Marco Wittmann stole a crucial pole position for Saturday’s Macau GP qualifying race, clinching the result from F3Euroseries rival Roberto Merhi on his final flying lap.

The Signature driver battled with Merhi for supremacy throughout the 30 minute session, the pair maintaining their leading practice pace. Merhi moved ahead in the time-sheets in the final minutes with an impressive lap, but Wittmann responded with a faultless flyer on his last effort to pip the Spaniard by 0.064s.

“To do it on the last lap was really amazing,” said Wittmann. “It is a great feeling to finish first in qualifying, but still we have two long races to go. You can overtake here easily on the straight, but I think we have good pace and I am quite confident.”

Antonio Felix da Costa put in a strong effort to set the 3rd fastest time – putting the Portuguese driver on the front-row once Merhi’s Thursday penalties are applied. Valtteri Bottas‘ return from the Abu Dhabi young driver tests did little to hamper his Formula 3 abilities as the Finn qualified 4th ahead of Alexander Sims, both of whom will make up the 2nd row.

British F3 champion Felipe Nasr was intitially in the running for pole until a crash late in the session caused terminal suspension damage. Nevertheless, the Brazilian’s early efforts were enough for 6th, with British F3 rival Kevin Magnussen a tenth behind in 7th.

Felix Rosenqvist will be the first to start behind Merhi on Saturday, with Carlos Huertas and Yuhi Sekiguchi rounding out the top 10 respectively.

Merhi still remains bullish despite his grid handicap (although his additional penalty for crossing the pitlane exit line was overturned on Friday morning, meaning he drops only 7 places instead of 10), claiming that eventual victory in the Macau GP on Sunday from P8, while challenging, is still possible.

Speaking with Autosport, Merhi said: “I want to finish this race after last year [when he crashed out]. I want to make sure I get through to the final, and try to win this Macau GP.

“I think we have the potential, the team has done a good job and I think I am very competitive and very confident. In any conditions I am going to be really quick, and I am confident in myself.”

Macau Grand Prix timetable
Sat 19 Nov – 1400 (0600 GMT) Qualification Race
Sun 20 Nov – 1530 (0730 GMT) Macau Grand Prix