Tomorrow was still a long way off for the team principal, however, with further commitments that would prevent him from leaving the circuit until well into the evening. Having spent the time between practice and qualifying in the usual obligatory meetings with sponsors current and potential, discussing the potential for amalgamating the Asia Series back into a single GP2 championship and mulling over qualifying and race strategy with the engineers, he also spent time in the F1 paddock in a bid to attract attention to his drivers.
“Sponsors are the lifeblood of any race team,” de Orleans acknowledged, “but it is also important that I do the best for my drivers. The more drivers that go from Racing Engineering to F1, the better the team appears, and the more drivers we have wanting to drive for us in future. We're never short of options, but it is good to have the pick of the best drivers interested in our seats.”
The sponsors did not go unattended, meanwhile, with dinner planned for one of the area's premier restaurants that evening. There was no time to change from team attire, however, as both de Orleans and Koschutnig headed direct from the circuit, but there was also no hard sell over a table of local delicacies. All the while, however, the cell phone remained hot…..
Saturday's business began even before the pair reached the track, with a breakfast meeting in a hotel once fought over by F1's top teams owing to its proximity to the circuit. That would prevent de Orleans from reaching his team until late in the morning but, under Couyotopoulo's watchful direction, preparations continued for the first race of the weekend. The sporting director had already attended the usual team principals' meeting, a source of technical and administrative topics such as travel organisation and test planning, before returning to the transporter to plan the afternoon's strategy with Clos and Parente.
Saturday always presents a long wait for the GP2 teams, with two sessions of F1 – including qualifying – and more for the other support series before they are back on track. The feature race, however, is the biggest payer of the weekend, but also longer and with a mandatory tyre change providing greater opportunity for things to go awry. With the Circuit de Catalunya's reputation for being a hard place to overtake, the importance of qualifying is closely followed by the need to start well and employ a solid strategy in order to get the best result. Starting from sixth and 15th, Clos and Parente would have different goals for the feature event, with the Spaniard eyeing a potential podium and his team-mate hoping to reach the top eight and, with GP2's policy of reversing the point-scorers at the front of Sunday's grid, a decent starting spot for race two.
Both Racing Engineering cars made good starts, with Clos surviving a four-abreast moment to gain a place into turn one, and Parente moving up three before the safety car appeared to cover the clean-up of a start-line accident. While the field trundled around in its wake, there appeared to be a degree of confusion over Clos' position, with the young Spaniard being advised that he needed to allow the following Marcus Ericsson back into fifth. The Swede, however, seemed reluctant to accept the position, no doubt for fear of being penalised, but that did not stop him taking an aggressive look down the inside of Clos at the final turn while the safety car was still on track.
The misunderstanding effectively determined Clos' race, with his attempts to allow Ericsson through only serving to extend the gap to fourth-placed Romain Grosjean by the time the safety car retreated to the pits. Unable to catch the Frenchman ahead of him, Clos ran in fifth for the next few laps, before Ericsson finally came through. Pitting on lap 16, the Spaniard then suffered a problem with one of his wheels and, when the field had sorted itself out after a second safety car intervention, had lost another place to Davide Valsecchi.
Parente, meanwhile, had run twelfth until his stop, then eleventh until Fabio Leimer managed to find a way by the Racing Engineering car. Despite keeping pace with those around him to the end, Parente was eventually classified twelfth.
“After the race, it's easy to make conclusions, but I think we should have pitted a bit later as my tyres were really fine at that moment,” the Portuguese veteran commented, “After the second safety car, it was weird as I had higher tyre degradation. Maybe I was not conserving them enough but, overall, the race was going well until this safety car period.”