In a cool, calm and collected manner, Carlin’s Lando Norris has taken a brilliant front row start ahead of the Qualification race of the 64th Suncity Group Macau Grand Prix. After another tense qualifying session this afternoon, Norris put his Volkswagen powered Dallara car in second position ahead of the exciting FIA Formula Three World Cup race tomorrow. Team mate Ferdinand Habsburg also enjoyed a strong session to see him finish in fifth position despite a slight brush with the barriers while Macau Rookies Sacha Fenestraz and Devlin DeFrancesco were impressive in their efforts to finish 11th and 14th respectively. However, it was bad luck for Jehan Daruvala who hit the barriers early on the session – despite this, he had already improved his time and will start in 19th position.
A second chance for qualifying came today as the field were released for the final qualifying session of the weekend to set the grid for Saturday’s Qualification race. Taking place slightly later in the day than the previous qualifying session, it was clear that once again it would be a hard-fought event – in anticipation of this, the five Carlin drivers took to the track quickly to set their opening laps.
Heartbreak however struck for Daruvala who in the opening laps clipped the barriers and damaged his car; thankfully the Indian racer was unharmed in the incident however he was side-lined before even being able to fully show his speed. In a strong show of sportsmanship though, the Force India Junior driver remained with the team for the rest of the session to support his team mates.
When the track went green it was clear that the times were going to be faster than those of yesterday; closing in on Norris’ provisional pole the field started to really push and Habsburg made his move up to fourth. However, his progress was halted when a second red flag, caused by a crash at Fisherman’s for Sergio Sette Camara, required clearing. By this point, Habsburg, Norris, Fenestraz and DeFrancesco were all looking good in the top 15.
Finally able to head out again, Norris looked to defend his provisional pole position and had soon placed his car at the top of the time sheets but the challenges were starting to show and he soon had FIA Formula Three European Championship rival Joel Eriksson for close company as the pair jostled at the top – with Habsburg never far behind.
Further drama would come for Habsburg who clipped the barriers causing damage to his left rear corner – able to bring the car home, the Austrian waited for the rest of the session to finish and determine his overall position. But one last red flag was to come and this one would end the qualifying once and for all with a hard hit for Guanyu Zhou who found himself in the barriers.
Norris, who remained in the pits for the final ten minutes with tyre strategy in mind, saw his fantastic lap stand him in good stead to take a front row start in second place while Habsburg’s earlier strong lap secured him a great fifth position. Macau rookie Fenestraz took his Vaillante liveried Carlin car on the cusp of a top ten starting position in an impressive 11th overall while Canadian racer DeFrancesco was also solid and will start his debut race in Macau from 14th. Daruvala’s time set before his incident will see him start the Qualification race in 19th.
2018 McLaren reserve driver Norris said, “I think that pole was definitely on the cards today – I made a mistake on my push lap, but the tyres did go off a little today too. Overall second is not exactly a bad place to start the race. If it’s wet tomorrow I have no clue how it’s going to go – I’m sure it will be tricky though! If it’s dry we look forward to it; there’s a long straight so there’s a good chance for overtaking but we’ll see what happens. I’m just taking it race by race now”
The qualification race will get underway tomorrow morning at 10:20 with the results forming the grid for the FIA Formula Three World Cup, 64th Suncity Macau Grand Prix on Sunday.