Hitech Racing got its bid for Macau Grand Prix victory off to a great start with a stunning performance by rookie Roberto Merhi who will line up sixth for Saturday’s qualifying race. British F3 series regular Max Chilton led the way for the team early on holding third for much of the session before the first of two red flag stoppages dropped him to 13th. Austrian Walter Grubmüller struggled to regain his pace following Thursday’s crash and wound up 19th.
The Buckingham-based 2007 British F3 champions finished top British team at last year’s event and for much of the 45-minute final qualifying session looked like repeating that performance with 17 year-old Chilton also the top rookie and Briton. However, the session was stopped when Jules Bianchi hit the wall with 11 minutes to run which favoured the teams positioned at the exit of the pit lane, as they capitalised on the clear track to improve their times.
After the restart Keisuke Kunimoto benefited from a tow from his team-mate and pole-sitter Carlo van Dam to move ahead of Chilton while Formula Renault/Spanish F3 star Merhi, who took a double victory in the final rounds of the FIAT Spanish F3 Championship at Catalunya, made his presence felt around the tricky Guia street circuit to go into a superb fifth.
The session had its second red flag situation less than four minutes from the finish when Kei Cozzolino hit the wall. Max running immediately behind and four tenths faster than his quickest time at that point, was caught out by the debris from the crash, which prevented him from a potential sixth place.
In a dramatic last lap, provisional pole-sitter Sam Bird was demoted to second by van Dam. While Roberto Streit nipped ahead of Merhi to push the Spaniard back to sixth, Stefano Colletti’s spin on the final lap blocking the track and ending any chance of an improvement.
Bird was later penalised three grid positions for missing the weighbridge in the morning’s free practice and will join Merhi on the third row for tomorrow’s 10-lap race which gets underway at 13:45 (local time) with the results determining the grid for the main 15-lap Windsor Arch 55th Macau Grand Prix on Sunday at 15:30. Motors TV will show highlights of the qualification race at 16:00 UK time on Sunday, with the Macau Grand Prix coverage due to start at 17:00.
Qualifying for Macau Qualification Race:
1. Carlo van Dam Tom’s Team Dallara D308 Toyota 2:11.8462. Sam Bird Manor Motorsport Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA 2:11.988*3. Keisuke Kunimoto Tom’s Team Dallara F308 Toyota 2:12.0394. Edoardo Mortara Signature-Plus Dallara F308 Volkswagen 2:12.0445. Roberto Streit Raikkonen Robertson Racing Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA 2:12.0616. Roberto Merhi Hitech Racing Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA 2:12:2697. Renger van der Zande Prema Powerteam Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA 2:12.4028. Oliver Turvey Carlin Motorsport Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA 2:12.4049. Jaime Alguersuari Carlin Motorsport Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA 2:12.41210. James Jakes ART Grand Prix Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA 2:12.42313. Max Chilton Hitech Racing Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA 2:12.86919. Walter Grubmüller Hitech Racing Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA 2:13.710
* Incurs three place grid penalty for missing weighbridge in practice.Click here for the Max Chilton web site - designed and built by Racecar