Durban: Saturday qualifying report

Germany Scores a Hat-trick Durban, South Africa - In a nail-biting finish to today's qualifying session, A1 Team Germany took pole for tomorrow's Sprint race, snatching the lead from New Zealand in the fourth segment of the afternoon. Home team,...

Germany Scores a Hat-trick

Durban, South Africa - In a nail-biting finish to today's qualifying session, A1 Team Germany took pole for tomorrow's Sprint race, snatching the lead from New Zealand in the fourth segment of the afternoon. Home team, South Africa will start the race from the fifth row after a consistent qualifying performance saw driver, Adrian Zaugg clock an aggregate time of 2.36.718.

Germany's Nico Hülkenberg said: 'It is great to be on pole again for the third time in a row. A thank you to the team as I had a great car. It was quite a tough battle against Matt (Halliday) in the last session as it was the most important and I had to set a good lap time. Now I am looking forward to tomorrow. You can never feel safe because of the red flags and you cannot predict what happens if somebody crashes. You can be half on the good side and half on the bad side. To make a fast lap is always a compromise between pushing and driving safely. A street circuit is something special and not easy.'

Despite his strong performance today, Hülkenberg is cautious of being too confident for tomorrow's Feature race. 'Definitely the ideal line is pretty good as there is some rubber, but it is very easy to make mistakes here and if you are five metres off line you are struggling. It will be tough to stay concentrated for seventy minutes,' he went on to say.

Matt Halliday stepped in for Jonny Reid who has been behind the wheel of the New Zealand car for the past three events. 'It was tough to start A1GP this year having missed all the testing and just turning up at Zandvoort where I wasn't quite prepared enough. Jonny has done a good job, but I know what I can do and I didn't get the chance because he was doing a good job. I just needed to wait, but it was unfortunate as I didn't expect to wait for five months to get back into the car. I think this shows everyone I can do the job. It was frustrating to just miss the pole but we shall make sure we fight tomorrow.'

Today was Halliday's first qualifying session since the season opener in Zandvoort, the Netherlands. He went on to say: 'We made some progress but it was down to me to come back into qualifying. In Beijing there was no qualifying so my last one was Zandvoort and today I was a little bit apprehensive at the start, maybe a little bit too cautious. In the last session I had traffic which was bad luck, but on a street circuit you have this happen and I have to be reasonably happy with the result.'

Within the opening minutes of segment one, India's Narain Karthikeyan repeated the earlier bad fortune of Mexico, knocking the front wing plate off going over the chicane and putting the team out of the first segment. The team worked throughout the remainder of the segment to fix the damage but the incident meant India missed the second segment as well.

Great Britain also suffered a poor start to qualifying, missing the first segment as the team worked to fix gear box problems discovered at the end of morning practice. The problem was resolved and Robbie Kerr took the red, white and blue car out for segment two but a spin on his flying lap resulted in a lap time of 1.28.602 and added pressure for the final two segments. Despite the bad start, Great Britain managed to pull themselves back, qualifying in 11th place.

While India and Great Britain's incidents hampered their own performances, it was a spin from Singapore that caused problems for the rest of the field. With just over four minutes to go in the second session, Singapore's Christian Murchison spun clipping the wall and causing a red flag. The segment was stopped while the car was retrieved causing A1 Teams, Indonesia, France, South Africa, Italy and Portugal to miss the chance at clocking a time as the session was not re-started.

As segment three began, A1 Team China was the first to leave the pit lane but a spin at turn four put them out of contention and caused another red flag. The session re-started with just under nine minutes to go and all teams, with the exception of China who had caused the incident, were allowed to begin the segment again.

A third red flag delayed the final qualifying segment with half the field having already set their final lap time and A1 Team Germany having secured pole. As this was caused by a marshalling error the clock was stopped so the session could run its full 15 minutes to allow the rest of the field to set a time and the remaining teams lined up to leave the pit lane. France's Loic Duval looked on track to knock Germany off pole position with a strong final lap but a difference of just 0.191 seconds between their aggregate times meant the team had to settle for third on the grid.

Driver Loic Duval commented: 'It didn't help us as it was difficult after the red flag to get a good feeling with the car. I am a little bit disappointed with this result as I think it was possible to be on the front this weekend. However, the car looks really good. It will be a really tough race so we will see tomorrow. At the end we did a great job, but the second qualifying was really, really bad for us so maybe that is why we are only third.'

The 20-minute Sprint race will start on at 11.00 local time on Sunday 25 February. The results of the Sprint race will determine the grid for the 70-minute Feature race, which will begin at 15.00 local time.

-credit: a1gp

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Series A1GP
Drivers Narain Karthikeyan , Matthew Halliday , Robbie Kerr , Adrian Zaugg , Loic Duval , Jonny Reid , Christian Murchison , Nico Hulkenberg