At Macau this afternoon 11 years after Takuma Sato won the event, Carlin again produced a winning car at the Macau Grand Prix, thus enabling Antonio Felix da Costa to take a massively popular win after a hard fought battle with Felix Rosenqvist (Mücke Motorsport) and Alex Lynn (Fortec Motorsport), the latter scoring a superb 3rd in his debut in the Chinese Special Administrative Area.
At the start of the race Rosenqvist got the better getaway, and was ahead at Mandarin but da Costa was having none of that and he seized his opportunity at Lisboa, going side-by-side with the EuroSeries driver to claim the lead. In the pack, meanwhile, Carlos Sainz Jr (Carlin) was going backwards as the pack accelerated away from him, the youngster seemingly caught napping when the lights went out.
He wasn’t the only one to be caught out by Macau – the Angolan driver Luis Sa Silva (Angolan Racing Team) managed to spin and get stuck athwart the track. It took some time to get him pointing the right way again and was all a bit embarrassing. He wasn’t alone. Lucas Wolf (URD Rennsport) was out of the race, his car caught in the wall at a marshals’ post further along at Maternity and put an end to his race.
As the marshals struggled to get the track clear, Sainz Jr had dropped to 13th and pre-race favourite Daniel Juncadella (Prema Powerteam) was also going backwards and was 7th, which no one could have predicted prior to the weekend starting. Alexander Sims (ThreeBond with T-Sport) was also in trouble and had dropped a number of places but was at least still running.
Lynn, meanwhile, was holding 3rd while Pascal Wehrlein (Mücke Motorsport) had rocketed up to 4th ahead of an equally fast-starting Felipe Nasr (Carlin) who had gained 5 places. Even more impressive was Felix Serralles (Fortec Motorsport), the Puerto Rican starting 29th and clawing his way up to 18th in the space of a single fraught lap.
Two laps later and Harry Tincknell (Fortec Motorsport) was up to 6th just as Juncadella pulled into the pits and retired, having hit the wall at R Bend. It wasn’t the end he’d wanted for his Grand Prix weekend, but it at least means that if the fuel sample taken from his car failed the analysis on appeal, there will be no need to rewrite the results of this event. Just as he pulled into his garage, the Safety Car pulled out of its garage and joined the track as the marshals scrambled a breakdown truck to collect Wolf who was still out in the scenery and Hannes van Asseldonk (Prema Powerteam), the Dutchman having crashed into the wall at Lisboa.
Da Costa duly settled in behind the Safety Car, with Rosenqvist in 2nd at that point, Lynn next up, and then Wehrlein, Nasr, Tincknell, Raffaele Marciello (Prema Powerteam), Pipo Derani (Fortec Motorsport), William Buller (Carlin) and the recovering Sainz. 11th was Jack Harvey (Carlin), from Jimmy Eriksson (Galaxy Double R Racing), Hideki Yamauchi (B-Max Engineering), Daniel Abt (Carlin), Jazeman Jaafar (Tom’s), Tom Blomqvist (Euro International), Mitchell Gilbert (Mücke Motorsport), Lucas Auer (van Amersfoort Racing), Kevin Korjus (Galaxy Double R Racing) and Serralles. In 21st was Ryo Hirakawa (SCMG by RSS), ahead of Dennis van de Laar (van Amersfoort Racing), Yuichi Nakayama (Tom’s), Sims, Sven Müller (Prema Powerteam), Andrea Roda (Jo Zeller Racing) and Sa Silva.
When the restart finally came on lap 6, after three very slow laps that must have left people’s tyres far too cold for proper use, Rosenqvist had a go at da Costa for the lead while Derani thought he saw an opportunity to pass Marciello. Da Costa resisted forcefully and the two of them were side-by-side on the run down to Lisboa, da Costa just coming out ahead as they exited the corner. Marciello was not so lucky and Derani was through and on the tail of Tincknell. Wehrlein was able to nab a place from Nasr, while Auer and van de Laar were dropped down the order as Sims started another recovery attempt. He really has no luck at all here and should probably stop coming now.
At the front it was still all to play for with da Costa now having to defend from Rosenqvist, the Swede giving it all he had to try and claim the lead. Lynn could only play it cautiously in 3rd and hope the two more experienced men ahead of him might obligingly take each other out and gift him the lead. He certainly didn’t looks likely to get it any other way. Behind him Wehrlein was now reasonably comfortable in 4th ahead of Nasr while Derani was now 6th, having got the drop on Tincknell.
Actually, even though he was not really in a position to challenge the leaders, Lynn did set a fastest lap of the race and was looking very impressive indeed for a Macau rookie. Other rookies were finding life much tougher, including Blomqvist who was now 15th at the expense of Jaafar and Korjus who passed Gilbert for 17th. Others having an interesting afternoon included Buller who was 9th with what could only be classed as a train behind him, in the shape of Sainz Jr, Harvey, Eriksson, Yamauchi and Abt. Not only that but it was about to get a whole lot longer as Blomqvist joined on the back.
As Da Costa set a new fastest lap while holding off Rosenqvist, Sainz got the better of Buller and was back up to 9th, just ahead of a bit of a reshuffle when Eriksson passed Harvey for 11th and Abt got Yamauchi to go 13th. Further back Sims was now back in the top 20 through only just and must have been wondering what he needs to do to get a break in Macau. He’d probably best stay away from the Casino gaming tables to.
The top five were still running very close as the race moved towards its final laps, with Felix Da Costa knowing he could not afford to make a mistake, not with Rosenqvist still looming large in his mirrors. Lynn continued to hold station though Wehrlein was now worryingly close. Nasr still held 5th and then there was quite a substantial gap to the rest of the pack. Jaafar and Korjus were still fighting over midfield honours, and swapped places to put Jaafar back up to 16th while Sims found a way past Serralles.
Meanwhile van de Laar lost his car’s nose cone at the Lisboa (it had got deranged early on when he hit Buller in the melee and now it was falling apart completely). He kept on going but would come to grief later in the race. Another broken nose victim was Harvey, the Englishman suddenly plummeting down the order as a big chunk of wing fell off. He pulled into the pits for repairs two laps from the end of the race and didn’t rejoin. It was safer in the pit lane though, as was demonstrated when Hirakawa crashed at R Bend, and was collected by Auer. The resulting crash saw debris strewn all the way to the Start/Finish line and meant that no overtaking would happen there as the yellows were hung out.
After some discussion it was decided to allow the race to run its 15-lap course though it could all have been very different. It certainly could not have lasted any longer than 15 laps as a last lap crash accounted for van de Laar when he collected Sa Silva at Lisboa, thus completing the perfect end to a perfect weekend for van Amersfoort Racing, the Dutch team having seemingly not made it through a single session without at least one (and more usually two) of their cars crashing out.
This was not something that would happen to Felix da Costa as he coasted home to a superb victory, only to find the officials played the wrong anthem on the podium. When they announced they would have to try and find the Portuguese anthem, his supporters below sang it for themselves. It was a tremendously emotional finish to the season for the now Red Bull backed youngster and a great wedding present for newly married team boss Trevor Carlin. In a fine 2nd was Rosenqvist from Lynn, while Wehrlein remained 4th, from Sainz Jr, Nasr, Derani, Sainz Jr, Marciello, Tincknell and Buller. Eriksson was 11th from Abt, Korjus, Yamauchi, Sims, Jaafar, Blomqvist, Gilbert, Muller and Serralles. 21st went to Nakayama, from Roda and Sa Silva.
Da Costa also set the fastest lap in an impressive 2:13.507, a speed of 165.02kph (102.54mph).
Weather: Cloudy, breezy.