Lucas di Grassi Wins Macau
Sebastian Vettel Third
Dallara Mercedes driver Lucas di Grassi of the British Manor Motorsport team won the 52nd Formula 3 Grand Prix of Macau. After 15 laps di Grassi took victory with 0.659sec ahead of Robert Kubica (Dallara-Mugen-Honda). Sebastian Vettel in the ASM team's Dallara Mercedes came home third. It is the second win in the Formula 3 and this season for 21-year-old Brazilian di Grassi, who had finished the 2005 Formula 3 Euro Series third overall behind his Dallara Mercedes colleagues Lewis Hamilton and Adrian Sutil. Dallara Mercedes drivers have won 20 out of this year's 22 races with the Mercedes-Benz engine M271 developed from the production engine of the C- and E-Class.
The Macau Grand Prix is generally regarded the most important and most competitive Formula 3 race of the season and it's the highlight and season finale for the best drivers of different international Formula 3 championships. 30 drivers from 12 nations participated this year. Apart from Mercedes-Benz, there are Honda, Nissan, Opel and Toyota as engine partners for the teams, a variety similar to Formula One.
Duval who replaced Lewis Hamilton at the wheel of the ASM Dallara Mercedes had been fastest in Friday's qualifying ahead of di Grassi. After winning the Euro Series Hamilton had moved up to the GP2 Series and was involved in testing. On Saturday, Duval also won the qualification race ahead of Kubica and di Grassi. Mike Conway in the second Manor Dallara Mercedes qualified fourth whilst Sebastian Vettel who will change from Mucke Motorsport to ASM in 2006 started his debut race for ASM eighth.
Duval accelerated into an immediate lead; however, the Frenchman received a drive-through penalty for a jump start. He dropped top tenth place and eventually ended up sixth.
Di Grassi passed Kubica to take second place at the beginning of lap two and took the lead after Duval's penalty. Vettel who had improved from eighth to fourth during the opening lap was now third. On lap 10, Kubica re-took the lead ahead of di Grassi and Vettel. Following an incident involving three cars the safety car was deployed until the end of lap 13. After the restart, di Grassi passed Kubica out of the slipstream. He maintained the lead until the chequered flag despite a lot of pressure from Kubica. Vettel came home third.
Lucas di Grassi: "It's fantastic to win the race of the best Formula 3 drivers in the world. The fight with Robert Kubica was tough but always fair."
Sebastian Vettel: "I started like a rocket and was able to follow the leaders right at the beginning. However, in the last sector I always lost a bit of time and therefore was not close enough at the front straight to be able to attack the two leading drivers."
Loic Duval: "The jump start was my fault. It's frustrating and I'm sorry for the team. Today we had a chance to win this race."
Norbert Haug, Vice President Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: " Lucas di Grassi's victory at Macau shows that the best drivers of the Euro Series are also competitive compared with their rivals from all international Formula 3 championships. They have also won the invitational race at Zandvoort. Di Grassi is supported by Renault and is racing with a Mercedes engine, Sebastian Vettel who finished third in his first Macau race is a BMW Junior and also starts with a Mercedes engine. This is a nice sample of supporting young talents which in an ideal case will end up in Formula One. Congratulations to Lucas and Sebastian and to their teams Manor and ASM on a first-class final of a first-class season with 20 wins out of 22 races. This was possible not only due to a superior engine, but also due to the best performance of teams and drivers."