There was no on-track birthday present for Neel Jani last weekend in Indonesia, but the Swiss entry did just manage to creep into the points in the feature race as the team bids to remain in title contention.

Following on from his victory in the sprint race in Sepang a fortnight earlier, former GP2 ace Jani arrived in Sentul hoping for a repeat success to celebrate his 23rd birthday, but fortunes were to conspire against him. Tenth in the sprint was followed by a points-scoring finish with eighth position in the monsoon-hit feature, leaving Team Switzerland just clinging onto a place in the top ten in the overall nations' standings as the series heads into its winter break.

"I won the sprint race in Malaysia, but we had handling problems for this short race," Jani explained. "I didn't understand why the car was oversteering.

"Then after the morning handling problems, we suspected engine trouble at the start of the feature race. My car nearly stopped on the out-lap and almost stopped again during the race. It wasn't pulling correctly.

"That is why I started in 20th position but luckily it seemed to get better and I could climb up the order. I was up to sixth despite the problems with the engine and the fact I was never able to use sixth gear.

"Then the safety car came out after Robbie Kerr's spin. As the field closed up I thought there was a chance of a podium but when the race restarted Tuka Rocha hit me and I barely managed to get the car to the finish. At least he came over to apologise after the race."

Having claimed the runner-up spot behind France in A1GP's inaugural campaign from 2005-06, the Swiss outfit has a lot to live up to second time round, and team principal Max Welti is aware the squad is entering a critical phase of the season in its championship challenge.

"It was a tough weekend for the team and Neel," he acknowledged. "He drove a fantastic race considering how the car was working. The strategy was excellent and well-adapted to the awful weather conditions.

"We were just unlucky as Neel was almost taken off by Brazil after the pace car came back in, but we hope our luck will improve in the next race in New Zealand."

 

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