Fabio Leimer found his way to the top of the podium in Abu Dhabi last November, when he won the GP2 Final feature race in his first appearance for Racing Engineering. He's understandably hoping that it's a sign of greater things to come in the 2012 GP2 Series season that gets underway this weekend at Sepang in Malaysia.
"The car was perfect for me and my driving style," he said of his first races with the team at the end of last year. "It is exactly how I like a car and that's why I think, with some twists and turns, we will be competitive this year and fight for the championship.
"We had very promising tests and everything we wanted to test regarding the set ups was done," said Leimer about the two blocks of pre-season track time that the GP2 teams had in Spain over the course of the last two months. "That was the most important thing, that we gather as much information as possible during these test days."
That information will be more crucial than ever heading to Malaysia, a new venue for the GP2 Series with the consolidation of the European and Asian championships into one series in 2012 for the first time.
"There are simulators and data that help with such situations," the 22-year-old Swiss driver, describing how he was preparing for the unknown nature of Sepang. "There is definitely more focus on simulations to get to know the track and the specialities of each corner better. I also watch F1 videos to be as well prepared as possible."
While Leimer has had two full seasons in GP2 (with Ocean Racing Technology in 2010 and Rapax in 2011) after transferring in from International Formula Master, his 2012 team mate Nathanaël Berthon will be making his GP2 Series début at Sepang, after previously having competed for the team in last year's final GP2 Asia championship.
"It's a big opportunity for me to be part of the GP2 championship," said the 22-year-old Frenchman. "It's going to be a big fight, but I am more than ready for it ... I am really looking forward for the season to start and to get into the car to race it."
Sepang will be just as new for him as it will be for his team mate. "I have never been to Sepang before, but from what I know about the track it looks really nice," he said. "It is of course a bit different if you drive on a track you do not know yet, but my preparation included work on the simulator to understand the layout of the track a bit better, to get used to the sequence of corners on this track."
It's more likely to be the climate that has the biggest impact on everyone in the GP2 paddock this weekend, however. "I have also had a special physical preparation as it's very hot and humid in Malaysia," agreed Berthon. "This means the conditions are more demanding for the drivers."