A1 Team Brasil is today celebrating an incredible result after Sergio Jimenez drove to second place in this afternoon's feature race at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia. It is the Brazilian squad's best result since Nelson Piquet Jr took second in the sprint race in Estoril 2005, some 45 races ago. The result at A1GP's 50th race elevates Team Brasil to ninth in the standings with 22 points.
The day started positively as Sergio improved two places on his seventh place starting spot to finish the 10-lap sprint race in fifth position, collecting six valuable points. The result came after a great start from Sergio, who moved past Teams New Zealand and GBR on the first lap. He pushed Team Canada hard for fourth on the final lap, but crossed the line in fifth.
However, it was in the feature race that Sergio and the team shined. Starting from sixth, Sergio made an incredible start to move up to third after the first corner behind only the dominant Team Switzerland and Team France. A huge battle with France's Loic Duval ensued with Sergio briefly taking second before Duval snatched it back. On lap eight the safety car was deployed and, after some slick pit work from the Brasil crew, Sergio emerged a whisker ahead of Team Switzerland to take the lead of the race.
Starting his second stint on new tyres, Sergio was able to pull out a decent gap over Neel Jani after the restart on lap ten. The 23-year-old from Sao Paulo started to face pressure on lap 18 but fought valiantly to retain his lead. He made his second compulsory pitstop on lap 26 but, with Jani pitting two laps previously and starting his final stint on brand new rubber, Sergio lost his lead in the stop and emerged in second place. He passed the chequered flag in searing heat in second to take the podium place and ten points.
Sergio Jimenez: "The main race was very tough but I'm really happy with the result. I made a very good start, jumped to third and didn't let Switzerland and France get too far ahead of me. In the first pitstop the boys did an amazing job and I was able to take the lead. We had a different strategy to Switzerland because we used our new tyres in the middle stint while they used theirs in the last one. Because of that I was able to put in some good laps after the first stop and Neel never caught me too closely. The second stop was also very good but obviously Neel had the new tyres after that. Anyway, we have worked so hard together as a team this weekend and it has paid off, so this result is for the boys and for Emerson, who has given me a great opportunity here in A1GP."
Emerson Fittipaldi, Team Principal: "Sergio did an amazing job because although we had a good car, it was not as fast as Switzerland or France, who have found a special set up here in Malaysia. The pit crew also did a fantastic job and everyone is working very hard. It's been a long time since we've had such a good result and in Sergio we have found a very good driver who can repeat the same kind of results we were having with Nelson Piquet Jr in season one. A1 Team Brasil is back!"
A1 Team Canada scored its first points of the 2007-08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport season on Sunday as Robert Wickens belied his rookie status to finish fourth in Round 3's Sprint race at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.
Having just missed the podium on his A1GP race debut, the 18-year-old from Toronto experienced a more frustrating Feature event, Wickens retiring early from the proceedings after a frantic start. A1 Team Canada exits Malaysia sitting 12th in the A1GP Nations Standings, with eight points scored courtesy of Wickens' Sprint race efforts while A1 Team Switzerland leads on 61 after Champ Car racer Neel Jani dominated events at Sepang with back-to-back victories.
Starting fifth on the grid for the 10-lap Sprint race, Wickens wasted little time in placing the Canadian entry into the top-three. Jani led from pole while Robert launched up the order giving chase to France's Loic Duval in second. Germany's Michael Ammermüller was an ever present threat from behind but Wickens had the measure of his rival until an over-steer issue presented itself. The Canadian rookie put on a fine display of defensive driving but an overly-aggressive last lap move by the German resulted in contact, Ammermüller dropping Wickens to fourth at the checkered.
Naturally disappointed to miss out on the podium, Wickens and the Canadian crew had reason to be optimistic heading into the afternoon's 35-lap Feature race having scored their first points of the season and battled at the sharp end of the grid. Neel Jani collected the Sprint win for Switzerland ahead of France's Duval and Ammermüller for Germany.
The opening lap of the Feature provided early drama as Wickens was tipped round following contact at turn one having started from 12th on the 22-nation grid. While he recovered, the 2006 Formula BMW USA Champion found himself down in 18th with a long race ahead of him to crack the top-ten.
Undeterred and quickly sprinting up through the order, Robert was then helpless to avoid a collision with Adrian Zaugg seven laps later as the South African attempted to point his car in the right direction having spun out at turn eight. Some fast acting from the Canadian avoided a potentially huge impact but the resulting contact was enough to put both cars out on the spot. A1 Team Switzerland's Jani went on to triumph again ahead of Brazil's Sergio Jimenez and France's Loic Duval.