Formula 3 veteran Felix Rosenqvist claimed pole position for the Macau Grand Prix, his fifth attempt on the category’s greatest race.
Rosenqvist signalled his intentions with fastest time in Friday’s free practice, and his Mucke Motorsport Dallara-Mercedes leapt to the top of the qualifying order with seven minutes to go when he set a storming time in the long, sinuous middle sector.
The Swede’s team-mate Lucas Auer had been the first to topple Tom Blomqvist from his overnight pole position, before F3 European champion Esteban Ocon quickly knocked Auer off the top spot.
With Ocon and Max Verstappen serving a two-place grid penalty, this was still enough for Auer to take pole, but Rosenqvist demoted him just after midway through the session and then went faster still to beat Lotus F1 Junior Ocon.
Ocon had taken two new tyres quite late in the session, but his bid to take the fastest time was not helped by yellow flags when Alex Palou crashed at Paiol.
Although the Spaniard got going again, he then stopped a little way further round the track at Faraway Hill, causing the red flags to appear with just two minutes remaining and leaving no chance for a restart.
“Free practice felt quite good but then I had a stupid spin, which was completely my mistake,” said Rosenqvist. “I lost two tyres which was not very good for the weekend.
“Yesterday I didn’t really feel confident but we made some changes to the car and I went out and did a couple of laps.
“All the time I tried to get into the rhythm instead of find a tow and it worked quite well – it’s good when you’re on your own because you can lap by lap improve and that was key today.”
Verstappen also beat Auer’s time with a few minutes left on the clock, but with the penalties the Austrian will join Rosenqvist on an all-Mucke front row.
Carlin team-mates Blomqvist and Antonio Giovinazzi fell from one-two before the session started to fifth and eighth, with neither improving their Thursday time. Blomqvist will nevertheless start third, ahead of Prema Powerteam driver Ocon and the Van Amersfoort Racing car of Verstappen.
Another Carlin runner, Jordan King, is well in the mix in sixth, with Nick Cassidy claiming seventh in the NBE-powered T-Sport entry.
The top 10 was rounded out by Nicholas Latifi, who like team-mate Ocon took two tyres late on, and the Double R Racing car of Roberto Merhi, who was much happier after overnight set-up changes.
Stefano Coletti was looking good for a top-10 spot only to crash at Police – he dropped to 12th behind German F3 champion Markus Pommer.