Robert Doornbos endured a mixed A1GP debut with Team Netherlands in China when a strong sprint race performance was followed up by a missed opportunity in the feature event.
The former Formula 1 and Champ Car driver was taking over from Jeroen Bleekemolen to make his category debut around the Chengdu circuit, but he showed no signs of rookie nerves as he placed the car second and eighth on the grid for the two races.
Capitalising on his experience of rolling starts from his time in the Champ Car World Series, Doornbos started the sprint race well and while he couldn't match the pace of pole sitters Ireland, he brought the car home a safe second place for one of the team's best ever results.
“It is great to drive for A1 Team Netherlands,” he said. “We worked hard all weekend and the car came our way. In the first qualifying we just missed the pole, in the second qualifying we were a bit off on timing and keeping the temperature in the tyres.
“That was a bit disappointing. In the Sprintrace I had a good rolling start, but from pole Ireland just had the advantage of the inside line going into the first corner. It was wheelbanging, but we let each other live. In the end we finish 1 and 2, well clear of the rest of the field."
Hopes were similarly high for the more lucrative second race but Doornbos ended that when he stalled on the start line, much to his immense frustration.
“I do not know what happened at the Feature race start,” the former Minardi driver, who went on to record the fastest lap of the race, added. “The anti-stall system we have is supposed to prevent things like this happening, but for some reason it did not work. For both the people of Ferrari as well as for us it is still not clear why.
“After that I was so pissed off that I pushed like mad. In doing so I did improve the lap record by a big margin and then you at least get a point for the fastest lap. But it was a shame, I was quick all throughout the race and today we did have a car to drive to the podium from eighth on the grid.”
Team boss Jan Lammers was somewhat philosophical about the weekend, lauding the team's pace but being frustrated by the errors that prevented them from ultimately doing better.
“I am actually quite pleased with our overall pace this weekend. We clearly had the fastest lap in the Feature race. On two key moments we fell short though, during the qualifying and start of the Feature race. We had hoped that we would be able to make up some during the race, but that plan fell apart straight away.
“Who or what caused this is only important for us in terms of what happened, and how can we prevent this from happening again. It is a shame and of course we are just as disappointed as our supporters, but we will have to accept it as it is. The Sprint race podium is nice, but in reality a formality when you start from the front row and with drivers and cars of this level. The only real question is if you are going to win or finish second.”
Bleekemolen is expected to be back in the car for the next race in Malaysia.