Youngster Nico H?lkenberg celebrated his first weekend of competition in the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport with a stunning victory as A1 Team Germany enjoyed a winning start to the season at Zandvoort.

The teenager qualified in fourth position on the grid for his first race and stormed ahead of A1 Team France in his first-ever rolling start in the sprint race, only to drop back behind Nicolas Lapierre shortly afterwards, Unable to take the challenge to the GP2 ace, H?lkenberg settled for fourth place to secure the first three points of the season for A1 Team Germany.

In the dry when the feature race started, H?lkenberg initially ran third behind Mexico and France and claimed second on lap four. Pitting on lap 20 for rain tyres when conditions changed, H?lkenberg briefly dropped back to third but was up into second place when he came into the pits again on lap 32 to switch to slick tyres on the drying track.

In the space of four laps, the 19-year-old closed a 25 second gap to leader Jeroen Bleekemolen over the course of just four laps and swept ahead on lap 38 to claim a lead he wasn't to lose, taking the flag by just under eight seconds from Team USA driver Phil Giebler.

"That was an amazing first race in A1 GP!" H?lkenberg said. "In the sprint race, we finished fourth. When the car started to understeer in lap four, we could no longer attack. We tried to dial out the understeering with some minor set-up changes for the second heat.

"The feature race started in the dry. In lap 20, I pitted when it started raining. Jeroen Bleekemolen's A1 Team Netherlands car was faster in the rain. When it started drying off, Nicolas Lapierre's French car got slower and I overtook him. I pitted for new slicks in lap 32, whereas the Dutch car stayed out on rain tyres and dropped back. I thought I had to lap A1 Team USA, but my team told me on the radio to attack and go for P1 just four minutes from the end. Only then I realised that I had a chance to win. I really didn't expect this victory in my inaugural A1 GP race."

H?lkenberg's performance means Germany hold the early lead in the championship standings with 13 points, two ahead of Mexico and four clear of USA.

"I'm really pleased," seat holder Willi Weber said. "This is an excellent result in the A1 Grand Prix series on a wonderful day in motorsport. Nico has shown an immaculate performance on his first outing for our team. He never risked anything, drove a safe race and still won it by a considerable margin. After the tests in August, it was clear that his skills allowed him to handle a car perfectly that is not easy to drive. We feel a boost in everybody's motivation after this stunning success at Zandvoort. Already in a week's time, we have the chance to continue our streak at Brno. I hope we will do well again."

 

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