Rising single seater star Neel Jani was in blistering form at the EuroSpeedway in Germany on Sunday as he came close to giving Switzerland their first win in the inaugural A1 Grand Prix Series.

Although the Swiss entry would eventually succumb to the same air-gun/wheel nut problem that affected more than half the field in the feature race, the fact that he was able to charge his way back up to fifth place, nicely complimenting his runner-up finish in the earlier sprint race, clearly marked him out as someone to watch this year.

Jani's double points score helped elevate Switzerland into fourth place in the overall standings, behind only Brazil, France and New Zealand.

The German weekend started well for the 21 year-old driver, as he placed the Swiss entry on the outside of the third row for the 18-lap sprint race. After successfully avoiding the first turn shenanigans that eliminated several front-runners Jani found himself in second place, holding off double Brands Hatch winner Nelson Piquet Jr. While France's Nicolas Lapierre would remain out of reach all weekend, Jani successfully held off Piquet Jr all the way to the chequered flag.

Jani's second place finish in the sprint translated into a front row starting slot for the main 35 lap feature and thanks to an excellent standing start he was able to take the Max Welti run Swiss entry into the first turn ahead of the pole sitting French car.

Jani held the lead for three laps before France squeezed through before retaking the point when Lapierre pitted. Choosing to make a late pit stop Jani was one of the last to make their mandatory trips down pit road on lap 19, where a locked wheel nut cost the team precious time.

Just as Jani left pit road, the safety car was deployed, at least putting the Swiss entry right on the back of those ahead of him. However his slow stop had pushed him back to sixth position and ended all hopes of victory.

While Jani showed his future potential by passing former Formula One driver Ralph Firman in the Team Ireland entry, he couldn't close the gap to the fourth placed New Zealand entry, taking the chequered flag just over a second shy of the all black car.

"There's no doubt: second place would have been possible in the feature race today as well," said a disappointed Jani. "After the problem with the tyre change I now have no choice but to be satisfied with fifth place. The team did a great job preparing the car for the race; we had two good starts and showed two good races. I realised that I was able to keep up with the pace of A1 Team France and to consistently drive fast laps. This gives me a very positive feeling for the next rounds. At Estoril we're going to attack again."

"This wasn't an easy weekend for us," added team manager Max Welti. "But second place in the sprint and fifth in the feature race give us a reason to smile. It's just a shame that a weakness in our technology concept, an excessively delicate thread used with the wheel nuts deprived us of a better result. Yet as a team we're going to Estoril, knowing that we're part of the action at the very front of the field."

 

Comments

Loading Comments...