At Macau this afternoon, Edoardo Mortara (Signature) survived two restarts, his team-mates Daniel Abt and Laurens Vanthoor and the baking heat to become the first driver in history to win the prestigious Macau F3 Grand Prix twice, claiming back to back wins against some very strong opposition. Second in the end was Vanthoor, ahead of Valtteri Bottas (Prema Powerteam), the Finn almost getting close enough to snatch 2nd from the Belgian. However, before the Italian could get his hands on the fine selection of trophies that go to the winner, there was an awful lot of chaos to survive first.
It all kicked off at the start when, although the front runners got away well, there were some who were less successful. Michael Ho (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing), the local driver, got away as well as he usually does, which is to say not at all, and was collected by Carlos Mu?oz (Hitech Racing), Rio Haryanto (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) and - most catastrophically of all - Alexander Sims (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing). Of the four cars Double R brought here, only one of them was still in the running before the first corner. The Safety Car was scrambled as the marshals desperately tried to pull Ho and Sims' cars apart, but the young Brit's Dallara had gone underneath the other car and could not be pried loose. Eventually the marshals loaded the whole lot onto a flatbed complete with the drivers and removed it to the relative safety of the pitlane. And it was relative because - with Daniel Juncadella (Prema Powerteam) also off, though in his case at Lisboa - the Safety Car had picked up the field and was now leading a gaggle of F3 cars through the pitlane and out the other end while the debris on the start/finish line was cleared away.
At this point Mortara was comfortably in the lead from Abt, Vanthoor, Bottas, Marco Wittmann (Signature), Renger van der Zande (Motopark Academy), Antonio Felix da Costa (Carlin), Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin), Carlos Huertas (Hitech Racing), Felipe Nasr in the last surviving R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing car and Felix Rosenqvist (Performance Racing). 11th was Hideki Yamauchi (Hanashima Racing), ahead of Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), William Buller (Fortec Motorsport), Yuji Kunimoto (Tom's), Roberto Merhi (Prema Powerteam), Rafael Suzuki (Tom's), Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing), Alexandre Imperatori (Toda Racing with KCMG), Oli Webb (Fortec Motorsport) and Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing with Manor Motorsport). A lonely- ish 21st was James Calado (Carlin), holding off Yuhi Sekiguchi (Three Bond Racing), Lucas Foresti (Fortec Motorsport) and Kimiya Sato (Motopark Academy), and he was short a front wing so had to dive into the pits for some high speed repairs at the end of lap 1.
Two laps later and the officials were feeling brave enough to let the race go live again. Vanthoor saw his chance, or thought he did, and was all over Abt as they went into Mandarin Bend. However, it turned out to be Abt's chance, and the young German nabbed the lead at Lisboa in a classic "up the inside" move eith Vanthoor following him through. Shortly after that, Abt's luck ran out, when he hit the wall hard at Paiol. Vanthoor had backed off, and isn't sure why, just that he "had a feeling about the next corner" and was lucky to miss the wreckage. The Safety Car was again scrambled though this time with Vanthoor in the lead, and everyone else pretty much promoted a place as a result. Mortara was 2nd now from Bottas, Wittmann, da Costa (who gained a place from van der Zande in the avoiding actions everyone had to take in the aftermath of Abt's crash), Vergne, Huertas, Nasr, Rosenqvist and Yamauchi. 11th was Jaafar, holding off Merhi who was now looking very determined, Buller, Kunimoto, Imperatori, Suzuki, Fong, Webb, Calado and Lloyd. That left the remaining places to Sekiguchi, Foresti, and Sato who was trying to catch up with the pack while he could. Ultimately it didn't help him and he dragged a very unhappy car round for the remainder of the race, getting steadily slower.
At the restart, with 9 laps left to run, Mortara was clearly not in the mood to take any prisoners and he powered past Vanthoor at Lisboa, while behind them Wittmann had a go at Mortara and da Costa tried to go with him. As soon as he got back ahead Mortara proved he was not messing about, and started to push very hard in an effort to open up a gap to the chasing pack. He was certainly getting very close to the walls up past Maternity Bend. If you were looking for change you had to look further back down the order, where Nasr managed to get the drop on Huertas for 8th at the restart. A lap later Bottas reclaimed 3rd at Lisboa. While Bottas was able to hold his place, Nasr wasn't and to add insult to injury the Brazilian also lost a place to Rosenqvist as well. Elsewhere Mehri was on the move, and had already passed Jaafar as he set about clawing his way up the order. He wasn't the only one, but he was one of the obviously faster individuals out there. Of course he often is very fast though it frequently ends in walls. It remained to be seen if he could survive here. Imperatori was another trying to compensate for his awful grid position and the Swiss soon barged past Kunimoto at half distance. Meanwhile, as Mortara continued on his stately progress to the flag, Bottas was busy hunting down Vanthoor, as Merhi claimed another scalp for 11th, demoting Yamauchi in the process. To prove that anything Merhi could do, he could do too, Imperatori moved up again after getting the better of Buller.
With two thirds distance complete. Mortara was setting fastest lap after fastest lap, only a couple of drivers able to get close to his pace, and as one of them was Bottas, who was bottled up behind Vanthoor, the Finn wasn't really that much of a threat. Elsewhere in the pack, Rosenqvist was still impressing and had gone past Huertas for 8th while Merhi moved up another place by passing Nasr and Jaafar fell back behind Imperatori. For 5th, however, experience told in the end with van der Zande getting the drop on the less experienced da Costa after having been stuck behind the Portuguese for quite some time. And that man Merhi was still pushing on, snatching another place from Huertas, while Imperatori was 12th having passed Yamauchi with three laps left of the race.
All eyes were on the battle for 2nd though, as Bottas was now very close indeed to Vanthoor and looked as if he might be able to get a run on the Belgium on the last lap. It wasn't to be though. He just couldn't quite manage to get close enough, the pace of the Mercedes-engined car not quite a match for the VW power unit on the straights. And so Mortara came home to a mightily impressive 2nd Macau Grand Prix win, from Vanthoor, Bottas, Wittmann, van der Zande, da Costa, Vergne, Merhi who powered his way through on Rosenqvist on the penultimate lap, and Huertas. 11th was Nasr, from Imperatori, Yamauchi, Jaafar, Buller, Kunimoto, Suzuki, Webb, Calado and Sekiguchi, the latter three all them passing Fong in the closing stages of the race after the Chinese driver had proved to be a most effective roadblock for a very long time.
21st was Fong, still holding up Foresti, Lloyd and Sato.
The fastest lap of the race went to Mortara.