Excitement is building ahead of this weekend’s A1GP Shanghai, China with A1 Team New Zealand, the only team that can stop Germany claiming the championship title this weekend, topping the timing sheets in this morning’s final practice session while A1 Team Germany set only the ninth fastest lap time. With race winning Nico Hülkenberg back behind the wheel of the German car, the team put in a fastest lap of 1.36.874, nearly one second off pace setter Jonny Reid (1.35.878).
Last year’s Feature race winners, A1 Team Malaysia benefited from yesterday’s track time, taking the opportunity to learn the new section of the track, clocking the second fastest lap time, up from ninth yesterday afternoon. Switzerland rounded up the top three, again improving on their seventh place finish of yesterday.
For A1 Teams USA and India, consistency seemed to be the key as they remained in fourth and fifth respectively while for A1 Team Great Britain, yesterday’s pace failed to materialise. Driver Robbie Kerr, who is looking to match the Feature race win scored by team mate, Oliver Jarvis at the last event in Mexico, set a fastest lap time of 1.36.622, over one second slower than yesterday’s time (1.35.573).
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
|Jean Karl VERNAY
|Renger VAN DER ZANDE
|Alan VAN DER MERWE
Great Britain snatched the top spot ahead of tomorrow’s A1GP Shanghai Sprint race in the dying seconds of qualifying this afternoon, taking their first pole position in 25 races. Driver, Robbie Kerr, put in a blistering performance which knocked New Zealand’s Jonny Reid off an almost certain pole as the chequered flag dropped for the final segment. Great Britain and New Zealand sit ahead of the USA and Germany, followed by India and Switzerland on the third row of the grid.
Commenting on the team’s performance, Kerr said: ‘We had been going at it all the way through qualifying and over night we tried a few different changes on the car which we had to back-peddle on because they didn’t work quite as we expected, so through qualifying we had to re-work the car and just get used to it again and get the car handling how we wanted it. So it was just building on what we had done through the other qualifying segments and just put them all together and that’s what we went out there and did. We were pretty confident it was going to stay dry throughout the whole of the sessions and we just wanted to give ourselves that extra bit of time to make a few changes to run through the car more deeply and so we could really make that last session count.’
A1 Team USA’s Jonathan Summerton set the pace for qualifying clocking the fastest time in segment one, clearly showing he still has the form that put him on the podium last time out in Mexico. New Zealand followed this up with a stunning performance in the second segment, with Great Britain topping the timing sheets in segment three.
As segment four came to a close, all three teams were out with New Zealand and the USA battling for pole and Germany sitting in a tentative third spot ahead of Great Britain. The fight for pole looked set to be between the top two and when New Zealand shaved just two hundredths of a second off the USA’s time, pole position appeared to be in the bag. Great Britain’s Robbie Kerr, who is no doubt looking to better his team mate’s Mexico Feature race win with a double this weekend came back fighting and clocked the fastest lap of the weekend so far with a time of 1.34.756.
Also looking to improve on his third place in Mexico, the USA’s Jonathan Summerton commented on his qualifying performance: ‘You always have to look at what the traffics doing in front of you and where everybody’s going but I think hopefully we just want to survive the Sprint race and get a good grid position for the Feature, and finish on the podium again. We can have another good result and hopefully we can finish in the Feature race in the top three again and be on the podium it would make me very happy. But you know finishing third I was hoping to get second where we were starting there but you know Robbie put together a very good lap and I did my best.’
New Zealand’s Jonny Reid who is looking to ensure the championship race stays open for the season finale in Brands Hatch later this month, aims to stop Germany taking the maximum points here in Shanghai this weekend. Commenting on Great Britain’s last minute pole, Reid said: ‘I’m disappointed, but I can’t complain with a front row start, there has been a few this season so I’ll take another one. I don't know where he (GBR's Robbie Kerr) came from in setting that last lap time. I'm happy given it's my first crack at the circuit and I'm on the front row, but I'm still disappointed we couldn't nail the top spot."
Tomorrow’s Sprint race at the Shanghai International Circuit will start at 11.00 local time and will determine the grid positions for the afternoon’s 70-minute Feature race.
|Jean Karl Vernay
|Alan van der Merwe
|Renger van der Zande
Nominated drivers for the Sprint race – A1GP Shanghai, China
|Jean Karl Vernay
|Renger van der Zande
|Alan van der Merwe