Switzerland extends championship lead At the fourth round of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport at Zhuhai, A1 Team Switzerland driver Neel Jani took the second step of the podium in the 14 lap sprint race finishing just 0.601 behind Germany, ...
Switzerland extends championship lead
At the fourth round of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport at Zhuhai, A1 Team Switzerland driver Neel Jani took the second step of the podium in the 14 lap sprint race finishing just 0.601 behind Germany, bringing the team point tally to 73 points. In the feature race, Neel started from pole but his hopes of winning came undone with a technical problem on the right rear wheel safety locking mechanism.
However, Neel recovered to score five more additional points in the feature race to take his tally for the weekend to 17 points. Switzerland thus maintains the lead in the championship, (79points) with a comfortable 19 points lead over second placed France.
Starting the sprint race from second after an exciting qualifying on Saturday, Jani kept his position and pressured Germany all the way finishing over four seconds ahead of France. Neel also clocked the first fastest lap of the race on the way to his fifth podium of the season.
In the feature race, Neel Jani started from pole, had too much wheel-spin and lost one position at the start. He then strategically took the lead of the race after the first pit stop on lap 10. At the second pit stop, Jani who had dominated the race since the first pit stop encountered an uncontrollable problem with the safety locking mechanism that was damaged when the right rear wheel was removed. The unfortunate incident delayed Neel and India's Karthikeyan took the lead of the race.
Neel Jani said: "I started from pole for the feature race, but did not have such a good start with too much wheelspin. After a first corner incident the safety car was out and came back in after four laps. At the restart our positions were unchanged. So, I started putting pressure on Jarvis. My times in the first sector always quicker than his and I was right on his tail. But I knew that the race would be long and that anything could happen.
"As the pit stop window opened, we all went in for pit stops. The team's strategy was to wait until lap 11 to go in. That paid off. My stop went very smoothly as the team did a good job and I took the lead of the race from lap 12. I was trying to build my lead over India, France, GB and South Africa. By mid-race, I was over five seconds ahead and the car was working well. I thought I could approach the second pit-stop window relaxed on lap 26. But when I brought the car into the pits, there was an unexpected mechanical problem with the safety systems of the right rear tyre. It was a bit of heartbreak for me. I was delayed and Karthikeyan took the lead for India. I was down in eighth but managed to recover a bit. The good side is that we arrived in Zhuhai with an eight-point advantage in the championship but now the team are leading the championship by 19 points. See you next year and happy new year!"
Max Welti, Team Principal, A1 Team Switzerland commented: "I am very pleased for the team and the country about our results this weekend. Neel was either front-line or pole for the starts. He earned the fastest lap in the sprint race, a podium and points in the same weekend. It keeps the team in a comfortable lead in the championship. We had great teamwork all throughout the weekend, despite a disappointing technical problem beyond our control in the second pit stop of the main race. It's a real shame, but the positive side is that we substantially increased our advantage in the championship after the Zhuhai race even if Neel had never driven there before. Five podiums out of eight races and top 10 in eight races. What an achievement for the first part of our young team's history and our third season."
Q&A with Neel Jani:
Q: How do you feel?
A: Clearly disappointed. It was a win written for me on the paper; just an easy win that was due, but you never know in racing!
Q: Talk your start through please.
A: I had too much wheel spin and GBR overtook me. I saw that my sectors were quicker than his, and with James Robinson our team engineer, we decided to adapt our race strategy and come in for the first pit stop one lap after him.
Q: You took the lead of the race in the first pit stop on lap 10?
A: Exactly. It was a good strategy. After leaving the pits, I was controlling the race right away and I was reaching a 5 seconds plus lead. I was controlling with no efforts saving the brakes, the weak point on this track.
Q: What happened in the second pit stop?
A: There seems to have been a technical problem when the team tried to take the wheel off. This problem was beyond our control and unfortunately cost us the win. Instead of a 12' stop we had a 35' stop. There was nothing the team could do. The safety locking mechanism was damaged when the right rear wheel was removed and the mechanics had to work on this so that I could restart.
Q: What is the take away of your Zhuhai race?
A: Well, now I know a track where I had never driven before. But there are also two additional good points. Team Switzerland is the absolutely quickest when you look at the times and the data. We arrived at Zhuhai leading the championship by eight points, but we are leaving with an extended 19 points gap. It may be an advantage that counts over a racing season.
Q: What is next for you?
A: Christmas of course. After one year of hard travelling I am looking forward to two weeks at home in Switzerland. Home, sweet home, and of course, I'll go skiing to keep fit! Happy New Year to you all and thank you to all our fans for supporting us.