Qualifying session two: And so, 17 hours and 15 minutes later than originally planned, the second and final qualifying session for the 5th Macau Grand Prix got underway, eventually leading to pole for Edoardo Mortara (Signature), last year's...
Qualifying session two: And so, 17 hours and 15 minutes later than originally planned, the second and final qualifying session for the 5th Macau Grand Prix got underway, eventually leading to pole for Edoardo Mortara (Signature), last year's winner just holding off a last lap charge from Valtteri Bottas (Prema Powerteam), as well his own team-mates Laurens Vanthoor and Daniel Abt. Despite initial caution as everyone very tentatively tiptoed round the Melco Hairpin trying to avoid embarrassing themselves early on, it wasn't long before they seemed to forget and everyone started jockeying for position out on the slippery track.
With temperatures still reasonably low this had the potential to be a much faster session and no one wanted to be caught out when the red flags started, as they almost inevitably will round here. In fact it started on the first flying lap when Lucas Foresti (Fortec Motorsport) decided to have a look up the escape road at Lisboa in case there was anything interesting down there. There didn't appear to be and he rejoined, but then Alexander Sims (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) did exactly the same thing. Meanwhile after someone else managed to brush the wall somewhere, there were reports of debris on the track at Paiol. Despite instructions to keep to the left side of the track there, Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing) still managed to go off and destroy his car, thus producing the first red flag of the session before most drivers had even had chance to wake up. Meanwhile, Mortara and Felipe Nasr (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) came close to tangling in the pit lane when Mortara emerged from the garage somewhat abruptly just as Nasr came in is response to the red flag. With everyone back in while Fong was craned away, tyre changes and tweaks to wings were the order of the day, as a general air of tetchiness broke out that didn't bode well for the remainder of the session.
With 23 minutes precisely left to run, and no improvements on Thursday's times (although Mortara had got down into the 2 minute 13 seconds bracket on his first flying lap) they were sent out with the words "Slippery track at MP13 (Paiol)" to focus their minds. All of this meant that there were around 20 minutes left by the time the latest out lap was over, so it was essential to buckle down and get on with it pronto. Jean- Eric Vergne (Carlin) was next to start pushing, setting a fastest time of all in Sector 1, the Frenchman clearly on it after his F1 test work at the start of the week. However, that lap had to be aborted as the warnings about Paiol failed to have the desired effect and Yuji Kunimoto (Tom's) spun and ended up stranded facing the wrong way. The marshals leapt into action and soon had him sorted out and pointing in the appropriate direction, the youngster trundling gently round to the pits for some remedial work. Mortara and Vanthoor, meanwhile, were now faster than in Qualifying Session 1, as were Antonio Felix da Costa (Carlin) and Bottas, with Vanthoor briefly 2nd until Bottas crossed the line. However, the officials had already hauled out the red flag yet again while Kunimoto could be rescued so once again the survivors all returned to the pits to wait it out. At this point, with half the session left, the order was Mortara, from Bottas, Vanthoor, Marco Wittmann (Signature), Carlos Huertas (Hitech Racing), Renger van der Zande (Motopark Academy), Nasr, James Calado (Carlin), Alexandre Imperatori (Toda Racing with KCMG) and da Costa (who got edged out at the last). In 11th was Daniel Abt (Signature), from Oliver Webb (Fortec Motorsport), Vergne, William Buller (Fortec Motorsport), Yuhi Sekiguchi (Three Bond Racing), Hideki Yamauchi (Hanashima Racing), Kunimoto, Sims, Roberto Merhi (Prema Powerteam), Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) and Rio Haryanto (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing). The bottom third of the order was led by Foresti, ahead of Kimiya Sato (Motopark Academy), Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing with Manor Motorsport), Daniel Juncadella (Prema Powerteam), Felix Rosenqvist (Performance Racing), Rafael Suzuki (Tom's), Fong, Carlos Mu?oz (Hitech Racing) and Michael Ho (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing).
With 16 minutes and change left when the lights went green again, they would have around 14 minutes to get a lap time in, which meant everyone was now pushing hard. Needless to say there were more casualties, starting with Buller who went off at Lisboa then rejoined, and dragged it back to the pits trailing a modified front wing and probably some suspension damage to boot. He wasn't having a good weekend. Unlike Vanthoor, who now snatched pole from Mortara, while team-mate Abt appeared in 4th, two places ahead of Vergne, who was starting to show strongly too. Meanwhile Jaafar was very briefly 10th until Merhi crossed the line, and he held the slot for a short period only to lose it to Imperatori; 10th seemed to be a popular slot for some reason.
A lap later, as Buller limped in to the pits, Vergne improved for 4th, and da Costa put in another fast lap for 6th. However, it was a long way from over as proved by Mortara's next flying lap, which was enough to put him back on top, ahead of Vanthoor, Wittmann and Merhi, the latter just ahead of Bottas for a while. And then it was all change with Huertas leapfrogging to 6th.as they all settled down, at least temporarily, and the times finally started to come down. With three cars in the 2:11s (and all of them Signature cars) the speed was clearly there if you could just stay on the track.
Unfortunately not everyone could as there were yellows at Lisboa (Foresti again) and then the whole of Sector 2 went yellow as Webb hit the barriers at Matsuya and punctured a rear wheel. While Merhi snagged 4th, and Rosenqvist broke into the top 10 (in 9th), Bottas also picked up a puncture after a close encounter with the Moorish hill Armco. It was getting vaguely silly out there now. To make matters worse, Vergne then slammed it into the wall at Police bend, while Buller then crashed heavily at Moorish. It was turning into an F3 graveyard out there, but despite it all there was a somewhat unexpected improvement from Lloyd who went 12th. Just to make Carlin's day complete, with seconds rather than minutes left on the clock, da Costa slammed into the wall at Fisherman's Bend, making a massive mess, but not before Mortara came round to claim pole, with a last gasp effort from Bottas (after the team did a rapid repair job on his suspension) secured 2nd for the Finn. Other last lap improvements came from Sims, Jaafar who ended up 14th and was the only Carlin driver not to crash, and Abt who rocketed up the order to 4th at the flag.
The finishing order before the penalties from Thursday were applied was Mortara, from Bottas, Vanthoor, Abt, Wittmann, Merhi, Huertas, Rosenqvist, van der Zande and Juncadella. 11th overall was Vergne, beating out Sims, da Costa, Jaafar, Lloyd, Nasr, Calado, Webb, Imperatori and Munoz. 21st was Suzuki, from Foresti, Sekiguchi, Buller, Haryanto, Yamauchi, Kunimoto, Sato, Ho and Fong. Of the 30, only Buller, Yamauchi, Fong and Kunimoto failed to improve on their Thursday times.
After the application of penalties to 8 individuals for ignoring yellow flags, the starting grid for the Qualification Race this afternoon is Mortara, from Bottas, Vanthoor, Abt, Wittmann, Merhi, Rosenqvist, van der Zande, Juncadella and Vergne. 11th was Sims, ahead of Huertas, da Costa, Jaafar, Lloyd, Nasr, Imperatori, Suzuki, Haryanto and Kunimoto. In 21st will be Sato, from Calado, Webb, Ho, Munoz, Fong, Foresti, Sekiguchi, Buller and Yamauchi.