Switzerland and Ireland take pole positions
In heat of 30 degrees Celsius with humidity of 66%, the A1GP drivers were pushed to their limits this afternoon as they took to the demanding Sepang International Circuit.
The A1 teams also had the first chance to play a PowerBoost ‘joker’ in qualifying today, with a new rule aimed at adding a new strategic element to Saturdays. The functionality of the new A1GP Powered by Ferrari car allows for the PowerBoost button to be available for an entire lap of Qualifying, and teams will be allowed to use it for one of their four flying laps. The PowerBoost button gives an extra 60bhp on application, so the ability to use it throughout a lap is likely to make a significant difference to the car’s capability.
The first segment of qualifying was interrupted by a red flag when Korea’s Jin Woo Hwang stopped out on track. The clock continued to tick down while the car was moved, resulting in a frantic rush in the dying seconds of the session as the rest of the field attempted to get over the line to start a flying lap before the checkered flag came out.
Monaco, Mexico, Malaysia and Brazil missed the cut while France took the initial advantage with a 1m 49.173s. In the second Sprint qualifying segment, New Zealand used the PowerBoost to take provisional pole position with a strong lap from Earl Bamber of 1m 47.779s.
Switzerland’s Neel Jani then put in a great lap to grab the Sprint race pole position, recording a 1m 47.154s without the help of the PowerBoost button.
France’s Loïc Duval will start alongside him on the front row with New Zealand’s Earl Bamber taking advantage of the new qualifying PowerBoost system to post the third fastest time. Portugal will start fourth and Italy fifth, in its best qualifying performance of the season.
With about two and a half minutes of the first session of Feature qualifying remaining, all the teams piled out of the pits. Ireland took provisional pole position, ahead of France, Australia and Monaco with Switzerland down in fifth.
“It’s nice to bring Lebanon forward seeing how they have struggled in the past,” said Morad, “but it’s just another race and I’m going to try to do the best I can. I know the team is going to do great and we are one of the quickest during the pit stops so I think we can actually move forward from this position. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, it could rain, it could be dry, but I’m just really excited to be so high up.”
Sprint pole-sitter Jani will start 16th for the Feature race making for two completely different looking grids for tomorrow’s races.
Sprint race pole-sitter, Switzerland’s Neel Jani said: “We had some troubles in Q1 with traffic, but we did a better lap in Q2 which was enough for my sixth pole here so I’m pretty happy about that.
“Unfortunately, with this new rule allowing PowerBoost on one of the qualifying segments, I used it in Q2 and some used it in Q4. The ones using it in Q4 would be ahead so it was pretty clear that I wouldn’t get pole for that one.
“It was good for the Sprint race but not as good for the Feature race, I think I’m as far back as I’ve ever been in my A1GP career.”
France’s Duval, also on the front row for the Sprint race and ninth for the Feature said: “It was not so bad, I mean the first qualifying for the Sprint race I did quite a good lap, I just made some mistakes at the end because of the car set up, so we improved a bit and at the end it was quite good. We’re not fast enough without the PowerBoost but we are still ninth for the Feature race so we still have a good chance.”
Commenting on the team’s decision to use PowerBoost for the Sprint race, he continued: “I didn’t want to take it. It was not wrong but just not lucky; I mean 80% of the guys took it for the last segment and 20% for the second one. It was quite a good qualifying, I made a mistake for the Sprint race and actually I think I did a good lap for the Feature race because I did 1m 47.9s without the PowerBoost so I’m quite happy about that.”
Feature race pole-sitter Adam Carroll said: “That was my first pole for the Feature race and I wanted that one badly. It was quite a good lap but obviously there is the PowerBoost and that’s when I chose to use it.
“It’s going to be hot tomorrow, so we will be even redder and sweatier. There is not much you can do in England to prepare for temperatures like this, not only is it hot but it’s really humid and that what makes it quite difficult.“
Great Britain’s Danny Watts, sixth and second tomorrow, was surprised by his Feature race effort: “I came straight on the radio to the team to say I’m sorry as it didn’t feel like a particularly good lap and I made a couple of mistakes so I was relieved, but I should have driven a lot quicker, because I was too slow for the Sprint race.
“It’s the big day tomorrow though so that’s where it all matters, and it’s good that we’ve got the pace and we’ll focus on that now.”
Home nation, A1 Team Malaysia made up for the disappointment in Sprint qualifying by posting a 1m 47.648s to start fourth in the Feature race. Fairuz Fauzy commented: “There’s mixed emotions, but overall I’m happy with our performance. We went out early for the first run but were caught out by the red flag. Being the furthest in the pitlane made it difficult to get back out in time for another run and we didn’t make it, so I only had one shot at the Sprint race qualifying. On my second run we went out and tried to find a space, but ended up catching the traffic, so I’m a bit disappointed for the Sprint race qualifying. For the Feature race we started over and put in a solid lap to start with, saving our PowerBoost for the final run and making a very strong recovery.
“After the Sprint race qualifying I was very disappointed and frustrated in the car but I tried to keep my mind strong and think positive and was feeling very determined. I think we can target the top three for the Feature race tomorrow, with a good strategy and good weather on our side. For the Sprint race the aim will be a points’ finish and I think that’s achievable.”
With the weather also a factor in tomorrow’s races and with two very different looking grids, both races look set to be just as thrilling as today’s qualifying sessions.
Sprint Race Qualifying Results - A1GP Sepang, Malaysia
Feature Race Qualifying Results - A1GP Sepang, Malaysia
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