The continuing wet weather played an integral role at Circuit Park Zandvoort today. A1 Team Monaco were forced to retire after an incident on lap two of the Sprint race, but rallied to a commendable 6th place in this afternoon’s Feature race. The mixed fortune in results means that the newest team on the 2008/09 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport Powered by Ferrari grid is currently in 6th place in the championship with 5 points.
Starting from fifth on the grid behind the safety car for the start of this morning’s 14-lap Sprint race, Clivio was in a good position when the safety car returned to the pits at the beginning of lap two. However, when Adam Carroll of A1 Team Ireland immediately spun on the exceedingly wet track across the front of the pack, Clivio had no space to manoeuvre the car around Carroll resulting in front bodywork damage and immediate retirement.
The focus then switched to the afternoon’s 40-lap Feature race, with Clivio beginning to the rear of the grid with A1 Team Korea. After a safety car race start, the parade of cars continued to make their way carefully around the track in ever worsening weather, track and visibility conditions. Clivio maintained a solid pace after the safety car went in and had risen to 8th place with 34 laps remaining when aquaplaning became an issue for many of the teams. Clivio remained out of trouble and put continuous pressure on the cars ahead until the team made its first mandatory stop on lap 10.
After a delay in the first pitstop caused by an issue with a wheel gun, Clivio emerged in 9th place ahead of Korea and Indonesia, with the top three teams yet to make their initial stops. The safety car was deployed once again, on lap 16, when Korea and Portugal both left the track and remained out for three laps. Clivio, now running in 8th place, was able to maintain position until his right front wing endplate became damaged when he ran wide with 18 laps of the race remaining and he came into the pits. With the loose bodywork removed, the team sent Clivio back out on track, seeing the chance scoring its first championship points as only ten teams remained in the race. He emerged just behind the home team Netherlands out of the stop and made his final mandatory pitstop on the second last lap of the race. This was made under safety car rules, following the accident involving A1 Teams Lebanon and China, and Clivio was held at the end of the pitlane, to be allowed to rejoin the race on the final lap. As the safety car came in and the seven remaining cars made a charge for the line, Clivio took the chequered flag in 6th position to take the team’s first championship points of the season.
Clivio Piccione: “It was difficult starting from the back of the grid for the Feature race as visibility was zero. It was unbelievably slippery and the car was difficult to handle and to keep on the track, so I said to myself ‘just get to the end of the race’. We were gaining positions lap after lap and I was feeling good in the car. Unfortunately we had a problem in the first pitstop and we lost quite a lot of time. I was then catching the cars in front of me when I overshot the chicane and landed on the grass. I lost a front flap and from there on the car as just un-driveable for a couple of laps, so Graham (Taylor) called me in to remove the broken piece. Unfortunately it was not in the official pitstop window, so we knew that we had to do another stop. From that point on the car was difficult to drive; I had a lot of understeer in the right-hand corners and although I went quicker and tried to push, I was careful it was not too much, but just enough to keep my position and to finish the race. The second pitstop was good; I think that the team did a good job, but unfortunately, again, the safety car was deployed and we got held at the end of the pitlane for a couple of minutes. I do not know what would have been the result without those two misfortunes and if we did not have a three-stop race, but overall I am happy. We got some points on our first weekend and I am happy for the team also. Sixth place in the championship is not a bad start.”
Graham Taylor, Team Principal: "The sprint race was a disappointment, but I think that we made up for that in the second race. Clivio did exceptionally well staying on the circuit in treacherous conditions whilst a lot of experienced drivers suffered retirement because of the weather. Being such a new team we have a lot of work to do from a pitstop point of view and I do not understand why we were held at the end of the pitlane when the safety car was deployed. In the grand scale of things it did not cost us anything, and to finish in the top six in our first feature race is very encouraging, so we look forward to our next race weekend in China.”