In a performance reminiscent of another certain German 'regenmeister', Niko Hulkenberg, dominated a wet feature race at Sepang, the teenager's second A1 Grand Prix race win of the year lifting Germany clear at the head of the standings.

Indeed, the 19-year-old defied his lack of experience of both the circuit and the extreme weather conditions the Malaysian atmosphere can occasionally produce to prove imperious throughout the shortened 28 lap race.

At times some two or three seconds a lap faster than anyone else on the circuit, Hulkenberg wasted no time in stamping his mark on the race from the off, which was started after four laps behind the safety car to clear some of the excess water deposited on the track by a sharp monsoon shower.

Indeed, while sprint race winner Neel Jani got the hammer down from an effective pole position, it was Hulkenberg who would simply drive round the Swiss and gallop into the distance immediately, ending the first lap almost three seconds up on a rather bewildered Jani.

Things further down the order were a little more tentative, with only South Africa providing some other movement in the top ten as Adrian Zaugg replaced Congfu Cheng in tenth place by the end of the first proper revolution.

Indeed, while overtaking was scarce over the first few laps, it was nonetheless clear early on who were coping with the treacherous conditions better than others, with Jani slipping rapidly away from Hulkenberg, who in just five effective laps of racing was eleven seconds in the lead.

Jani though was in turn well ahead of Jonny Reid, because while the New Zealander was ertainly having difficulty with the conditions, he had the advantage of Alex Yoong behind him, who was struggling even more with his handful of a car, forcing him to defend heavily from Robbie Kerr for Great Britain and France's Nicolas Lapierre, who were clearly the quicker drivers.

Eventually, Kerr got the break on Yoong down into the first corner and showed his pace immediately by proving the only driver to get to within a second of Hulkenberg per lap. France, Canada and USA promptly followed through over the following three laps to leave Yoong down in a relative eighth place, having been fourth three laps previous.

With Hulkenberg a stunning 18 seconds up on Jani in second place by just lap thirteen, the pit stop window opened with Lapierre taking a chance by pitting at the first opportunity, followed by Netherlands, who had been running as high as seventh before slipping to ninth, while New Zealand, USA and South Africa did the same a lap later.

Pitting on lap 17 having just recorded yet another fastest lap, some two seconds up on the next best by another competitor, Hulkenberg then proceeded to stall when exiting his pit box, losing himself an expendable handful of seconds as he recovered.

Jani pitting on the same lap moved Kerr up into lead, the Brit beginning to pump in time he hoped would allow him to come out ahead of New Zealand in third when he did pit. In reality, this was always likely to happen as Reid had slipped down behind both France and Canada, the latter jumping two places, and was lapping considerably slower than Great Britain.

With third all but his, Kerr instead turned his attentions to Jani, who's pace following his pit stop had dropped somewhat, a fact not helped by a trip across the gravel at turn 14, giving the former British F3 Champion a sniff at a potential second place finish.

Eventually pitting on lap 19 as it became clear the race would have to be stopped at its time limit and not the planned number of laps, Kerr did indeed emerge comfortably ahead of Jani, even if he was still being humbled by Hulkenberg at the head of the field, some 30 seconds up the road.

Lapierre meanwhile was on a charge, having already managed to find a way back past Sean McIntosh, and rapidly hunted down a struggling Jani for the final podium slot. In a fight similar to the one they had in last year's race, albeit with Alex Premat driving the French entry at that time, Lapierre eventually prevailed, getting past on lap 23.

With the podium positions now seemingly filled, attention had turned to home favourite Yoong, who was embarking on a curious afternoon of racing having slipped further down the order to as low as 13th following his pit stop, only to receive a second wind in the latter stages of the race.

Indeed, although the conditions were improving slightly, the Malaysian entry's rapid rate of recovery was nothing short of remarkable, as Yoong scythed his way back up the field matching, and at times beating, Hulkenberg's previously untouched lap times.

Into tenth by lap 22 when he passed Ireland's Michael Devaney, he was up to eighth the following lap when he dispatched both Christian Murchison, having a strong race for Singapore, and Bleekemolen.

Promptly setting the fastest lap of the race by over a second, by lap 24 Yoong was lapping an extraordinary five seconds quicker than Reid some way up the road, the former Minardi F1 driver lowering his own best lap each time before eventually catching and simply driving round Reid on lap 26.

Unfortunately for the thrilled crowd, time constraints would prevent Yoong from making up any further ground on sixth place Giebler when the race was halted with 28 laps run. Furthermore, Malaysia didn't even have the chance to revel in recording the fastest lap after Italy's Enrico Toccacelo managed a time from nowhere on the final lap that was some three seconds up on anything he had managed to that point and one second quicker than Yoong.

Hulkenberg though was cruising to a Schumacher-style dominant performance, a fact made all the more coincidental by the fact his German team is overseen by none other than Schumacher's manager Wili Weber.

A very distant 42 seconds back in second was Kerr, who matched Oliver Jarvis' feat from Beijing, even if it means Great Britain now have a rather unenviable record of having taken ten podiums since A1 GP started without scoring a win. Lapierre kept France's points ticking over in third place, even if their double win at Sepang last year now seems a distant memory.

Jani held onto fourth to secure a decent points haul for Switzerland, while McIntosh repaid Canada's faith to give him a chance to impress by scoring a fifth place finish. Giebler was left to thank the clock running out before the laps did on the way to a solid sixth place, with the rapidly closing Yoong seventh after a remarkable drive.

Reid slipped from third to eighth by the finish, just ahead of Beijing winner Bleekemolen, with the tenth and final point being claimed by Michael Devaney, whose penultimate lap pass of Murchison was enough to secure the nation's first point this year.

In the standings, Germany have moved further into the lead, some six points up on Great Britain, who are seemingly settling into their role as a consistent point scorer once again.

France and Malaysia have moved into third overall alongside Mexico, with Salvador Duran capping off an abysmal and point-less weekend by spinning on lap eleven to be recorded as the only retirement of the race.

 

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