.A1GP Team Switzerland ends topsy-turvy weekend in Portugal on a high

13.04.2009: Penalty for Neel Jani in sprint race, victory in feature race The Swiss A1GP team has had a variety of highs and lows during the World Cup of Motorsport's racing weekend at Portimão in the Portuguese Algarve region

Penalty for Neel Jani in sprint race, victory in feature race

The Swiss A1GP team has had a variety of highs and lows during the World Cup of Motorsport's racing weekend at Portimão in the Portuguese Algarve region. After the practice sessions, that were more or less satisfactory, the team was dealt a first blow in qualifying for the sprint race, but then recovered with a strong performance in the subsequent feature race qualifying session. On Sunday, Jani had to make do with 15th place after an arguable penalty. After that, he showed his strength in qualifying and took the chequered flag as the race winner, ahead of Ireland's Adam Carroll.

Irish driver Adam Carroll had overtaken Australian John Martin during a safety-car intervention in the feature race and was subsequently given a 25 seconds' time penalty, which relegated him from second to fifth. Thus, in spite of mishaps in qualifying for the sprint race (20th place on the grid, no valid lap time) and the sprint race that didn't go as planned either, Switzerland remains points leader in the World Cup of Motorsport. With four races remaining (two each at Brands Hatch on May 3rd and at Mexico City on May 24th), the defending champion is leading Ireland by two points and Portugal by six points.

After a few incidents, the 42 lap feature race at the beautiful "roller-coaster" circuit in the Algarve looked all set to become a duel between Jani and Portuguese Filipe Albuquerque. Erstwhile race leader Carroll was called in for a drive-through-penalty after a jump start, Swiss-born South-African Adrian Zaugg and New Zealand's Earl Bamber collided while in a good position, just like Vitantonio Liuzzi (Italy), Marco Andretti (USA) and Clivio Piccione (Monaco) would do later on. However, Carroll visibly closed up to Jani and eventually was only beaten by 0.4 seconds. All race long, Jani was either leading or in second place. Ireland led until the eighth lap, Portugal was in front from lap 19 till 28 following the first intervention of the safety-car.

With his tenth race win in the World Cup of Motorsport, Neel Jani is now on top of the winners' list all on his own. "That was one of my hardest-fought victories. In the closing stages, Ireland put quite a lot of pressure on us", Jani reported after the race. "After all the trouble we encountered thus weekend, I feel that somehow, justice is being done to us with this win. The first of two safety-car interventions almost cost me the race. I lost a 15 seconds' margin over Portugal and the lead. However, in the end, it all came our way again. I can be satisfied with what we have achieved."

Jani was in eighth place, which would have brought him one point, at the time the sprint race was stopped after 13 of 15 laps following a collision between Brazil and South Africa. However, as the stewards of the meeting decided that the Swiss team hadn't completed its mandatory pit stop within the time frame, Jani was given a stop-and-go-penalty, which was turned into a 30 seconds' time penalty because of the red flag. This made the Swiss team drop back to 15th place. Jani, who didn't complete a lap in qualifying and had started from the back of the grid as a result, even had led the race for two laps.

Team principal Max Welti was mainly positive: "Victory in the feature race was a well-deserved reward for the efforts of the team. It was able to deal with the setbacks from qualifying on Saturday and the sprint race on Sunday well in time. For me, there was no doubt that Neel would be able to focus himself for the feature race. He has proven his class once more."

A few decisions by the stewards of the meeting provoked some discussion in hindsight. Max Welti wasn't upset, but aired his criticism: "The penalty we were given in the sprint is disputable, because the regulations aren't clear in this point. According to us, our pit stop was within the time frame. The race being red-flagged after the collision between Brazil and South Africa was disputable, too. Moreover, it was also hard to understand why Ireland was allowed to continue its race in spite of having failed to come in for its drive-through penalty. After all, the battle between Neel and Adam in the final laps had some conflict potential in it. Eventually, the infringement was still penalised."

Portimão/Algarve (Portugal). A1GP World Cup of Motorsport. Sprint race
(standing start/red-flagged after 13 of 15 laps, classification after 11 laps of 4.692 km/51.612 km): 1. Netherlands (Robert Doornbos) 19:33.501. 2. Ireland (Adam Carroll) 3.635 seconds down. 3. Portugal (Filipe Albuquerque) 5.728. 4. Italy (Vitantonio Liuzzi) 9.087. 5. Monaco (Clivio Piccione) 10.048. 6. India (Narain Karthikeyan) 12.596. 7. Brazil (Felipe Guimarães) 13.297. 8. Malaysia (Fairuz Fauzy) 18.014. 9. Mexico (Salvador Durán) 20.545. 10. Australia (John Martin) 22.683. 11. Great Britain (Daniel Clarke) 23.080. 12. USA (Marco Andretti) 23.154. 13. France (Nicolas Prost) 24.175. 14. Indonesia (Zahir Ali) 39.400. 15.* Switzerland (Neel Jani) 44.296. 16. China (Ho Pin Tung) 50.655. 17. two laps down: South Africa (Adrian Zaugg). -- 20 drivers started, 17 classified. - Retired: New Zealand (Earl Bamber), Germany (André Lotterer) and Lebanon (Daniel Morad). - Fastest lap: Ireland in 1:31.404 (184.797 km/h). -- Switzerland given a stop-and-go penalty for an untimely pit stop, which was turned into a 30 seconds' time penalty, therefore classified 15th instead of 8th.

Feature race (standing start/42 laps/197.064 km
): 1. Switzerland 1:10:45.011 2. Portugal 6.786 down. 3. Malaysia 9.705. 4. Mexico 16.332. 5. Ireland 25.411. 6. France 27.322. 7. Great Britain 29.880. 8. China 34.586. 9. Germany 43.970. 10. Indonesia 73.993. -- 18 drivers started, 10 at the finish. Did not start: Brazil and The Netherlands. Retired: Lebanon, New Zealand, South Africa, Monaco, UsA, Italy, Australia, India. - Fastest lap: Ireland in 1:31.453 (184.698 km/h). Ireland given a 25 seconds' time penalty for overtaking during a safety-car intervention, therefore classified fifth instead of second.

A1GP World Cup of Motorsport. Standings (12/16)
: 1. Switzerland 88. 2. Ireland 86. 3. Portugal 82. 4. Netherlands 66. 5. France 46. 6. Malaysia 43. 7. New Zealand 36. 8. Australia 30. 9. Monaco 27. 10. Great Britain 24. 11. USA 19. 12. South Africa 19. 13. Brazil 18. 14. Italy 15. 15. India 11. 16. Lebanon 8. 17. China 7. 18. Mexico 6. 19. Korea 4. 20. Indonesia 3. -

Next races at Brands Hatch (GB), May 3rd.

- Michael Schneider -  photos A1 Team Switzerland and A1GP

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13.04.2009 / MaP

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