FRUSTRATION FOR HITECH IN MACAU
Hitech Racing suffered a frustrating Macau qualifying race after a dramatic accident-filled opening lap around the tricky Guia street circuit today. Austrian Walter Grubmuller brought his Franks-backed Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA home undamaged to claim 15th while Macau rookie Spaniard Roberto Merhi, was unable to capitalise on his superb sixth place grid slot, the 17 year-old stalling on the line and eventually finishing 17th.
The unfortunate Max Chilton was out at the first corner however, the 17 year-old rookie one of eight drivers who never got to the completion of the opening lap.
The race got underway ten minutes later than scheduled and at the lights, Merhi, already a double F3 race winner, was unable to get away cleanly as the pack surged past, dropping him down the order. For Chilton, who had to take avoiding action, the first corner also proved his last. On the entry to Lisboa, the BRDC Superstar braked too late and locked up, running into the wall and putting him out on the spot with damage to the front of his car.
Grubmuller had made a great start to hold position and managed to pick his way through the carnage, but the safety car was quickly deployed to retrieve the stricken car of James Jakes, left stranded after a collision with Brendon Hartley. This allowed Merhi to pit for a replacement front wing, which he damaged after contact with Jules Bianchi, rejoining the track in last place.
At the restart two laps later, the race quickly settled down to a processional affair, with only a change for the lead looming. This allowed Merhi to get back on the pace, the youngster having competed in just a handful of F3 races, posting some impressive lap times as he clawed his way back up the order.
For Grubmuller a solid drive from the 19 year-old allowed him to consolidate his position as team leader as he drove maturely in only his second Macau event. With four laps remaining, Grubmuller and Merhi were left to run an pretty uneventful race to the flag, the pair running 16th and 17th until the final tour, when Mika Maki, nursing a missing tyre, dropped down the order allowing Grubmuller to move up to 15th.
All three drivers will start the main Windsor Arch 55th Macau Grand Prix tomorrow, which starts at 15:30 local time, with grid positions being determined by the results of today's race. Grubmuller will line up on the inside of the eighth row, Merhi two places behind on row nine, while Chilton will have his work cut out, starting from near the back and with it all to do.