Felix Rosenqvist (Kashbet.com by Mücke Motorsport) made the best of his pole position by winning the ten-lap qualifying race for the Suncity Group Macau Grand Prix. In a race that ran behind the safety car for three laps, the 23-year-old Swede won from his Austrian team-mate Lucas Auer (Mücke Motorsport). Tom Blomqvist (Jagonya Ayam with Carlin) finished third with the reigning FIA Fórmula 3 European Champion, Esteban Ocon (SJM Theodore Racing by Prema) rounding out the top four.
Having started from second on the grid, Lucas Auer overtook his Swedish team-mate, benefitting from the slipstream in the run to the first corner and led the field into the notorious Lisboa right-hander. Some drivers had more problems dealing with the first corner, including Spaniard Alex Palou (Fortec Motorsports) who crashed into the tyre stacks. Auer built up a two seconds’ advantage on the first three laps while Rosenqvist lost second place on lap two to Max Verstappen (Van Amersfoort Racing), the Dutchman having made good progress from fifth on the grid in the opening stages of the race.
However, all Verstappen’s efforts proved to be in vain. On lap four, Verstappen lost control of his car after locking up under braking in the Solitude-Esses and hit the tyre stacks. Thus, the Fórmula 1-bound Dutchman saw all his high hopes of bowing out of Fórmula 3 with success in Macau blown. Because Brit Sam MacLeod (Tom’s) also crashed on the same lap, the safety car was deployed. At that time, Auer was leading from Rosenqvist, Blomqvist, Ocon, Roberto Merhi (W66.com Double R Racing), Nick Cassidy (ThreeBond with T-Sport) and Jordan King (GR Asia with Carlin). Racing resumed on lap eight and, as it happens so often in Macau, the driver who led across the line lost the lead on the following straight: Rosenqvist benefited from the slipstream and took first place under braking for Lisboa. Cassidy overtook Merhi for fifth. Once in the lead, Rosenqvist quickly built up a comfortable lead and crossed the finish line as the race winner after ten laps with Auer completing the 1-2 for Mücke Motorsport. Blomqvist took the final podium slot from Ocon, Cassidy, Merhi, Nicholas Latifi (SJM Theodore Racing by Prema), King, Felix Serralles (Team West-Tec F3) and Stefano Coletti (Eurointernational).
“Of course, losing the lead after the start was exactly what I didn’t want to happen, but starting from pole and then losing first place on the long straight is a usual thing here in Macau,” race winner Felix Rosenqvist commented. “Then, fortunately, it worked the other way round after the restart. Once I was back in the lead, I was determined to pull a gap as quickly as possible to prevent Lucas from doing the same on the next lap. In the opening stages, I had a nice battle with Max Verstappen. Then, he made life a little bit easier for me after he crashed. It is a thing that can always happen here in Macau. Victory today makes me quite happy, but generally, any place in the top three is good for tomorrow”. Second-placed Lucas Auer said: “This was another good result for our team. We have an incredible pace. It is always difficult to defend first place into the first corner when starting from pole here, so for me, everything is perfect. I am very confident for tomorrow, we are well prepared”. Tom Blomqvist had the same view: “Tomorrow is the main race, the one we all want to win. Third place is a good position to start from in Macau and I am happy and confident”. The 15-lap Fórmula 3 race in Macau starts on Sunday at 15.30 hrs local time (8.30 hrs CET).
Photos: FIA F3 Euro Series/CGPM