A1 Team Switzerland is the new leader in Portugal

A1 Team Switzerland is the new leader in Portugal

09.04.2009: A1GP premiere at the Algarve These days, the World Cup of Motorsport is exploring unknown territory once again. The recently opened Autodromo Internacional do Algarve will be the venue where the

A1GP premiere at the Algarve

These days, the World Cup of Motorsport is exploring unknown territory once again. The recently opened Autodromo Internacional do Algarve will be the venue where the A1GP Series start into the decisive stage of the season during the Easter weekend. Prior to the two races in the south of Portugal, the Swiss team are confident that they will be able to successfully defend their leading position, conquered in South-Africa in February.

The new 4.629 kilometres long race track is located near the costal city of Portimão with approximately 40,000 inhabitants. It was officially inaugurated during the World Superbike final on November 2nd 2008 and is bound to replace Estoril as the centre of Portuguese motorsport. In Formula 1 circles, the return of the Portuguese Grand Prix is already being considered, the last one having been held back in 1996. Ferrari and McLaren-Mercedes were positive after testing in December.

In the standings of the World Cup of Motorsport after ten of 16 rounds, Switzerland is leading with 73 points from Ireland (70), Portugal (64), The Netherlands (56) and France (41). The remaining 16 national teams hardly have any hopes to become Switzerland’s successors as champions, although there are still 81 points at stake until the end of the season. After the Algarve round, there will be two more races each at Brands Hatch (GB) on May 3rd and Mexico City on May 24th.

Pressure on Switzerland is a little bit less than on its main rivals, as every team will have to drop one result in the standings. For the final championship classification, the worst overall result from the two races at any venue will not be considered. Ireland and Portugal can hardly afford retirements anymore after both not having scored in the season opener at Zandvoort. “Currently, trying to win at any cost would be wrong”, said Swiss team principal Max Welti. “In the races to come, we will adapt our strategy to those of our opponents, which means taking bigger or smaller risks depending on the situation at the track.”

After extensive exercises in the snow and on the bicycle, Neel Jani is feeling fit. The Swiss driver has a considerable ace up his sleeve at Portimão. Contrarily to almost all the other drivers, he has intimate knowledge of the track. The driver from Berne tested there at the end of March with an Aston Martin LMP1 car. “The circuit really suits me”, Jani reported. “Some blind corners between undulations are technically challenging. The final corner is particularly tricky, heading down towards the main straight after a crest at relatively high speed. The track is not as fast as one could expect at first sight.”

Meanwhile, another prominent name has been added to the driver line-up. In Portugal, Italy will be racing with Vitantonio Liuzzi. Thus, four cars will be raced by Formula 1-proven drivers. Liuzzi raced for Red Bull in 2005 and for Toro Rosso in the next two seasons. Currently, he is Force India’s replacement driver. The three others are Dutch driver Robert Doornbos (2005 with Minardi, 2005 and 2006 test driver with Jordan and Red Bull respectively), Indian Narain Karthikeyan (2005 with Jordan, 2006 test driver with Williams) and Neel Jani (2006 test driver with Toro Rosso). Jani and Liuzzi were team-mates for a while.

PROGRAMME. Friday. 10.40 - 12.00 (11.40 - 13.00 CET): rookie-practice. 14.00 - 15.00 (15.00 - 16.00): practice. -- Samstag. 11.00 - 12.00 (12.00 - 13.00): practice. 14.15 - 15.10 (15.15 - 16.10): qualifying. – Sunday. 11.00 - 11.25 (12.00 - 12.25): sprint. 15.00 - 16.10 (16.00 - 17.10): feature race.

A1 WORLD CUP OF MOTORSPORT. Standings after 10 of 16 rounds:
1. Switzerland 73. 2 Ireland 70. 3. Portugal 64. 4. Netherlands 56. 5. France 41. 6. New Zealand 36. 7. Malaysia 32. 8. Australia 30. 9. Monaco 23. 10. Great Britain 20. 11. USA 19. 12. South Africa 19. Brazil 16. 14. Italy 10. 15. India 8. 16. Lebanon 8. 17. Korea 4. 18. China 4. 19. Indonesia 2. 20. Germany 0. 21. Mexico 0.

. Schweizer Sportfernsehen SSF (STAR TV channel): Sunday, 20.00 - 22:00 h CET. -- NT1: Sunday, 15.00 h (live). -- AB Moteurs: Saturday 15.00 h, and Sunday 15.00 h (live). -- RaiSportPiù: Sunday 14.45 h (live).

 Michael Schneider -  photos A1GP

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/a1-team-switzerland-leader-portugal-algarve-autodromo-portimao-neel-jani---61376.html

09.04.2009 / MaP

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