Verstappen and Firman fastest in Sepang The A1 drivers and A1 Cooper tires were tested to the limit today in the searing heat of the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia. With a track temperature of 39ºC and an ambient temperature of 32ºC, this was A1 Grand Prix's hottest two sessions to date. (Photo right, Neel Jani pulls out of the garage in front of empty grandstands - no fan can stand the heat in Sepang. Photo Courtesy A1 Grand Prix)
In a relatively trouble free day, with no red flags, the drivers took their time to learn their way around this highly technical circuit. The fastest lap time of the day was put in by a master of the Sepang circuit, A1 Team Netherlands’s Jos Verstappen. Verstappen last raced at Sepang with F1 in 2001 when he went from seventeenth to sixth in the first lap of the race and then worked his way up to second place as the rain fell. A slow pit stop and drying track saw Verstappen finish the race in seventh.
Commenting on his performance Verstappen said: 'We were trying a lot of different set ups with the car, but not a lot of things worked as the grip level was falling and the track was very slippery. It will certainly make for a very interesting qualifying session tomorrow.'
A1 Team Brazil recorded the day's second fastest lap time in practice session one despite a run in with A1 Team Canada. Commenting on the collision Nelson Piquet Jr said 'I was doing a quick lap and I think Sean had just left the pits. I saw him going slower in front of me and came off the throttle, which put the car into a spin. Unfortunately I hit Sean slightly, although our car had little damage. We always do well in the practice sessions with new tires, and I think we will do well in the qualifying tomorrow.'
Another master of the Sepang circuit, Ralf Firman put in the fastest lap of practice session two, with a time of 1.56.663. He said, 'It's great now that I will be able to concentrate on A1GP for the rest of the season. We had a good day today, even though it was hard and there was little grip. It isn't quite as hot here as it is in Japan where I have raced before, but it will be very difficult towards the end of the second race on Sunday. The main difficulty will be to keep hydrated. Drivers who have a good level of fitness should be fine.'
A1 Team Malaysia are among only three teams that are preparing to share the driving duties this weekend, with both Alex Yoong and Fairuz Fauzy taking their turn in the yellow A1 car. Fauzy, who drove in both of today's practice sessions said: 'During the first session we had a problem with the rear suspension and by the time we had solved it the session had finished. The tires started to go away during the second session and by the end of the session, I could not push anymore.'
Asked if the publicity surrounding his home race was distracting, Alex Yoong who will be in the Malaysian car for tomorrow's session, said 'I am doing promotional activity, but I'm here as a racing driver and that is what I concentrate on. Both Fairuz and I have raced here before so we both have experience on the track.'
Official Practice Session 1 (13.00 - 14.00)
Pos Team Driver Time Laps
1. Netherlands Jos Verstappen 1:56.342 17
2. Brazil Nelson Piquet Jr 1:56.351 + 0.009 12
3. Ireland Ralph Firman 1:56.737 + 0.395 10
4. France Alexandre Premat 1:56.917 + 0.575 16
5. Portugal Alvaro Parente 1:57.272 + 0.930 16
6. New Zealand Matt Halliday 1:57.282 + 0.940 19
7. Pakistan Adam Khan 1:57.393 + 1.051 18
8. Malaysia Fairuz Fauzy 1:57.494 + 1.152 9
9. Switzerland Neel Jani 1:57.564 + 1.222 19
10. Canada Sean McIntosh 1:57.818 + 1.476 12
11. Czech Republic Jaroslav Janis 1:57.899 + 1.557 18
12. Great Britain Robbie Kerr 1:58.002 + 1.660 19
13. South Africa Stephen Simpson 1:58.246 + 1.904 16
14. USA Bryan Herta 1:58.251 + 1.909 16
15. Japan Hayanari Shimoda 1:58.324 + 1.982 20
16. Indonesia Ananda Mikola 1:58.379 + 2.037 9
17. Austria Mathias Lauda 1:58.414 + 2.072 18
18. Italy Enrico Toccacelo 1:58.507 + 2.165 18
19. Australia Christian Jones 1:58.968 + 2.626 19
20. Lebanon Khalil Beschir 1:59.139 + 2.797 19
21. Mexico Luis Diaz 1:59.562 + 3.220 18
22. India Armaan Ebrahim 1:59.791 + 3.449 21
23. China Tengyi Jiang 2:00.019 + 3.677 8
Official Practice session 2 (16.00 - 17.00)
Pos Team Driver Time Laps
1. Ireland Ralph Firman 1:56.663 20
2. Canada Sean McIntosh 1:56.952 + 0.289 18
3. USA Bryan Herta 1:57.188 + 0.525 19
4. Czech Republic Tomas Enge 1:57.273 + 0.610 23
5. France Alexandre Premat 1:57.316 + 0.653 19
6. Brazil Nelson Piquet 1:57.344 + 0.681 15
7. Great Britain Robbie Kerr 1:57.347 + 0.684 18
8. Switzerland Neel Jani 1:57.374 + 0.711 17
9. Malaysia Fairuz Fauzy 1:57.506 + 0.843 18
10. Netherlands Jos Verstappen 1:57.525 + 0.862 16
11. Indonesia Ananda Mikola 1:57.605 + 0.942 13
12. South Africa Stephen Simpson 1:57.871 + 1.208 20
13. Italy Enrico Toccacelo 1:57.918 + 1.255 13
14. Japan Hayanari Shimoda 1:57.929 + 1.266 17
15. China Tengyi Jiang 1:57.959 + 1.296 19
16. New Zealand Matt Halliday 1:57.994 + 1.331 21
17. Australia Will Davison 1:58.040 + 1.377 19
18. Pakistan Adam Khan 1:58.066 + 1.403 12
19. Portugal Alvaro Parente 1:58.488 + 1.825 15
20. Mexico Luis Diaz 1:58.796 + 2.133 20
21. India Armaan Ebrahim 1:59.043 + 2.380 22
22. Lebanon Khalil Beschir 2:00.146 + 3.483 5
23. Austria Mathias Lauda no time 0
When A1 Team Austria started their car to enter the second official practice session, the 3.4 liter V8 was only running on seven cylinders. Despite A1 engineers spending the entire session in the team's garage, they were not able to rectify the problem in time for Mathias Lauda to take part in the session.