Bruno Junqueira showed the benefits of track knowledge as he rewarded Team Brazil with its debut top ten qualifying performance of the season in Mexico City - and high hopes of an equally strong finish in the races.

The Champ Car ace is participating in his second A1GP weekend following his maiden appearance in South Africa last month, and made consistent progress throughout the practice sessions - to such an extent, indeed, that seventh place was ultimately something of a disappointment to him.

"I'm quite happy with the improvement we have made since yesterday," Junqueira remarked afterwards. "This morning in practice we were pretty fast and we maintained that pace in qualifying, but unfortunately I made mistakes on my first and third runs and my second run was on old tyres.

"My last run was pretty good, but because I didn't get two good laps together I wasn't able to put us any higher, which is a real shame. I lost at least half a second in my mistake on the third lap, which could really have put me ahead into P3 or P4.

"However, I'm quite excited because it gives me confidence for the races, and the car is proving really good on old tyres. I'm happy I stepped up and pushed hard. Team Brazil is getting better in every session, so I hope we can do well on Sunday."

Although Raphael Matos placed the Brazilian entry sixth on the starting grid in Beijing last November, that was based on practice times following problems with the track surface that wiped out qualifying.

Junqueira - the only driver to have previously driven the technical Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, in his Champ Car career - was immediately on the pace in Mexico, lapping fifth-quickest in practice. An outstanding second-fastest time in the final qualifying segment, behind only championship leader Germany, was enough to hoist him up the order from 14th position to seventh. But for his error on his third run, the 30-year-old could have been looking at a spot on the second row.

"I'm very happy with the last qualifying lap that Bruno did," added team principal, double Formula 1 world champion and former Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi. "It was the third-fastest lap overall in qualifying and the second-fastest in that session, and that is a fantastic achievement. Bruno made a mistake on sector two in the third run, and if it wasn't for that we would be P3 or P4.

"The team has improved and we are getting back the feeling like it was with Nelson Piquet Jnr at the start of last season. We have race pace, so I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do. I also just have to say congratulations to my grandson Pietro Fittipaldi. He's ten years old, and won his two karting races today out of 50 drivers in the state championships held in Ocala, Florida."

 

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