Tom Dillmann, Marcel F?‚?Ůssler, Rahel Frey, Natacha Gachnang and Alexandre Imperatori all drove for Switzerland at one time or another in the 2007-08 championship. But it was Neel Jani who did the racing and won them the championship.
Jani drove a canny campaign, regularly in the top ten, indeed only failing to get there in the New Zealand double header (ironically the home track of his principle rival Jonny Reid) and at the second Mexican race.
It was his double win in the third event at Sepang that set him on the course towards the title and although he only won two other races (with one still to run) Jani was the benchmark for the opposition.
Switzerland’s title win was a closer run thing than the two that preceded it – Alexandre Premat and Nicolas Lapierre carved up the 2005/06 championship, and Nico Hulkenberg was imperious for Germany in 2006/07.
It’s a sign that the championship is maturing and becoming more competitive. Robbie Kerr became the 12th different driver to win in today’s sprint race at Brands Hatch and ten different teams have scored victories.
Next year will see a new generation of A1 Grand Prix cars with Ferrari power which will also see the Mugello circuit in Italy hold the season opener. Surprisingly it is A1′s first visit to one of the great nations of motor sport, a country that has not performed well in the championship so far.
Kerr is the home hero but the day belongs to Jani. But what will this triumph mean for his career? The A1 Grand Prix championship’s overlap with the beginning of the GP2 and World Series by Renault championships has restricted his chances of getting into one of the F1 feeder series.
He raced in America last year in the now-defunct Champ Car series, and the Indy series is now in it’s month-long build up towards the Indianapolis 500. So what will winning the A1 title do for Jani’s career?
A final thought: consider the irony of the A1 Grand Prix title being won by Switzerland, a country where motor racing has been banned since 1955…