Monterrey, Mexico - The second clean start of the weekend meant all the cars made it round the first lap. As is quite often the case, many of the teams pitted early for their mandatory pit stop with race leader France first in and executing a ...
Monterrey, Mexico - The second clean start of the weekend meant all the cars made it round the first lap. As is quite often the case, many of the teams pitted early for their mandatory pit stop with race leader France first in and executing a trouble-free stop in 51.3 seconds. Much to the disappointment of the local fans, A1 Team Mexico was not able to take part in the opening laps as their mechanics were still repairing the damage after the Sprint race incident and the leaders completed four laps before Mexico joined the field.
A couple of teams with problems early on as A1 Team Brazil was given a drive through penalty for a false start and A1 Team Canada for speeding in the pit lane. By the end of lap eight, all but one team had pitted and the one still out in front was A1 Team USA with a lead of over 28 seconds. A1 Team Mexico was still suffering as their car was shown a mechanical black flag and pitted at the end of his seventh lap for repairs and retired from the race at the same time as A1 Team Ireland.
While A1 Team France extended its lead there was some good battles going on behind with Switzerland, Germany and Italy involved in one and New Zealand, Austria and the Czech Republic in another.
An incident going into turn one on lap 22 between A1 Teams Indonesia and Australia saw the only safety car period of the race. Indonesia had just passed Australia but the car of Ananada Mikola then speared into the car of Christian Jones which retired there and then while the Indonesian made it round to the pits for a new nose cone.
The safety car pulled in at the end of lap five and the car of A1 Team GBR was able to overtake that of A1 Team Czech Republic. At this point Robbie Kerr still had eight of his PowerBoosts left and over the next few laps he used them to good effect by passing Austria for seventh on lap 28, and then New Zealand for sixth on lap 30.
The battle for seventh spot was a train headed by A1 Team New Zealand with Austria, the Czech Republic and Portugal fractions of a second behind. The winner of the battle was the Czech Republic who got by both Australia and New Zealand before the chequered flag came out to give A1 Team France its thirteenth win of the season.
While only Switzerland has a mathematical chance of beating France to win the first World Cup of Motorsport, it is all to play for between A1 Teams Great Britain and Brazil with them having swapped places again as Robbie Kerr now goes to the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca 3 points ahead of the Brazilians.
'The race was fun, and the car was quite good,' said A1 Team France's Alexandre Premat. 'We changed quite a lot in the break after the Sprint race. We got the fastest lap as well which is nice. After the safety car it was really close so I had to push quite hard which was difficult with the tyres as I had no grip.'
Commenting on the possibility of A1 Team France winning the first World Cup of Motorsport with team mate Nicolas Lappierre at the wheel, Alexandre said: 'I don't mind really. I think he will do a good job, and I think we could win both races.'
Jos Verstappen driving for A1 Team Netherlands said: 'After France pitted early we were pushing really hard, as were Switzerland I think. But it is difficult to overtake here and we have to be happy with second. This season we have been really good at pit stops and today's was fantastic too. I think we missed taking the lead by about half a second. It was very close with Alex after the pit stop. We have done really well to finish second, when we came here on Friday it was really difficult for us, and we have got better and better over the weekend.'
Asked why he didn't use his PowerBoost button at all in the Feature race, Jos replied 'It didn't make much difference here. The straight is very short and it is best to concentrate on the first corner rather than looking for the PowerBoost button.'
A1 Team Switzerland's Neel Jani said: 'First of all I would like to thank the team, I've had a great time this season. The start today was OK, I took second and was able to put pressure on France pretty much straight away. Our pit stop was good too, but in the end we didn't improve the car enough in between the two races, as the other teams did.'
Commenting on his time racing in A1 Grand Prix, Neel said: 'In the beginning it is no different, it is like racing for yourself. But after a while you get more into it, and realise you are driving for Switzerland. You start to have a really national feeling, with all the support and ambassadors visiting. It gives you a special feeling to be driving for your country. I've had a really nice time driving in A1 Grand Prix and I've managed to get lots of podiums. As they say in German, one eye is crying and the other is laughing. I'm sad to leave but looking forward to my next challenge.'
The tenth round of A1 Grand Prix, the World Cup of Motorsport will be held at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, California, USA on 10 - 12 March 2006.