Edoardo Mortara went quickest in the first qualifying session for the 57th Macau Grand Prix as the Signature driver attempts to take a historical second victory in the legendary Formula Three race.
The session was dominated by Mortara and his F3 Euro Series rival Valtteri Bottas, who was making his first appearance for Prema Powerteam. Mortara knocked Bottas off top spot with 11 minutes of the session remaining.
“It was a good start into the weekend,” said Mortara, “but this was only first qualifying. Being fast in tomorrow's second session will be more important. Today, our focus was on trying to find the right set-up. My car was good and I was in control.”
Bottas said: “My car was good and my engine felt good, too. So far, I am really happy. I tried to avoid taking any risks, because history tells that lap times in tomorrow's second qualifying will be at least one second per lap faster.”
Marco Wittmann was third fastest on his Macau debut. “For a Macau rookie, third place in first qualifying really isn't bad, especially because I am only half a second down on Edoardo, who is already here for the fourth time. Unfortunately, data-logging on my car didn't work in free practice, so that I couldn't compare my own lap times with those of my team-mates. Otherwise, I perhaps could have found more room to improve.”
The session was red flagged after 14 minutes when Daniel Juncadella hit the wall at Fishermen's Bend. Later in the session Jazeman Jaafar crashed at the same point, bringing out the yellow flags.
After the session it was deemed that several drivers had not slowed down sufficiently under the yellow flag. Seven drivers were handed five-place grid penalties, including British F3 frontrunners James Calado, who was eighth fastest in the session, and Oliver Webb, who was 11th. The other drivers penalised were Will Buller, Yuhi Sekiguchi, Hideki Yamauchi, Lucas Foresti and Carlos Munoz.