As anticipated, Neel Jani and Switzerland have completed the double in the third round of A1 Grand Prix at Sepang, but only after fending off a surprise challenge from an inspired Brazil.

Having dominated throughout the weekend, Jani was always expected to covert his feature race pole position - achieved with a margin of almost a second in qualifying - into a second win of the day, helping Switzerland join France, Germany, Brazil, New Zealand and Malaysia on the list of 'double' winners.

However, while it would appear easy on paper, in reality Jani had to fight hard for victory after being caught out by a safety car period that played an on-form Brazil and Sergio Jimenez well into play.

Indeed, Jani got the advantage at the start, his blue, white and red machine getting away well from the lights to lead Great Britain and France into the first few corners, Oliver Jarvis and Loic Duval - who clashed in the first race - swapping positions twice. In the end, Jarvis was the big loser from the first lap when Brazil capitalised on France's decisive move to snatch third.

Jimenez even briefly took second from France, before Duval switched back up the inside and took the position back. Their tussling had already cost them however, with Jani 2.7secs up the road after just a single lap.

Further back, there was more mayhem, the tight funnel into the first two corners creating plenty of contact that involved USA, Portugal, Canada, China, Australia and Czech Republic. Mostly delayed, only Portugal would fail to progress beyond the opening lap.

The mid-field shuffle did allow Ireland up into fifth by the end of the first lap, ahead of a slow-starting Germany, while Netherlands, India, Malaysia and South Africa rounded out the top ten.

However, while Alex Yoong had the home fans up on their feet with his strong start from 15th, he was soon back down to tenth behind Adrian Zaugg and under pressure from New Zealand's Jonny Reid immediately. Their battle came to an early conclusion though on lap two when Reid attempted to pass Yoong, but was instead clipped by the yellow machine, sending him spinning across the circuit. Although, remarkably, hit by no-one else, Reid was forced to limp back to the pit lane for a tyre change, while Yoong was also nursing a broken front-wing.

Settling down slightly over the next few laps, a few position changes saw Germany pass Ireland for fifth, China up to tenth at the expense of Mexico and South Africa through to eighth ahead of India.

Indeed, South Africa, who entered the weekend second in the standings, was on the move, with Zaugg quickly closing on the back of Netherlands Jeroen Bleekemolen. It didn't last though as the Zandvoort race winner lost control of his tail-happy car around turn seven, spinning around in the gravel trap. Attempting to get going again, Zaugg was otherwise beached, but even worse, his determination to get back on track caught out Robert Wickens a bit further behind, the Canadian reacting to his rivals movement and going off as a result.

With both cars stranded in the gravel trap, the safety car was called out just as the window for the first mandatory pit stop opened.

Prompting a flurry of activity amongst the drivers, only Indonesia and USA decided not to take advantage of the 'free stop'. However, the busy pit lane caused problems for a number of drivers, most notably Jani, who was held up by the French pit crew directly ahead.

Even more bizarrely, the red light was on at the end of the pit lane, causing a jam as the cars attempted to filter back onto the circuit. Although delayed, Switzerland - still stationary - were nosing ahead, with Brazil now just behind.

However, when the red light suddenly turned green, Jimenez got the break and surged out of the pit lane ahead of Jani, much to the Swiss driver's surprise.

It meant Brazil led for the first time as they came around to start the ninth lap of the race, with Switzerland second, Great Britain third after leapfrogging fourth place France, Germany fifth, Netherlands sixth, Ireland seventh - after being delayed by France also - and India eighth.

At the restart, Jimenez made no mistake and soared into a good lead while those behind battled over second place, with Jarvis briefly getting past Jani, only for the Champ Car World Series driver to pass him back straight away. Even worse for Jarvis, Duval took advantage again and put his French machine back into third place ahead of Great Britain.

Although Jimenez quickly posted the fastest lap of the race on new tyres and eked a good gap out of Jani initially, the Swiss driver slowly managed to peg back the advantage and within seven laps was just a tenth behind the former GP2 racer. Not that he could get past though, with Jimenez responding to everything that Jani was asking of him.

Having spent several laps battling to get back third, Jarvis slipped into the clutches of Germany's Michael Ammermuller, the two dicing for fourth position while Netherlands and Ireland looked on - at least the latter did until he spun down to tenth on lap 14.

However, having caused controversy in the first race by the way in which he muscled past Wickens for third, Ammermuller managed to produce an almost identical manoeuvre on Jarvis. However, whilst a completely identical move would have seen the German rub shoulders with Jarvis on the way through, this attempt merely saw him punt the Brit into a spin.

Prompting some furious reactions from the Great Britain crew, Jarvis recovered to sixth place, behind Bleekemolen and an also delayed Ammermuller. However, within a lap Ammermuller was being called in to serve a drive-through penalty for causing an avoidable accident.

Promoted two positions, Bleekemolen quickly put the pressure on France for third, feigning several moves before making one stick, very impressively, around the turn eight hairpin on lap 22.

He didn't have long to enjoy it though as the window for the second mandatory pit stops opened, with Jani taking full advantage to dive in at the first opportunity.

Keen not to race Brazil in the pit lane, Switzerland produced a perfect pit-stop and sent Jani out on his way, crucially, onto a clear circuit.

Despite Jani immediately putting the hammer down on new tyres to set fastest sector times, it took two laps for Jimenez to finally make his way into the pit lane. However, while the Argo Racing team produced an equally strong stop, Jimenez had not done enough to stay ahead of Jani and watched as, appropriately enough, he swept back past on the exit to the pit lane.

With several teams taking a chance on staying out as long as possible, including Netherlands, India, a still-running New Zealand and a recovering Germany, Switzerland was now effectively in the lead, with Brazil second, followed several seconds behind by France and Great Britain.

For France and Great Britain, their battle was with Netherlands, who were attempting to get a good enough gap back to their rivals whilst circulating in the lead. Eventually, they pitted on lap 27, but ruined their chances of staying ahead of France when a clutch problem prompted a brief stall from Bleekemolen. Still, Netherlands would still be ahead of Great Britain after they were given a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane.

Germany's afternoon proved even more eventful when Ammermuller collided with another car whilst doing the similar move that had already got him into trouble twice, Czech Republic's Erik Janis is victim this time.

Up ahead though, Switzerland were steaming ahead, Jani producing the fastest lap of the race to put seconds between himself and Brazil, Jimenez resigned to the fact his chance for a surprise victory had gone.

Eventually crossing the line with a margin of eight seconds, Switzerland completed their first-ever perfect weekend of two pole positions, two fastest laps and two race wins.

Brazil held onto second for their first podium in two years, but only after a determined effort by Duval to take it off him in the closing laps, the Frenchman finishing just half a second behind.

Netherlands kept their points tally ticking over with a fourth place finish, while China's stealthy advance up the field was rewarded with an impressive fifth.

Narain Karthikeyan gave India their best result of the season in sixth, ahead of Carroll in the recovering Ireland entry. Reid put in a fine performance for eighth despite completing three pit stops, while Australia are now off the mark after a superb defensive performance by Ian Dyk in ninth.

Indeed, the battle for those two points was an intense one and while Dyk eventually held on, special mention goes to Jarvis, who made up four positions in the final laps, including passing Jonathan Summerton on the final lap, to finish tenth and claim a solitary point.

Heading to the next round at Zhuhai, Switzerland have broken free in the points standings, their maximum of 20 points putting them ten ahead of the ever-consistent France, followed b New Zealand and Netherlands.

 

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