, the pair rising through the field after DAMS cannily brought them in for their mandatory pit stops during the Safety Car period at the start of the race.
Eighth gives Giedo van der Garde pole position for tomorrow’s sprint race. Carlin team mates Max Chilton and Rio Haryanto were the final points scorers.