Eastern Creek, Australia - A1 Team China has scored its first ever podium finish at an A1GP event, finishing the Sydney Feature race in third place behind Germany and New Zealand. After taking the lead on lap ten as the rest of the field pitted, a quick stop for China saw the car leave the pit lane in sixth place, while the team's strategy of waiting until later in the race for their mandatory tyre change meant that driver, Ho-Pin Tung, was able to move up the field as he benefited from the grip provided by his fresher tyres.
It was a sensational overtaking manoeuvre on the bright orange car of A1 Team Netherlands on lap 22 that finally secured China's podium finish, taking them on the outside of turn one in front of the packed out grandstands. Driver Ho-Pin Tung commented: 'I have just seen Steven our press manager cheering on the phone and screaming, so I think probably it will be a really big thing in China. I think on the TV maybe it looked a bit braver when I overtook the Netherlands than it was in reality. I just had a very good tow down the main straight and I overtook him on the outside. I used my PowerBoost to get a really good tow, moved to the outside and could carry more speed into the corner where he had to lift as he had to defend his position.'
The advantage from Germany's pole position, awarded after their earlier Sprint race win, was not to last as New Zealand over took them at the start. The pack made it cleanly through turn one, but as they jostled for position a collision between Canada and Singapore saw both cars leave the track The Canadian car rolled in the air and landed upside down in the dirt at turn four, but James Hinchcliffe was able to walk away unhurt.
The safety car was deployed while the cars were removed and the field took their positions behind it. As the safety car prepared to come in at the end of lap five, South Africa ran over the back of Pakistan, spinning into the dirt at turn eight taking both cars out of the race and causing the safety car to continue its run.
At the end of lap seven, the safety car headed into the pit lane and the race re-started with New Zealand leading Germany, Netherlands, Czech Republic and France. The pit stop window opened on lap eight and A1 Team Germany were first in followed by the Netherlands with New Zealand pitting one lap later.
With most of the field having pitted, China were left at the front of the pack, leading the field for the first time in an A1GP race. After eight laps in front, China pitted at the end of lap 17, leaving Germany in first place ahead of New Zealand and the Netherlands. The red dragon car of A1 Team China re-joined the pack in sixth place behind Czech Republic.
A bad start for A1 Team USA saw them drop from eight to 11th off the grid but as the pit stops began the team made their way up the field eventually taking their pit stop as they lay in third place at the end of lap 11. Leaving the pits in 12th place 'We the People' made its charge on the pack overtaking France over the next couple of laps and starting a battle with Switzerland that was to remain fiercely competitive until the chequered flag.
Great Britain, having started the Feature race from 19th, began their move up the field as soon as the race began, moving into 15th place by the time the pit stop window opened on lap eight. The team took their stop on lap 12, rejoining the field in 12th place behind France who they then enjoyed a battle with for positions. .
The recent misfortune of the Irish team was to continue this weekend when a collision with Switzerland pushed the car off the track and into the pit lane at the end of lap 17. While the pit crew did its best to repair the damaged top rear wishbone, putting it out again with the leaders on lap 35, the damage sustained was too great and the car withdrew from the race three laps later.
Home team Australia failed to deliver on the promise offered during Saturday's official practice session, finishing 14th although some strong overtaking manoeuvres by driver Karl Reindler provided enough for the crowds to cheer about, particularly as he overtook the well-supported Lebanese car in front of the grandstand on lap 26.
Race winner, Nico Hulkenberg of A1 Team Germany commented: 'It was a difficult race, maybe it didn't look like it but when I was ahead of Jonny after the pit stops he was always just behind me so I could not make any, mistakes. But what can I say, two perfect weekends in a row, it is just I like the chair in the middle here at the press conference too much.'
He continued: 'Physically it was pretty tough, especially in the first corner as the car is so heavy at the start of the race with a lot of fuel. With a lot of downforce the steering is so heavy and all round the circuit it is difficult because it is very bumpy and that makes it even more difficult. At the start I just saw he was going to the inside and I said, okay I will try to the outside. I was in front of him but he was still on the inside and that was it.'
New Zealand's Jonny Reid went on to say: 'I just controlled it at the start as it is easy to control the race when you are in front. It was a little bit disappointing with the pit stop issue, but that is the way motorsport goes sometimes. I pushed and pushed but we had nothing left as the car was not so good in the race. There is another small change that we could work on to fix that for next time, but once you are out there you are battling with the race car and that is what you have got. It was difficult out there today. You can see what happened in the pit stop probably better than I can, because I don't know what time Nico's pit stop was but somewhere along the line we lost some time. I passed the pit 60k mboard marker so I am sure it was not there and then governed all the way down the pit lane so it has to have happened somewhere maybe we just came in a lap too late, I am not sure yet.'