Reigning champions Switzerland endured mixed fortunes in the latest A1 GP round of the season at Sepang after Neel Jani claimed a win in the sprint race before retiring just metres into the feature event.
Regarded as an expert of the sweeping Malaysian circuit, Jani was chasing a fourth win in three years, as well as a first victory of the season, but while he qualified on pole position for the first race, he would start down in 19th for the second.
Nonetheless, Jani was untroubled in the sprint race, lapping almost a second quicker than his rivals at one point as he eked out a ten second lead by the chequered flag.
“The car was nearly perfect”, he said afterwards. “I was running so well that I felt like having a pretty good chance for the feature race in spite of the bad grid position.”
Indeed, Jani still had a tough job from 19th in the second race after being demoted due to a pit-stop infringement in the sprint event. Making swift progress over the first few corners, Jani however lost control of his car whilst attempting to out-brake a competitor, spinning off the circuit into retirement.
“Sixteenth or nineteenth… that is basically the same. Then I saw the South African driver right and the Australian driver left in front of me, the latter running rather wide under braking for the next corner.
“I decided to overtake him on the inside. Unfortunately, I lost control of the rear of the car while doing so and spun. And to make it all worse, my engine stalled as well, which put me out of the race.”
Nonetheless, victory in the first race has moved Switzerland back into contention in fourth overall, with team principal Max Welti hopeful it will kick start a good run of form.
“Having seen what Neel was up to today in the sprint race and where he already was only a few hundred metres into the feature race, I feel sad. We could have made it much further up, perhaps even onto the podium.
“However, there are also positive aspects to keep in mind. The car came out very good from a technically demanding and difficult weekend. And let's not forget that Switzerland has caught up in the points' standings.” Behind Ireland, that has pulled quite a gap, six teams are quite closely together.”