Provisional pole for Norris in Macau
Carlin’s Lando Norris has clinched provisional pole position in the first qualifying for the FIA Formula Three World Cup following a red flag disrupted session this afternoon as the iconic Macau Grand Prix got underway today. Dealing well with the disruptions, including a lengthy break in the middle while barrier repairs were made, Norris set a fantastic time of nearly a second ahead of his rivals to hold provisional pole position for the qualification race on Saturday. Rookie racer Sacha Fenestraz was also impressive in his efforts and qualified well in eighth position overall in only his second race weekend in the FIA Formula Three car. Canadian racer, and fellow rookie, Devlin DeFrancesco was unlucky with the positioning of the red flags and qualified in a provisional 19th position. Unfortunately, the infamous track bit back for Ferdinand Habsburg and Jehan Daruvala who were unable to show their true potential in 15th and 16th around the street circuit after slight scrapes with the barriers.
Following a useful Free Practice session this morning in Macau, qualifying got underway this afternoon in hot conditions as the field looked to set their provisional positions for the FIA Formula Three World Cup. Immediately as the track went green Habsburg, Daruvala, DeFrancesco and Fenestraz moved quick to leave the pit lane with Norris opting to stay behind for just a short while. However it wasn’t long before the session was halted for the first red flag period following a collision in to the barriers for Ryuji “Dragon” Kumita.
Thankfully the damage was cleared relatively quickly allowing the drivers to head back out and resume their qualifying runs. Habsburg was the first driver to make a move in these early stages moving to the very top as the representative laps began to make an appearance on the board. But, as had been the case at the start of the session, this was short-lived before a second short red flag was required to deal with the stricken car of Alex Palou.
Again, the clear up process took very little time and with 20 minutes left this now became the moment for the real push laps to start to appear. Norris and Habsburg quickly moved up the timing screens and it soon became clear that the track had significantly improved over the course of the session so far. As a result, the times continued to tumble and an intense battle for position began as the top five places changed incredibly quickly.
But once again there was to be a further delay to proceedings; this one prolonged. Coming in to Fisherman’s Sergio Sette Camara crashed in to the barriers causing extensive damage not only to his own car, which ended up abandoned in the middle of the circuit, but also to the barriers which needed a rather large repair job. Thankfully despite the impact Camara was quick to jump out of his car however the initial delay of 15 minutes wasn’t quite enough time to repair the damage. In the end the session was on hold for a total of nearly 45 minutes before the drivers were able to jump back in to their Volkswagen powered Carlin cars. By this point, Norris was in fifth, Habsburg tenth, Fenestraz 14th, Daruvala 15th and DeFrancesco 18th.
With just 11 minutes remaining the pit lane finally went green allowing for the final runs to take place. However the drama was far from over for the Carlin drivers. Habsburg gently tapped the wall which left him with a left rear puncture requiring a trip to the pit lane while Daruvala wasn’t quite so lucky and when he tapped the wall which brought a premature end to his qualifying session.
Between the drama Norris however had been working up to speed and set a brilliant lap to move up in to provisional pole position before a fourth and final red flag graced the track and brought what short amount of time that was remaining of the first qualifying session to an end. Norris clinched provisional pole position over the rest of the FIA Formula Three World Cup field with one more qualifying attempt to come tomorrow afternoon.
Macau rookie Fenestraz impressed well on his Macau GP debut to take a provisional eighth place while Habsburg, Daruvala and DeFrancesco finished the session in 15th, 16th and 19th respectively; all three somewhat unlucky and unable to fulfil their true potential at the Guia circuit. With their provisional grid positions set the five Carlin drivers will take to the track once again tomorrow for Free practice and a second Qualifying session as they look to solidify their grid positions.
Norris said of his session, “In terms of pace we look okay out there and I’m really happy to get provisional pole position, but I can’t get my hopes up too much as we have another session tomorrow. I had a lot of confidence out there but to compare us to others is difficult – I think we still have some things that we can improve on. The red flags, especially the break in the middle, probably affected everybody because you want to be in the rhythm around here so it wasn’t ideal, but neither was it that much of a problem to be honest. I’d like to win here and be on pole position but it’s still a big learning curve out there and tomorrow’s another day!”
A further Free Practice session gets underway at 11.45 tomorrow morning before second Qualifying at 15.25 local time.