At Macau this afternoon the Signature team completed what at a casual glance looked like a complete whitewash of the results with last year's winner Edoardo Mortara coming home to a comfortable win that means he will start the 57th Macau Grand...
At Macau this afternoon the Signature team completed what at a casual glance looked like a complete whitewash of the results with last year's winner Edoardo Mortara coming home to a comfortable win that means he will start the 57th Macau Grand Prix from pole position tomorrow. He was followed home by his team-mates, Macau veteran Laurens Vanthoor and rookie Daniel Abt, though they both saw rather more action than the leader. The race, when it did start, was so far behind schedule that it simply wasn't funny any longer, with a massive delay while the marshals tried their best to clear away the various fluids that had leaked from a huge number of shunted touring cars, and although everyone was probably grateful that bucket loads of cement dust were being employed, the delays were making everyone a bit twitchy.
Of course with a slippery track there was always the possibility of trouble, even though if questioned before most of the drivers would claim that they were planning on just surviving to make it into the Grand Prix in a sensible position. However, once they did get going one or two individuals seemed to forget that. Mortara started well, but Valtteri Bottas (Prema Powerteam) got away better, challenging for the lead into Mandarin Bend, only for both of them to lose out to Abt. However, the young German didn't get to hang onto the lead for long, Mortara making good use of his superior knowledge of this challenging circuit to forge back ahead at Lisboa. Further back in the pack, though, there was chaos as James Calado got off the racing line at Mandarin and came out sideways at speed, collecting the unfortunate Alexander Sims (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) and putting both of them out of the race there and then. One corner later, having narrowly missed being involved in Calado's exit, Oliver Webb (Fortec Motorsport) joined the retirements too when he crashed into the barriers at Lisboa, making it 3 out of 3 for the British teams. Meanwhile, up ahead, Mortara was getting away, leaving the others to fight over 2nd. And quite a fight it was turning out to be, with Bottas all over Abt, and Vanthoor in pursuit of Mortara now he'd managed to get past the youngster. Meanwhile, in the pits, the Safety Car was on standby in case the Calado/Sims wreckage couldn't be cleared quickly, and Kimiya Sato (Motopark Academy) had pitted for a new tyre.
Two laps later and we'd lost another one, with Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing with Manor Motorsport) going off, also at Lisboa and being unable to get going again. In the pack, people were on the move, with Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin) who crashed heavily in the morning qualifying session, making up for it with a series of impressive overtaking manoeuvres that would see him improve steadily as the race developed. Another one on the move was Carlin newcomer, Antonio Felix da Costa, the youngster battling his way into the top ten. Meanwhile Abt was busy being shown the black and white driving standards flag for excessive weaving as he tried to get on terms with Vanthoor while trying to hold off first Bottas and then Roberto Merhi (Prema Powerteam), the Spaniard proving something of a handful for Abt. The thing that was stopping him having a go at Abt was probably the fact that he still had Bottas on his rear wing, with Marco Wittmann (Signature) and Renger van der Zande (Motopark Academy) all stacked up behind him and just waiting for the slightest mistake.
Behind them, Vergne had picked off Felix Rosenqvist (Performance Racing) somewhere round the back of the circuit, helped by the fact that the Swede had hit the barriers on the first lap and was now struggling with the car. While Mortara continued to disappear into the distance, just outside the top ten was Carlos Huertas (Hitech Racing), now up to 11th after a steady start and looking to improve his start position for the Grand Prix on Sunday.
By the halfway stage there was a serious bottleneck developing in the shape of Abt, and while Daniel Juncadella (Prema Powerteam) lost another place and fell to 13th after a poor start, Vergne was catching van der Zande at around a second a lap partly because Renger was the back end of the train that started behind Abt. The way things were going it was a train that would soon include the Frenchman. It might also include Huertas as he was now in the top ten, having got the better of da Costa. However, the fiercest fighting was still in Abt's vicinity, especially when Merhi got a run on him as they went into Lisboa on lap 8. They were side by side all the way with Merhi eventually coming out ahead. Presumably there was contact, because shortly afterwards Merhi suddenly dropped out of contention, letting Abt back into 3rd and promoting Bottas back to 4th. And then he was gone altogether, first spinning at Matsuya and eventually parking up against the barriers out at Lisboa on the final lap, his left rear tyre completely flat. That promoted everyone except Mortara and Vanthoor one place, which Huertas turned into two places when he snatched 9th from Rosenqvist, and then just for good measure Alexandre Imperatori (Toda Racing with KCMG) was gone, the Swiss spinning off at Lisboa and out of the race with two laps left to run. Adding to the fun William Buller (Fortec Motorsport) was hit by Yuhi Sekiguchi (Three Bond Racing) as they tried to negotiate the Melco Hairpin, but at least they both made it to the finish.
And so Mortara won the Qualification race, looking very much at ease. Vanthoor was 2nd from Abt, Bottas, Wittmann, van der Zande, Vergne, Huertas and da Costa. Juncadella was 11th after he too pushed past Rosenqvist, and they were followed home by Felipe Nasr (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing), Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), Ryo Haryanto (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing), Lucas Foresti (Fortec Motorsport), Carlos Munoz (Hitech Racing), Yuji Kunimoto (Tom's), Rafael Suzuki (Tom's), Buller and Sekiguchi. Hideki Yamauchi (Hanashima Racing) ended up 21st from Mehri, Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing), Michael Ho (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) and Sato, after his early pitstop delayed him significantly.
The fastest lap was set by Vanthoor.