James Hinchliffe was left kicking himself after being denied a stronger double point's finish in the third round of the A1 Grand Prix around the streets of Beijing, the Canadian having to make do with fourth and tenth place finishes.

Already proving to be one of the big surprises of the season, Hinchcliffe's experience of racing on street circuits from his time competing in the Champ Car Atlantic Series was expected to make him one of the front runners, a status he duly proved when he qualified in fourth place.

It was a position he would maintain to the finish line too in the somewhat processional first race, as well as guarantee himself a second row start for the feature event.

It was in this race that Hinchcliffe lost his opportunity of at least a podium though after a myriad of safety car periods saw his strategy of pitting as late as possible ruined.

Indeed, Hinchcliffe had managed to get himself up to third place by the time of the first wave of pit stops and moved into the lead when Netherlands and Italy pitted. However, an ensuing safety car period allowed the field to bunch up again and with pitting not allowed with the circuit under caution, Hinchcliffe was forced to lead round a field of drivers who had largely completed their pit stop.

To counter this, Hinchcliffe pumped in a series of stunning lap times to build upon a lead, duly setting the fastest lap in the process and winning an extra point. However, the safety car was launched for a second time with the 19-year-old still on the circuit.

Eventually Hinchcliffe pitted and duly dropped down the field to eleventh place, fighting his way back up to eighth when Netherlands, Germany and Malaysia were forced to retire. Things were to get worse for Hinchcliffe though when he misjudged an attempt at passing Nicolas Lapierre's French entry on the penultimate lap, slipping off line and plunging his Team Canada car into the wall.

It was a sorry end to yet an otherwise strong weekend for Canada and although countback saw Hinchcliffe classified in tenth place, he was frustrated with the mistake that cost him the chance to move the team into contention for the championship.

"I'm super disappointed," he said. "It was a good race and we're unfortunate to be in the position, like Brno last time out, where we led lots of laps but haven't finished on the podium. I really had the hammer down to try and build an advantage but we were caught out by the safety periods.

"I thought France had a problem at the end and was letting me go as I ran wide but he started to race me again and I found myself out on the marbles and into the wall. It's frustrating but overall we showed great pace today and that's encouraging for the future!"

 

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