Alexandre Imperatori - Good start for A1 Team Switzerland.

Alexandre Imperatori - Good start for A1 Team Switzerland.

22.02.2009: Alexandre Imperatori had an eventful rookie session at the A1GP event in Kyalami, South Africa. A good preliminary setup work could be carried out. This week-end marked A1GP’s first visit to the famed Kyalami track that hosted numerous F1 Grand Prix in th

Alexandre Imperatori had an eventful rookie session at the A1GP event in Kyalami, South Africa.

A good preliminary setup work could be carried out. This week-end marked A1GP’s first visit to the famed Kyalami track that hosted numerous F1 Grand Prix in the past. Located just 20 minutes from Johannesburg, the circuit is dubbed as an extreme challenge for the drivers and the machines.

Featuring steep slope changes and fast sweeping bends, the venue is at an altitude of 2000 meters above sea level. This important factor implies a lack of downforce of about 15% and a reduction of engine power of nearly 18% but it also means it will be so much more physical on the racing drivers.

The week-end kicked off with a visit of Johannesburg’s townships and drivers paying tributes to the victim of apartheid as well as playing with mentally impaired kids of a school in Soweto. But then the real work was due to start on friday. The usual rookie session was held at 16:50 instead of 10:45 as logistic reasons prevented cars from being delivered before friday morning. The team could only get the car on track 15 minutes into the session as the had just taken delivery of fuel filters from A1GP.

On his second flying lap, Alexandre set the swiss car in P1 in front of Nicolas Prost who had already 8 running laps under him. The team then used a red flag interruption to make some setup adjustments before going back on track. Unfortunately, Alexandre had to find out that Kyalami had some very tricky corners as he went large into the very fast 3rd corner and got stranded into the gravel trap, effectively ending his session with just 5 timed laps.

Alexandre Imperatori:
“I had a good feeling with the car and felt confident to push immediately. I was trying to find the limit there and I just carried a bit too much speed for the tyres and picked an understeer. I could avoid to run off but fortunately the car has no damage. The track is great but the altitude makes it very difficult as you can feel a massive lack of downforce.”

The organizers decided to add an additional rookie practice on saturday morning but again logistic issues meant the team could only run with extremely old tyres left from previous races.

Alexandre used the 25 minutes session wisely to give good feedback to the team but could challenge at the front with the tyres he had. “We knew it would hard to play at the front this time and I was careful to avoid repeating my mistake from yesterday so I wasn’t pushing too hard in the first sector. It was still good as we could try a few solutions on the car to get an idea for the races.” Alexandre said.

Data analysis and comparison with team mate Neel Jani on similar tyres were positive so Alexandre was left satisfied with his outing in South Africa. Since then, we have seen what kind of difference tyre condition play at Kyalami with several seconds separating good tyres from bad ones.

In qualifying, Switzerland achieved P3 and P5 but was gunning for pole when a red flag was brought about, aborting the main effort (with power boost) of Neel Jani.


Next race: Algarve, Portugal, 11/ 12 April.


- Speed -  also photos

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22.02.2009 / MaP

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