There were a few unexpected faces in various cars during third practice for the ninth round of the A1 Grand Prix series in Mexico, and many are likely to remain on board for the all-important qualifying session.

While Australia and China both changed their driver nominations before the start of the morning session - with Christian Jones taking the place of Marcus Marshall and Tengyi Jiang swapping places with Ma Qinghua - perhaps the most telling shift came at Team Mexico, where Sentul podium visitor Salvador Duran received the call to replace local favourite David Martinez.

The British F3 class winner had not expected to be favoured this weekend, but Martinez's lowly performances in Friday practice caused the team to rethink its strategy. Duran responded with seventh spot in final practice, despite not having driven at all on the opening day. All three 'replacement' drivers were subsequently nominated to remain in their cars for qualifying, where they will be joined by the impressive Graham Rahal, who makes his A1 debut for Team Lebanon.

The third official practice session was a quieter affair than either of Friday's, as clear conditions meant a dry track and no red flags throughout the hour-long outing. South Africa's Stephen Simpson set the pace by a massive six-tenths from Ireland's Ralph Firman, with the Netherlands, Switzerland and Brazil completing the top five.

Friday pacesetters France and New Zealand were only tenth and 18th, with Brazil, Britain, Mexico, the USA and Italy all showing strongly.

The full list of nominated qualifying drivers is as follows:

Australia Christian JonesAustria Patrick FriesacherBrazil Christian FittipaldiCanada Patrick CarpentierChina Ma QinghuaCzech Republic Tomas EngeFrance Alexandre PrematGermany Timo ScheiderGreat Britain Robbie KerrIndonesia Ananda MikolaIreland Ralph FirmanItaly Enrico ToccaceloJapan Hayanari ShimodaLebanon Graham RahalMalaysia Alex YoongMexico Salvador DuranNetherlands Jos VerstappenNew Zealand Matt HallidayPortugal Alvaro ParenteSouth Africa Stephen SimpsonSwitzerland Neel JaniUSA Bryan Herta

 

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