Rookie drivers Oliver Jarvis and Renger van der Zande set the pace in the final
practice session for this morning’s A1GP Mexico City, Mexico this morning with Great Britain and the Netherlands topping the timing sheets and setting a strong challenge for the regular race drivers.
In a shake up of yesterday’s results, India, Brazil, the Czech Republic and Portugal all made dramatic improvements to move up the timing sheets with the usual race leaders New Zealand and Germany coming in fourth and 11th respectively. The 2006/07 championship title is within reach of both teams and a strong performance from Germany could see them leave Mexico City with the title sown up. Both will be looking to improve on this morning’s performance ahead of this afternoon’s Sprint race qualifying session.
For Great Britain and the Netherlands, qualifying will pose new challenges to both drivers with neither having taken part in this stage of an A1GP weekend before. Van der Zande is also set to take part in his first A1GP race, driving in tomorrow’s Sprint race before handing the wheel back to main driver Jeroen Bleekemolen for the Feature race.
The teams now have to decide on their set up before qualifying for the Sprint race begins at 14.15 this afternoon. Qualifying consists of four 15 minute sessions with a five minute break between each. Only one driver per A1 Team is allowed to take part in Qualifying and that driver must have completed at least three timed laps in an Official Practice session. Each driver is limited to three laps - effectively one “flying lap” - per session and must record at least two times, an aggregate of which will determine that A1 Team’s position on the grid for Sunday’s Sprint race. The grid for the Feature race will be determined by the outcome of the Sprint race.
Official Practice Session 3
|Renger VAN DER ZANDE
|Jean Karl VERNAY
A1 Team Malaysia has taken its first Sprint race pole of the 2006/07 season showing the rookies who topped the morning practice session that experience pays when the pressure is on. Germany’s Christian Vietoris, competing in his first full race weekend qualified alongside Malaysia’s Alex Yoong on the front row of the grid, continuing the nation’s charge for the championship title.
After fixing the electronic failure that saw Malaysia retire early from the third practice session, Alex Yoong recorded the fastest lap in three of the four qualifying segments. He commented: ‘The car was very good. We struggled a little bit in the morning, but I think it is important that we didn’t panic. We thought it was the tyres with them going off a little bit more than we expected but the car was very strong for qualifying.’
Talking about his race prospects, Yoong went on to say: ‘I am confident that tomorrow will be good. We did have concerns we were using the tyres too hard yesterday and this morning, we know what the problem is and we will fix it and the car will be fine tomorrow.’
For Germany’s Vietoris, who is stepping in while regular driver Nico Hülkenberg fulfils prior commitments elsewhere, the weekend has been a steep learning curve. ‘I have to work hard the whole weekend on the car and I have learn a lot now. Friday was a good day as we worked a lot on the car and I am happy with how the weekend has gone. We made some changes between sessions two and three and for qualifying four it was the best car,’ he said.
Fellow rookie, Oliver Jarvis put in a strong performance for A1 Team Great Britain, sitting on the second row of the grid after his first ever A1GP qualifying session. Jarvis drove for the British team in Beijing but, with qualifying cancelled, today presented his first opportunity to show the speed of his flying laps. ‘We have a very strong car here. We have stepped up and up and we will see what happens tomorrow,’ he commented.
Jarvis continued: ‘I think it is probably the most difficult track we go to. In sections two and three you have consecutive corners going into each other. You are probably going to see a few guys making mistakes as the race goes on. It is also going to make it very difficult to be consistent with the bumps. However, we have a consistent car and I hope we can come through and get a good result.’
Host nation Mexico, will start the Sprint race from fourth on the grid after a consistent performance saw Salvador Duran in the top five fastest laps in all of the last thee segments. Duran commented: ‘The car is very good and the team have done a great job but I am still working for tomorrow to be better. I think we have the car to finish in the top three in the Feature race and I think it will depend on the weather. I feel very good, I feel I can go for it. This is my home town so I have to race with my heart. I hope I can do.’
For A1 Team New Zealand, a disappointing qualifying session has placed Jonny Reid 14th on the grid, the first time this season that Black Beauty has not been seen on the front two rows. Being one of only two teams that can challenge Germany’s title hopes, the unexpected grid position will force the team to take another look at the car’s set up in order to deliver a strong performance in tomorrow’s two races.
A1 Teams Brazil and USA’s failure to clock a time in one of the three sessions did not hinder their progress with both teams qualifying in the top ten, despite spins in segments one and four respectively. Pakistan’s spin in the third segment caused the only red flag of the session but the car was quickly re-started and segment resumed in time for all other teams to get on track for their flying lap.
Tomorrow’s Sprint race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez will start at 11.00 local time and will determine the grid positions for the afternoon’s 70-minute Feature race.
|Jean Karl Vernay
|Ho Pin Tung
|Renger van der Zande
Nominated drivers for the Sprint race – A1GP Mexico City, Mexico
|Ho Pin Tung
|Jean Karl Vernay
|Renger van der Zande
Reporting by A1GP.com