António Félix da Costa came through an incident-packed first qualifying session – which featured four red flags – to secure provisional pole position for the Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix yesterday.
Da Costa, returning to the scene of his 2012 triumph in the end-of-season blue riband F3 race, was consistently among the fastest cars throughout the shortened session that witnessed a series of incidents.
But it was the Carlin driver’s best effort with 12 minutes remaining that secured him the top spot before a final red flag – caused by Daniel Juncadella crashing at Fishermen’s Bend – brought qualifying to an early end.
“It’s still very early days because so much can happen on a Macau GP weekend, but it’s always better to end up first than last,” said da Costa. “I quickly could get up to speed with the track, but wasn’t so happy with the car after first practice this morning. But the team did a great job to make some changes and everything clicked, so I’m pretty happy.”
Van Amersfoort Racing’s Callum Ilott ended up second fastest after briefly topping the timesheets prior to da Costa bettering him – ending the day 0.226 seconds down.
Felix Rosenqvist, who had been quickest in morning practice, was the third fastest driver as he said he still needed to better understand the new Pirelli tyres that are being used in Macau for the first time.
Japanese F3 champion Kenta Yamashita ended up fourth quickest, after recovering from losing a wheel in the early stages of the session – and causing the first red flag to come out after 15 minutes.
The second red flag came out eight minutes later when a car was stranded in the middle of the track before Lisboa. The third stoppage was caused with 12 minutes remaining after Lando Norris – an impressive seventh quickest – crashed at San Francisco at the same time as Joel Eriksson crashed at the Solitude Esses.
The session was stopped for good after Juncadella, who ended up fifth, hit the barriers at Fishermen’s with two minutes remaining.
If it rains today, as predicted, the times of the first qualifying session will define tomorrow’s starting grid.