DA COSTA TAKES SECOND MACAU GP VICTORY
Antonio Felix da Costa held off a late attack from Felix Rosenqvist as the old guard of the Macau Grand Prix ruled the roost in the 2016 running of Formula 3’s blue-riband race.
Da Costa took the lead off Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen team-mate Sergio Sette Camara after the first of two safety-car periods, getting the slipstream off the Brazilian Red Bull Junior, whose plans to put the hammer down early were foiled by the late switching off of the safety car’s lights.
The second caution period ended with a textbook restart from BMW factory-contracted da Costa. Sette Camara managed to draw alongside on the long run down to the Lisboa bend, but the Portuguese had the inside line.
Soon da Costa faced a potential new challenger in Rosenqvist. The Swede had struggled for speed for much of the weekend with the all-conquering Prema Powerteam squad, but radical changes to the set-up of his Dallara-mercedes paid off in the final. Rosenqvist, winner of the previous two runnings of the event, raced from sixth to third, and then passed Sette Camara for second into Lisboa on the penultimate lap.
It looked as though Rosenqvist might just have enough pace to catch da Costa, and he set fastest lap to close the gap to one second heading into the final tour. But that wasn’t quite close enough to get into the tow, and da Costa was able to bag a second Macau win to add to his 2012 victory, which was also earned with Carlin.
Sette Camara hung on for third, ahead of a battle for fourth, which was taken by Japanese champion Kenta Yamashita over Callum Ilott.
Yamashita was given the blessing of his patrons at Toyota to switch to British team T-sport for Macau, driving the Brackley squad’s Threebond-backed, Tomei-engined car. He proved a star all weekend, featuring in the fight for pole and in the leading bunch through both races. His fight with llott was an entertaining one, the Brit struggling for balance in this race in his Van Amersfoort Racing car. Ilott had made a stunning getaway from second on the grid to lead into the Reservoir kink, but Sette Camara, da Costa and Yamashita all towed past him on the run down to Lisboa, where he found himself on the outside line and was also passed by Rosenqvist.
George Russell took pole position for the qualification race in his Hitech GP car after a stunning performance in the quicker Friday session. Most of the field went out on used tyres at the start before heading to the pits for new Pirellis halfway through. But from then on the session was interrupted by numerous red flags, while light rain began to fall near the end. Despite this, Russell pulled out a monster lap to take pole from Ilott, with da Costa lining up third.
As Ilott would find out on Sunday, Russell’s cracking start to Saturday’s qualification race proved counterproductive as he was slipstreamed by Ilott, da Costa and Sette Camara. He lost a further place to Yamashita before the end of the race, and finished fifth, but was still confident for Sunday. Up front, da Costa made the most of a safety car to tow past Ilott at the restart. Ilott kept da Costa on his toes for the rest of the race, but couldn’t quite get close enough to mount an attack.
Russell’s optimism proved ill-founded, with both the Brit and 2011 Macau-winning team-mate Daniel Juncadella struggling for straight-line speed in the Grand Prix, despite going ultra-low on downforce. It resulted in Carlin’s Jake Hughes, the GP3regular Brummie having just his second race weekend in F3, making brake-locking passes on Juncadella and then Russell to grab sixth, and the honour of best Macau rookie.
Double R Racing looked in decent shape in the qualification race, with Dan Ticktum producing an eye-opening drive to take ninth place after holding off experienced team-mate Alexander Sims, whose qualifying efforts were hampered by a late red flag on a lap that should have put him fourth on the grid. Ticktum’s bid in the Grand Prix ended when he was taken out in a collision with Pedro Piquet, who went on to finish ninth in his Brabham Bt52-liveried Dallara, while Sims finished 10th.
Lando Norris briefly held pole position on his Macau debut, but his chances were ruined when he crashed on the first lap of the qualification race. The Formula Renault Eurocup champion charged his Carlin car up from 26th on the grid to 11th at the finish, and will surely be a title contender in F3 next season.
The other Brits didn’t get a chance to shine. Sam Macleod looked on for a top 10 with Fortec Motorsport but bent a trackrod in a brush with the wall in the qualification race, then was forced wide by a multi-car collision (in which he was not involved) in the final and finished 17th.
Jann Mardenborough struggled with his B-max car’s inability over the bumps all weekend and ended up 20th.