Neel Jani and the Swiss A1GP car ran like proverbial clockwork in the qualifying sessions of the A1GP event in Shanghai, China to take a double pole position for Team Switzerland.
"We were struggling a little bit for the first run in qualifying but then we made a change and from then on we had fantastic pace," Jani said. "If I get a good start there is nothing to worry about and I think the guys next to me are sensible and they don't want to go out either. I don't need to win at the moment, I just need points and that's what I'm going for."
Jani put to good use his Formula One experience on this track, setting fastest times in three of the four segments. The Swiss driver easily bettered his opposition to clinch the poles for both the sprint and feature races, clocking times roughly half a second faster than anyone else from the second segment on.
"Surely, it was helpful that I already know the major part of the track," Jani recounted. "On the other hand, driving an A1 car is more difficult than a Formula 1 car. The A1 car is sliding significantly more."
Filipe Albuquerque looked strong for Portugal in the opening segment, while the Swiss team was still looking for the right setup, but wasn't able to keep pace with the red-and-white machine in the end. Albuquerque came away with a second-place starting position for the sprint race and a third-place one for the feature race.
"This is only my third race so I'm quite happy to be starting second and third," Albuquerque said. "I thought I had got pole for the Sprint but Neel was just way too fast so I think P2 was the best we could do. Then for Feature qualifying I was behind (Robert) Wickens and he made a small mistake and I couldn't put my lap together but still third is ok with those mistakes."
Wickens, driving for Team Canada, arrived in Shanghai too late to take part in the Friday sessions, due to his World Series by Renault test commitments, but quickly found the pace in qualifying, setting a time just seven hundredths behind Albuquerque to take third for the sprint race grid.
Narain Karthikeyan (India) will start the sprint race from fourth, followed by Jonathan Summerton (USA) and Jonny Read (New Zealand).
The last two segments, which set the feature race grid, saw Jani retain his dominance, but behind him there were some changes. Team Canada dropped to 12th on the grid after a crucial error by Wickens in the final qualifying segment -- an error that cost Portugal, too, probably losing a front-row position for the team.
However, Summerton was quick to take advantage for Team USA, clinching the first front-row starting position for the team this year. Albuquerque was third, just a hundredth of a second ahead of Adam Carrol's "Celtic Tiger" -- the newly re-christened Team Ireland car.
Karthikeyan and Malaysia's Alex Yoong took the fifth and sixth starting positions.