Marco Wittmann won the qualification race ahead of the 58th Macau GP with a measured drive from pole position, with Felipe Nasr and Roberto Merhi close behind.
After clinching pole position on Friday morning at the illustrious street circuit, Wittmann lead unchallenged off the line as fellow front-row starter Antonio Felix da Costa suffered a broken gearbox merely seconds after the green lights. With the Portuguese driver side-lined, Nasr, Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Huertas followed Wittmann into Lisboa corner before climbing into the twisting streets of downtown Macau.
Further behind, the penalised but incredibly fast Roberto Merhi immediately began carving his way through the field. The Spanish F3Euroseries champion moved up to 4th from 8th on the grid, aided by da Costa’s retirement and an unusual crash for Alexander Sims before the race even began. On the 2nd lap, Merhi slipstreamed Bottas on the long straight down to Lisboa to take 3rd place from the Finn, before setting his sights on Nasr.
Merhi soon caught up with the Brazilian, who trailed Wittmann by just over a second throughout. Despite several looks down the inside, the Spaniard struggled to find a way past. A slipstreaming opportunity for Merhi on lap 9 was also dashed as the safety car emerged a few seconds into the lap – a big shunt for Jimmy Eriksson at Faraway saw the race finish under the safety car, allowing Wittmann to calmly take the win.
Bottas finished a solid 4th ahead of Carlos Huertas and Daniel Juncadella. Laurens Vanthoor finished ahead of Signature team-mate Daniel Abt, and impressive performances from Kimiya Sato and Hannes van Asseldonk earned them 9th and 10th respectively.
Wittmann, while pleased with the result, claimed his focus was on tomorrow’s main event: “It is always nice to win, and stand on top of a podium, but for sure we will not celebrate much because it is just a qualification race,” said Wittmann. “The race tomorrow is the most important one, and that is the one we want to win.”
Wittmann also expects to be pushed hard in Sunday’s race. “I think for sure tomorrow will be more aggressive,” he said. “It is a race where you have to be. Everyone gets more confident with the track and conditions, but that is not only the others – for me it is the same situation. I will try to win. I want to win, and we will do all our best to do that.”
Roberto Merhi is perhaps the most confident ahead of the GP, as a successful qualification race helped him nullify his Saturday grid penalties – he will start 3rd tomorrow. “Third place is okay, because I think it is the best position for the start,” said the Prema driver. “Last year [Daniel] Abt started third and he was P1 at Lisboa, so I think it is a really good place to be.
“I think I am really quick and maybe the quickest, maybe not.” he added. “We will see tomorrow. Everything looks right, I feel comfortable and I think tomorrow will be a good day.”
The finishing order, and resultant starting grid for Sunday’s 58th Macau GP –
Results - 10 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Marco Wittmann Signature Dallara-VW 25m03.719s 2. Felipe Nasr Carlin Dallara-VW + 0.867s 3. Roberto Merhi Prema Dallara-Merc + 3.483s 4. Valtteri Bottas Double R Dallara-Merc + 4.270s 5. Carlos Huertas Carlin Dallara-VW + 4.850s 6. Daniel Juncadella Prema Dallara-Merc + 5.381s 7. Laurens Vanthoor Signature Dallara-VW + 6.512s 8. Daniel Abt Signature Dallara-VW + 7.228s 9. Kimiya Sato Motopark Dallara-VW + 8.154s 10. Hannes van Asseldonk Hitech Dallara-VW + 9.337s 11. Hideki Yamauchi Toda Dallara-Honda + 10.200s 12. Yuhi Sekiguchi Mucke Dallara-Merc + 10.789s 13. William Buller Fortec Dallara-Merc + 11.086s 14. Lucas Foresti Fortec Dallara-Merc + 11.517s 15. Richie Stanaway Van Amersfoort Dallara-VW + 12.167s 16. Hywel Lloyd Sino Vision Dallara-Merc + 12.888s 17. Jazeman Jaafar Carlin Dallara-VW + 13.967s 18. Marko Asmer Double R Dallara-Merc + 14.933s 19. Kevin Magnussen Carlin Dallara-VW + 15.558s 20. Carlos Sainz Jr Signature Dallara-VW + 16.388s 21. Felix Rosenqvist Mucke Dallara-Merc + 16.924s 22. Mitch Evans Double R Dallara-Merc + 18.601s Retirements: Jimmy Eriksson Motopark Dallara-VW 7 laps Adderly Fong Sino Vision Dallara-Merc 6 laps Richard Bradley TOM's Dallara-Toyota 5 laps Antonio Felix da Costa Hitech Dallara-VW 4 laps Hironobu Yasuda Three Bond Dallara-Nissan 3 laps Carlos Munoz Signature Dallara-VW 1 lap Pietro Fantin Hitech Dallara-VW 0 laps Alexander Sims TOM'S Dallara-Toyota 0 laps
Macau Grand Prix timetable
Sun 20 Nov – 1530 (0730 GMT) Macau Grand Prix