Neel Jani made Switzerland the sixth different winner in seven races when he romped to a comfortable lights-to-flag victory in the Sprint race for the fourth round of the A1 Grand Prix at Sepang, avenging his final lap defeat in last year's race.

Making the most of his pole position and the short Sprint race distance, Jani swept into the lead from the start and did not look back, laying to rest the agony of being beaten on the final lap by Alex Premat in the French entry last season.

Joining Jani on the podium were Niko Hulkenberg in second for Germany an New Zealand's Jonny Reid, but just as there was when they crashed at Brno, there was controversy between the pair after a collision at the start.

Getting away cleanly, Reid stayed close to Jani on the run up to the first corner and tried his luck at trying to get past the Swiss car. The move did not work though and instead allowed Hulkenberg to dive down the outside of Reid, making slight contact with his Super Nova counterpart and losing him momentum.

With Hulkenberg up to second, Reid had to make do with damaged suspension for the remainder of the race, but still managed to hold onto New Zealand's first podium of the season and indeed their first since the inaugural A1 event at Brands Hatch 14 months ago.

Still, while Reid was content with his best result of the series so far, he was nonetheless far from happy with his 'team-mate', claiming Hulkenberg merely ran into him.

"I am not smiling as I was run into in the first corner by my team-mate," said Reid, "I am not happy about that. We will have to sit down and talk about it again as it is the second time it has happened. We are lucky that we both didn't go off.

"He was right onto my rear tyre and I think for the remainder of the race the rear suspension was a bit damaged. I am a bit annoyed about it but third place is still third place and it is still good points and we have just got to get down and fine tune the car a bit more and get it right for the main race."

Hulkenberg was being rather more diplomatic, insisting he was not going to comment on the incident before seeing a replay.

"My start was pretty good and then into the first corner. I just know what happened in the first corner from my view, so I want to watch the TV footage to see what happened. I can't really tell you about this. I am confident but as we saw Neel is really quick on a long distance too, but I think it is a long race and everything can happen."

Away from the feuding top three, the battle for the remaining points paying positions in fourth, fifth and sixth were hotly contested, with both Great Britain and China seemingly not quite able to retain the pace that put them on the second and third rows of the grid.

Instead, it was Alex Yoong who thrilled crowds in his Malaysian car after battling his way up from seventh to finish an impressive fourth, a result that also moves the team back up to fourth in the championship order.

Robbie Kerr had to make do with fifth, but two points continued to keep Great Britain well in the mix for the leading positions, while Nicolas Lapierre used the fast, flowing Sepang circuit to move up from ninth to sixth and snatch the sixth and final point.

It was Jani though who was all smiles at the end of the race, his victory certainly an improvement on his comeback performance in Beijing where he struggled to reacclimatise himself to the A1 machinery.

"That was clean and constant and I was not trying to push too hard and it worked out," the Scuderia Toro Rosso test driver said. "I hope to do more, but Beijing was not really a race weekend as I guess it could have worked a lot better, but now at the first real race weekend to be back like that is fantastic.

Meanwhile, Hulkenberg's second has moved him back into the lead of the championship after Salvador Duran continued to struggle for Mexico, the Formula Three driver finishing down in eleventh place, while Beijing victors Italy continued their miserable weekend after Enrico Toccacelo was involved in a first lap clash with Czech Republic, Indonesia and Brazil, with only the latter of the quartet being able to continue after a spell in the pit lane.

 

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