Round 5 at Taupo was rough for Switzerland's tough fighter Neel Jani At the fifth round of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport at Taupo, the strong wind was still blowing and played a certain strong role in the race while the weather conditions...
Round 5 at Taupo was rough for Switzerland's tough fighter Neel Jani
At the fifth round of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport at Taupo, the strong wind was still blowing and played a certain strong role in the race while the weather conditions were sunny, with a temperature of 19 degrees. Current title leader Switzerland's sprint race was over on the first lap due to a first corner collision. Neel Jani made a brilliant start in the 52 lap race feature race. But after a list of unforeseen problems, Jani, fastest of the field, finished only in 14th place. He was credited with the fastest lap (lap 49) and now holds the track lap record. It was a race to forget where Neel was sanctioned twice and broke his front wing. But Neel scored one point today. Switzerland and France are both equal on 80 points in the championship behind New Zealand's Jonny Reid with 82 points.
Starting the sprint race from eleventh position, championship leader A1 Team Switzerland driver Neel Jani took his best rolling start of the season before being involved in a crash in the first corner along with Malaysia and Canada that caused his first non finish of the season.
In the feature race, Neel started from third on the grid. Jani had another brilliant start and took a strong lead over the pack immediately ahead of France's Loic Duval. Then it became hectic. Jani was inflicted a drive through penalty for a jump start. On lap 16, Switzerland's day got even worse. Neel Jani went for a move around the outside of Pakistan, and broke his front wing. Another safety car period was caused by incidents with Indonesia, Australia, and Netherlands that caused a second penalty at lap 32 for Switzerland. A scrappy Neel kept up the pressure and was ranking in 2nd position, 0,695 behind Germany's Christian Viettoris as he went for his mandatory pit stop, between laps 34 to 42 of the 52 lap race. But Neel's hopes for a strong finish in the points vanished as the race developed.
Neel Jani said: "What a day. I score one point that I dedicate to my team for their strong team work that paid off today. I had a very good start in the sprint race and gained three positions. I was on the inside. Malaysia's Alex Yoong could not go more outside basically. We touched. His wheel was close to my head. I was lucky because I felt that my hand was cropped and skin got taken off....but nothing happened. The car was not too badly damaged, at least. The team helped me bounce back strongly and brilliantly repaired the car for the feature race where I started in third place. Again I had a strong start. I took the lead of the pack. But I was suspected of a jump start and was inflicted a stop and go penalty after two laps. With the team we checked different camera angles and all we can see it that the wind may have pushed me a bit. That's all unfortunately. I could only rejoin in 16th place after a safety car period that lasted till lap 7. By lap 10, I was fighting hard and cruising back in 7th place. On lap 10, Germany and France pitted for their first mandatory stop. I was then sixth and stopped for my "second" pit stop and rejoined in 14th place. While overtaking Pakistan, I ran into the grass and broke my front wing. Coming out of the pit after changing my wing, there was another safety car. I was inflicted another drive through penalty. Overall, in the last stints my speed was excellent. My car was perfect and thanks to my team, I scored one point for a fastest lap and track lap record. Now we still have 80 points in the championship equal with France's Loic Duval behind New Zealand. See you in Australia!"
Max Welti, Team Principal, A1 Team Switzerland commented: "What a day. I want to thank the team for their dedication and Neel for his strong and focused drive. They never gave up despite the adverse conditions that we encountered today in Taupo. Not only after the first race crash, our car was ready for the feature race, but it was strong and in excellent shape. Today we really had a rough race with Neel, who revealed himself to be a really tough fighter. The positive side is that for now Switzerland still has the fastest car in the field. 80 points to get to Australia is an advantage after the Taupo race even if Neel had never driven Taupo before."
Q&A with Neel Jani
Q: How do you feel?
NJ: Clearly disappointed. I do not think that so much could happen to one driver and one team in one race!
Q: Talk your start of the Feature race through please.
NJ: From my point of view, I had a perfect start. I did not do a jump start. Just a fantastic start. We watched it with the team again and again on TV and with different angles and filmed from different cameras. I did not move. But the strong wind might have pushed me. You can see on the start picture five to six cars in the back that are really moving and they have not been sanctioned. So from my point of view the sanction was not justified.
Q: Then you were second in the race?
NJ: Exactly. I decided never to give up after the first drive thru penalty. I overtook car by car. Pakistan for instance was fighting like crazy with his car as if it was for his life. I was so much quicker. But finally I touched him with my front wing and had to come in to change.
Q: What happened after the second pit stop?
NJ: Unreal. There was another safety car and as I tried to un lap myself after changing my wing, there was nothing the team could do. The safety car period caused me to get another drive thru penalty!
Q: What is the take away of your Taupo race?
NJ: A tough race, a horrible day. Team Switzerland temporarily lost the championship lead. But I never stopped pushing. Thanks to the great work of the team, the car was the fastest today. The nice positive fact is that we got one point for a fast lap (1.15.114), quicker than the pole position and my time is also a Taupo lap record. I dedicate it to the team and my engineers. They really have deserved it.
Q: What is next for Australia?
NJ: Team Switzerland are very fast. Now I fly off for a training week directly to Australia. Team Switzerland and I will be ready for the quick and fast track in Sydney with a very, very fast car.