Sepang, Malaysia Neel Jani became the fifth different race winner this season as A1 Team Switzerland took victory in a dramatic Sprint race at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia. After a red flag, Switzerland controlled the re-start and made a slick pit-stop to take a comfortable win in the hot and humid conditions. Frances Loc Duval finished second ahead of a charging Earl Bamber for A1 Team New Zealand.
As the cars came in formation towards the rolling start, an incident involving USA, Brazil and India brought out the red flag. The pack appeared to pick up pace as it approached the start line, but then backed off causing a concertina effect towards the back of the field.
The USA car of Marco Andretti and the Brazilian car of Felipe Guimares took it in turn to climb over the back of Narain Karhtikeyans Indian entry scattering debris across the pit straight.
Marco Andretti commented: Im disappointed. You can say its unavoidable but at the time I thought everyone was going and I could only see two rows ahead of me. I couldnt see ahead of the whole field. I was about to grab fourth gear, and as soon as the rear tyres were hooking up that was when I needed to be stopping the car so there was no hope. Once you are committed you are kind of stuck with it. In the States you either go or you dont. Here, they went, and then stopped. No one was to blame, it was just racing, but ultimately I crashed out two cars.
Australia's John Martin had lightening reactions to dive left and onto the grass to avoid the accident as the race was immediately red flagged.
After a 30-minute delay the cars lined up in single file to start behind the Safety Car, but Danny Watts was now in trouble having to crawl back to the pits as the Great Britain car was stuck in first gear.
With the race finally underway, Switzerland held the lead as the pack came round for a cautious single file race start. Further down the field, David Garza was under pressure losing out to The Netherlands Jeroen Bleekemolen, who grabbed seventh round the outside of the Mexican at Turn 9.
South Africa then made a move down the inside of the final hairpin to pass Mexico and as the pair both ran wide, home nation Malaysia was right in the thick of the action, as Fairuz Fauzy snatched eighth going through on the inside of both cars.
South Africa tried to fight back and as the pair went wheel-to-wheel they touched with Malaysia picking up a left rear puncture. Fauzy limped back to the pits much to the disappointment of the Malaysian crowd.
After 3 laps the order at the front settled with Switzerland having a 2.3-second lead from France, New Zealand, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands and South Africa. With changes to the regulations this season, the cars headed towards their first ever mandatory Sprint race pit stop with France and New Zealand being the first to dive in.
France had a slower stop, and New Zealands Earl Bamber was released alongside France. With New Zealands nose being just ahead France was forced to ease off allowing Bamber to take the position as the pair exited the pit lane. However, the team made the call to give the position back to France to avoid any further penalty for what could be deemed to be an unsafe release.
A lap later Jani pitted and, after a slick stop by the Swiss crew, rejoined with a comfortable lead. A great stop from the Irish team also leap-frogged Adam Carroll ahead of Italy and into fifth. On lap 7 the order was Switzerland still up at the front from New Zealand, France, Portugal, Ireland, Netherlands, Italy and Australia.
Switzerland held on to win the Sepang Sprint race for the third year running to become the fifth different race winner in the five races so far this season.
It was a great race, we had very good pace, a good re-start and pit stop so it was just a perfect race for me, said Jani.
The big race is the Feature race though, and we are at the back of the grid so its a totally different task. Its about the average of the weekend and we need to get a good points average.
Frances Loc Duval said: The pit stop was not that good and I ended up third. I thought New Zealand may have a drive-through or something like that as the car was released in front of me from the stop, but he let me go back past. The car was not that good so we have to improve a little bit for this afternoon but after that, we were ok and there was no problem at all.
We got a really good pit stop, said Bamber who brought Black Beauty home in third. The team did a fantastic job and it was quite close between me and Loc where I just squeezed past, but the team radioed me to let France back past because of an unsafe release. I let him pass on the back straight and then I finished the race in third. It was a good result so we will see how I do from 15th this afternoon.