Once again Nelson Piquet Jr marked Team Brazil out as France's main challengers in the third round of the A1 Grand Prix Championship in Portugal on Sunday, the son of triple F1 World Champion Nelson Piquet taking second in the sprint race and then fighting back from one lap down to take eighth place in the main feature.

Although France's Alexandre Premat was able to take advantage of a very slow rolling start to the 18-lap feature race and dive underneath the pole winning Brazilian machine for the lead at turn one, Piquet Jr remained in touch with the fleeing Frenchman throughout the race, crossing the line just two seconds adrift of Premat for another handy points haul.

Sitting on the outside of the front row for the feature race alongside France, it all went wrong for Brazil when the green light flashed as the car stalled and took more than a full lap to restart.

Helped by the appearance of the safety car just 12 laps into the 36 lap race, Piquet Jr then achieved what no other driver could all day as he passed race leader Premat to unlap himself on lap 17, just a couple of corners before Holland and Germany collided to bring the safety car out again.

Despite still being some 20 seconds behind the main pack when the green flag waved again, Piquet Jr was electrifying in the final 16 laps, making mincemeat of the backmarkers and surging into the points with ten laps to go. From there Piquet Jr passed the Team Austria entry with six laps to go and was closing rapidly on the three-team battle for fifth when the chequered flag finally waved.

"I'm happy I got the second place in the sprint race, although obviously I'm disappointed I couldn't win the race," said Piquet Jr, who was at the mercy of the incredibly slow pace car until the very last minute. "It was a messy start because the pace car stayed in front of us for a long time before it suddenly went in at the last moment. Alex just came from nowhere and braked really late and I had to give him the space or I would have crashed.

"We improved the car between the races and I'm really unhappy that I made the bad mistake at the start when I stalled the car. Then when the marshals pushed the car into the pits it took too long to restart. I am sure we could have been in the top five if we did not lose the whole lap at the start. It was looking really good because we just kept gaining places, made up a whole lap and then got right up to 8th. We did an okay pitstop which is the first one that has worked so far, so that looks good for the next race."

Running second overall with nine of the twelve rounds remaining, Brazil now has an eight point deficit to France with the next round of the series taking place in two weeks time in Australia.

 

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