It looked like Marko Asmer's day in the qualifying race for the Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix, but it's the final lap that counts, and Oliver Jarvis made a classic passing move on the Estonian in time for that, claiming the win and the pole position for tomorrow's main event.
The race got underway after what felt like a very long wait on the grid, and Oliver Jarvis (Team Reckless Tom's) got away well enough, but not as well as Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing), despite Asmer's initial fear that his clutch was slipping and he might not be able to get away. As it turned out, he need not have worried. There was a bit of silliness into Mandarin Bend, with neither of them wanting to be first there (because whoever is tends not to get any further in Marko's memory anyway), but then Asmer took the lead and Jarvis tucked in behind him. There was chaos on the grid as various people stalled, including Kamui Kobayashi (ASM F3), the Japanese out of the race before it even started.
The next raft of retirements came, perhaps not surprisingly, at Lisboa when Edoardo Mortara (Signature-Plus) made a very bad start then tangled with Sebastien Buemi (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), the two of them involving Kodai Tsukakoshi (Manor Motorsport). He at least survived to rejoin, while Bruno Senna (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) had to take avoiding action and Romain Grosjean (ASM F3) picked up a puncture. Grosjean limped back to the pits, and the team hastily replaced the wheel before sending him back out as fast as possible, though a lap down.
That let various other people capitalize, including Sam Bird (Carlin Motorsport), "Small Person" diving through the chaos then hacking past Yelmer Buurman (Manor Motorsport) to grab 5th by the time they reached the uphill section to gain 10 places. Immediately behind him Senna was still there too, but he couldn't find a way past Buurman, who is notoriously hard to pass at the best of places. Another who made a good start and got the better of the chaos was Kazuya Oshima, in the second of the two Team Reckless Tom's cars. The Japanese started from 6th on the grid and gained three places as a result of everyone else's misfortunes. There followed a very lonely race for the youngster as he couldn't catch the leaders and the rest of the field was quite a way off from him.
Mortara and Buemi were craned away and Jarvis settled in behind Asmer, knowing he had the measure of the Estonian because he was faster in the hilly, twisting sections, but also wanting to bide his time and not go too soon. He was going to have to wait for his opportunity because the organizers scrambled the Safety Car after Esteban Guerrieri (Signature- Plus) crashed out too and came to rest in the scenery. While the pits filled with those who had driven over debris, and needed new tyres, the rest of them settled in to track the Safety Car.
The order was Asmer, from Jarvis, Oshima, James Jakes (Manor Motorsport) who had benefited variously from the penalties handed out in advance and the chaos, Bird, Buurman, Senna, Nico Hülkenberg (ASM F3), Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) and Niall Breen (Carlin Motorsport). 11th was Jonathan Kennard (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), ahead of Renger van der Zande (Manor Motorsport), Roberto Streit (Prema Powerteam), Brendon Hartley (Carlin Motorsport), Takuya Izawa (Fortec Motorsport), Atte Mustonen (Signature- Plus), Franck Mailleux (Manor Motorsport), Walter Grubmüller (Hitech Racing), Tsukakoshi and Carlo van Dam (HBR Motorsport). 21st was Rodolfo Avila (HBR Motorsport), Michael Ho (Hitech Racing), Jo Merszei (Swiss Racing Team), Grosjean (1 lap down), Cheong Lou Meng (Swiss Racing Team), who had also had to pit after driving over debris, and Lei Kit Meng (Carlin Motorsport) who had incurred wing damage and needed some repairs.
After three laps behind the Safety Car, the pack was released again, with Asmer controlling the restart beautifully. Jarvis stayed with him, hoping to make his move on the next lap at Lisboa. With 6 laps to run, it was to be hoped that we might get a clear run to the finish. Unfortunately, van der Zande had other ideas. As he crossed the start/finish line to resume racing he started looking for a way past Kennard. He didn't find it and ended up in the barriers yet again, this time at Lisboa. Kennard continued on unperturbed, but the Dutchman was an embarrassed spectator once more. Meanwhile Ho pitted and retired. No one was too interested in that, they were all busy watching Jarvis, who got the drop on Asmer into Lisboa in a classic move. There was nothing Asmer could do that wouldn't have jeopardized them both.
At the same time, Senna found a way past Hülkenberg and was now after Buurman. A lap later and the young German was the one looking slightly foolish after he tried to line himself up to repass Senna, but instead lost it, clipped the barriers at Lisboa and took out Senna and himself. It wasn't impressive, and as Bruno had been very keen not to play the hero in this place, but just to finish as well as he could without taking risks, it must have been especially galling to get collected by a rookie. Now there were yellows being waved at Lisboa, because - surprise, surprise - there was debris on the track.
None of this troubled Jarvis, who was now steadily pulling away from Asmer, while the Estonian was maintaining a comfortable gap over Oshima, with Jakes, Bird Buurman, Jelley, Streit, Tsukakoshi, Breen and Kennard. As they started the penultimate lap, Jarvis was well ahead, but then it all became academic when Mustonen, pushing hard, belted into the barriers on the outside of Fisherman's, tore the rear wheels off, and came to rest in the middle of the track. The red flags came out again, and the race was stopped, a result being declared at the end of seven laps.
Jarvis was a happy winner, from Asmer who was satisfied that he'd done all he could, and Oshima. Jakes was 4th, leading Bird, Buurman, Jelley, Streit, Tsukakoshi and Breen (who finished the race with bits of the Senna/Hülkenberg crash wedged in his front wing as well as in his eye). 11th was Kennard, from Hartley, Mailleux, Mustonen, van Dam, Grubmüller, Avila, Izawa, Merszei and Senna. 21st was Hülkenberg and 22nd Grosjean. The rest failed to understand that the important thing about a qualification race is to survive it.The Grand Prix tomorrow looks as if it could be more than slightly scary!