by Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite - Motorsport.com
48th Macau Grand Prix
Free Practice 1:
Weather: Cool, cloudy.
The cars took to the track on the first day of the 48th Macau Grand Prix only to find it extremely messy after the previous session when various Guia Cars had assaulted the barriers with more enthusiasm than was strictly warranted. This particularly applied to a pink car that played pinball all the way along the pit straight.
There followed an unseemly queue to try and get out of the pit lane, with everyone keen to have a good look at the track. At Carlin the mood was quietly confident, with Anthony Davidson particularly happy to be here - although he might have changed his mind after what happened later. "This place is like a cross between Thruxton and Knockhill, with walls which makes it the best circuit in the world!" Takuma Sato's engineer, Boyo, was already wearing his lucky shoes, which are now falling apart (and apparently the remains of his lucky underpants). Later on in the day it looked like his superstitious behaviour had worked.
Not joining the queue was Sato himself, the focus of much attention here as the newest F1 driver and of course the inevitable darling of the large corps of Japanese journalists here, probably much to the chagrin of the likes of Ryo Fukuda (Saulnier Racing). As usual, he would wait a while before going out. Andy Priaulx (Promatecme UK) on the other hand, was as keen as ever to start work and was out there and on the pace very rapidly. Those of you who have been watching all season in the UK will know that this is Andy's usual mode of driving. After an initial lap or two Peter Sundberg (Three Bond) was an early pit visitor for spring adjustments, but they didn't really seem to help. Meanwhile Priaulx spent a long time at the top of the order with Toshihiro Kaneishi (Opel Team BSR) and Sato just behind him. The battle to be fastest Japanese was also now underway with Kosuke Matsuura (Prema Powerteam) setting the 2nd fastest time, while Tiago Monteiro (ASM Elf) was on the move as well. On his 4th visit here the Portuguese driver was keen to set an early pace too and was now 3rd.
TOM'S driver Paolo Montin then moved into the top 6, determined to show that he too deserves attention in this company. And then French all-purpose driver Jonathan Cochet (Signature Competition) turned the list around and set the fastest time to date. It was all change now with the front runners looking very impressive while novices like Bruce Jouanny (Promatecme UK) tried to figure out where they were and which way the circuit went. This probably accounted for the occasional locked wheel and a somewhat desperate air about the yellow car. The man with the steepest learning curve, however, was probably Heikki Kovalainen (Fortec Racing). The young Finn, who only started his single-seater career in March this year in Formula Renault, is making his F3 debut here. As he only knew he would be doing this race on Sunday when Gianmaria Bruni announced that he could not do it, he has had no time to learn the car (4 hours testing in total) and is having to sort out both the circuit and a new Formula. Nothing daunted by his lack of mileage, this young man looks like a star in the making and should be watched very carefully in future. He would end the session in 22nd, just behind Mark Taylor (Manor Motorsport) and Jouanny. It was a perfectly respectable effort though he was not at all happy with it.
Up at the front Priaulx was back to fastest only to get displaced by Montin and then pushed further down by Monteiro who moved up to 2nd. In his turn, Montin was pushed back down the order by Monteiro, who got demoted by Fukuda, who got demoted by Monteiro again. It was all getting a little strange and it got even odder before the usual suspects reasserted themselves. While Sato suddenly hit the top of the times and Monteiro pushed him off the top slot again, before again being replaced by Montin, Yuji Ide (Signature Competition) was suddenly there in 3rd, despite never looking particularly fast. Ant Davidson, on the other hand, did look fast as he tried the same stunt he pulled at Spa, getting closer and closer to the walls, as if completely unconcerned by them. He has an exuberant style that is a pleasure to watch in this era of the super-smooth drivers that many teams in F1 seems to favour, although it's fair to say he can be nerve-wracking as well. And then Cochet set the fastest time and the only person to challenge him was Montin who raised the level one more notch to end the session fastest of all. <pre> Classification - Free Practice 1:
1st - No. 12 - Paulo Montin, I, Tom's, Dallara F301 Toyota Toms, 2:14.510 2nd - No. 25 - Jonathan Cochet, F, Signature Competition, Dallara F399 Renault-Sodemo, 2:14.909 3rd - No. 6 - Takuma Sato, J, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F301 Honda-Mugen, 2:14.964 4th - No. 10 - Pierre Kaffer, D, Team Kolles Racing, Dallara F300 Honda-Mugen, 2:15.319 5th - No. 18 - Tiago Monteiro, P, ASM-Elf, Dallara F399 Renault-Sodemo, 2:15.787 6th - No. 26 - Yuji Ide, J, Signature Competition, Dallara F399 Renault-Sodemo, 2:15.879 7th - No. 1 - Toshihiro Kaneishi, J, Opel Team BSR, Dallara F300 Opel-Spiess, 2:16.190 8th - No. 19 - Joao Paulo de Oliveira, BR, Swiss Racing Team, Dallara F399 Opel-Spiess, 2:16.459 9th - No. 28 - Kosuke Matsuura, J, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F301 Opel-Spiess, 2:16.461 10th - No. 3 - Benoit Treluyer, F, Mugen X Dome Project, Dallara F301 Honda-Mugen, 2:16.667 11th - No. 2 - Enrico Toccacelo, I, Opel Team BSR, Dallara F300 Opel-Spiess, 2:16.683 12th - No. 8 - Ryo Fukuda, J, Saulnier Racing, Dallara F399 Renault-Sodemo, 2:16.870 13th - No. 27 - Bjorn Wirdheim, S, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F301 Opel-Spiess, 2:17.355 14th - No. 5 - Anthony Davidson, GB, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F301 Honda-Mugen, 2:17.449 15th - No. 30 - Andy Priaulx, GB, Promatecme, Dallara F301 Honda-Mugen, 2:17.679 16th - No. 15 - Derek Hayes, GB, Manor Motorsport, Dallara F300 Honda-Mugen, 2:17.892 17th - No. 17 - Tristan Gommendy, F, ASM-Elf, Dallara F399 Renault-Sodemo, 2:18.081 18th - No. 9 - Marchy Lee, C, Saulnier Racing, Dallara F399 Renault-Sodemo, 2:19:587 19th - No. 20 - Haruki Kurosawa, J, Swiss Racing Team, Dallara F399 Opel-Spiess, 2:19:737 20th - No. 16 - Mark Taylor, GB, Manor Motorsport, Dallara F300 Honda-Mugen, 2:20.083 21st - No. 31 - Bruce Jouanny, F, Promatecme, Dallara F301 Honda-Mugen, 2:20.510 22nd - No. 23 - Heikki Kovalainen, SF, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F301 Renault-Sodemo, 2:20.583 23rd - No. 32 - Michael Ho, MAC, Cram Competition, Dallara F301 Opel-Spiess, 2:20.855 24th - No. 11 - Sakon Yamamoto, J, Tom's, Dallara F301 Toyota-Toms, 2:21.578 25th - No. 7 - Peter Hackett, AUS, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F300 Honda-Mugen, 2:21.918 26th - No. 36 - Matteo Bobbi, I, Target Racing, Dallara F301 Opel-Spiess, 2:22.983 27th - No. 22 - Lei Kit Meng, MAC, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F301 Renault-Sodemo, 2:23.373 28th - No. 33 - Raffaele Giammaria, I, Team Kolles Racing, Dallara F300 Honda-Mugen, 2:24.465 29th - No. 21 - Peter Sundberg, S, Three Bond, Dallara F301 Nissan-Tomei, 2:27.759 30th - No. 29 - Jo Merszei, MAC, Cram Competition, Dallara F301 Opel-Spiess, 2:29.944