A1 Monaco Practice and Qualifying

 A1GP Sepang, Malaysia

Sepang, 22 November 2008: A1 Team Monaco will start on the 8th row of the grid for the Sprint Race and in 11th position for the start of the Feature race tomorrow after a Saturday of mixed fortunes at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.

The teams got the 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 are allowed to use it for one of their four flying laps. The PowerBoost button gives an extra 60bhp on application, so teams were able to decide in which segment to play their joker, making the decision to deploy it for the Sprint or Feature race qualifying instrumental in determining how their race day could develop.

Following an encouraging Friday, Team Monaco struggled with car balance during this morning’s final practice session when Clivio Piccione set the sixteenth fastest lap time (1:50.699). The team made a good start, running in fourth place for the first part of the session, before moving down the time sheets as the session continued.

The Monegasque squad fared no better at the start of the afternoon when the team fell victim to an early red flag situation in SQ1 (Sprint race Qualifying Session 1). This limited running to less than two minutes and in a surge to record a lap time all 20 teams went out on track at once. Clivio was caught in the back of the pack and was one of five teams who ran out of time when they crossed the finish line. Team Monaco therefore had to make the most of SQ2 after the short break and Clivio pushed the car to improve on his morning’s practice time with a 1:50.171. He will start the Sprint race on the 8th row of the grid in 16th position tomorrow.

Clivio set an early competitive hot lap of 1:48.940 to sit in 2nd position at the start of FQ3, the first qualifying session for tomorrow’s Feature race. At the chequered flag Clivio’s time was one of only five set in the 1:48’s and was impressive enough to hold the team in 4th place at the end of the session. After the final five minute respite the last qualifying segment got underway and Clivio left the Monaco garage with four minutes of the session remaining. He was able to set a 1:48.242 which elevated the team to 2nd on the time sheets, but as the final few seconds of the session counted down, a sprint for the line by the established teams meant that Monaco’s time just slipped out of the top 10 to finish the segment in 11th position.

Clivio Piccione, Driver and Seat Holder: “We went out straight away this morning for practice and set a good lap time putting us in P4. The car was understeery and the track was pretty green, so we did few changes to cure the understeer, but the track came back quicker than we anticipated. We were not happy with our result, but we understood what we needed to do for Qualifying. In the first qualifying session we missed the chequered flag by one second. We ran the same tyres in SQ2 and set a good lap, but as many of the other teams were on new tyres, we ended up pretty far back. We started FQ3 on a new set of tyres and made a few changes to maximise grip and it actually went quite well. We set a good lap in FQ4 which put us up into P2 and we used the boost, so we were confident for at least a position on the first three rows. But on my final quick lap I lost the rear at turn 1 and lost time. We had a quick sector 2, but at turn 13 I lost a bit more time under braking. Everyone else’s times improved and we missed out on the position we expected, so overall it was quite frustrating and we know we have the potential to do better.”

Graham Taylor, Team Principal: “After four minutes of the first segment of qualifying there was a red flag deployed because of Korea, but the clock does not stop, so we were aware that time and space on track would get very tight. Our garage is at the top of the pitlane, so we have a long way to go. The cars in front of us were slow, so we missed the chequered flag by one second. During the second run we were only good enough to take 16th place which is a shame because we needed information from two full runs following a frustrating morning. For FQ3 Clivio put together a very good lap, finding the balance of the car which was encouraging as we still had the PowerBoost to use. Our final run did not live up to own expectations and leaves us with a lot to do tomorrow.”