BRITISH F3 CHAMP NASR SECOND IN MACAU QUALIFICATION RACE
Brazil’s Felipe Nasr raced to a fantastic second place finish today, Saturday, 19th November, during the all-important Qualification Race for the 58th Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix – the most prestigious F3 event on the globe.
Fresh from taking a dominant title victory in the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series last month, the 19-year-old underlined his potential to fight for overall honours during the GP itself tomorrow, Sunday, 20th November, with a sensational drive from fifth on the grid to second place.
Unsurprisingly running at the front throughout the two practice and qualifying sessions, which began on Thursday, 17th November, in unexpected wet conditions, Felipe challenged hard for pole position for the Qualification Race during the dry second session yesterday, Friday, 18th November.
Setting the pace early on, the Carlin ace was among the top half-dozen drivers throughout and had a great chance to try and make sure of pole on his final lap. Unfortunately, a brush with the barriers meant he wasn’t able to improve and had to settle for sixth fastest, a mere 0.6 seconds shy of the top spot. This became fifth post-session though due to a penalty for second placed Roberto Merhi.
Ahead of the race start today, Felipe’s chances were boosted when fourth-placed qualifier Alexander Sims crashed during the out lap. When the action did get underway a great start, combined with a stall for second placed Antonio Felix da Costa, enabled the Brasilia ace to immediately move into third, before bravely taking second at Lisboa.
Getting a good tow off 2011 GP3 Series Champion Valtteri Bottas and pole-starter Marco Wittmann, the trio ran three abreast through the first corner with Felipe in the middle. Wittmann had the inside line, so was able to hold the lead into Lisboa, while Felipe moved past Bottas brilliantly.
Merhi, the reigning F3 Euroseries Champion, passed Bottas for third on lap two and then pressured Felipe hard but the Carlin man withstood the attention on the incredibly tight and twisty street circuit, while also remaining in touch with Wittmann at the front.
Posting the fastest lap of the race at mid-distance, Felipe then came under attack again from Merhi on lap eight at Lisboa – who seized fastest lap as well – but the British F3 Champion held firm. Then, on the ninth tour, the Safety Car was deployed and the race ended under caution a lap later with Carlin’s lead driver delivering a fantastic and very well deserved result.
Most importantly of all, of course, Felipe will line-up on the front row of the grid tomorrow for the Grand Prix itself as he aims to win the most prestigious F3 race of them all. If he can take victory, the Dallara-Volkswagen driver would become Carlin’s first winner in the Portuguese enclave since former Formula One driver Takuma Sato took the spoils back in 2001.
“We had a really great start today”, explained Felipe, “Sims had already crashed and then da Costa stalled so I had the benefit of that first of all. I got a good tow from Bottas and Wittmann through the first corner, I was in the middle and had to be careful but Wittmann had the inside line for Lisboa so he was able to take the lead.
“Wittmann was strong in the middle sector, I was quicker in the last sector, and Merhi was really fast too. We need to improve the car for tomorrow but the front row is a great place to start and gives us a good chance to fight for the win. Experience counts for a lot in Macau, it’s our second time here but guys like Wittmann and Merhi and really experienced too. For sure, it’s going to be tough to win but we have a great chance.”
Circuito da Guia will host the 58th Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix from 15.30 (local time) tomorrow, Sunday, 20th November, with the race to be contested over 15 laps.