Felix Rosenqvist won the Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix qualification race, beating team-mate Lucas Auer in a Mucke Motorsport one-two.
Rosenqvist owed the victory in large part to a mid-race safety car, which eradicated a comfortable lead for Auer. At the restart, the Swede drafted past the Austrian on the outside into Lisboa.
Rosenqvist had made a decent start, but Auer’s sister Dallara-Mercedes slipstreamed in front before they got to the Mandarin Oriental kink, and Max Verstappen – after a sensational start from fifth on the grid – followed through into second place.
Verstappen was attacked fiercely by Rosenqvist in the early laps before the Toro Rosso Formula 1 recruit began to consolidate second in his Van Amersfoort Racing Dallara-Volkswagen.
But on the fourth lap Verstappen hit the barriers at the Solitude esses, deranging the left-front suspension and puncturing the left-rear tyre. He ran out of turning room while trying to get round the Melco hairpin before finally getting back to the pits.
Straight afterwards the safety car was scrambled, as Sam MacLeod had crashed at Paiol, blocking half the track at the point where there are no cranes to snatch cars away.
That left a three-lap dash to the finish. Straight after passing Auer, Rosenqvist – despite flat-spotting his front-left tyre in his fight with Verstappen – built up a lead as Auer struggled to get up to speed, but on the last two laps the Austrian brought the gap down, finishing nine tenths adrift.
Auer actually seemed content to finish second and take that spot on the grid for the GP, acknowledging how difficult it is to defend for the poleman on the run from the start.
Tom Blomqvist and Esteban Ocon moved up to third and fourth after Verstappen’s incident. F3 European champion Ocon challenged his runner-up Blomqvist after the restart, with Nick Cassidy also getting into the mix.
Blomqvist held on to complete the podium in his Jagonya Ayam with Carlin Dallara-VW, from the Prema Powerteam Dallara-Merc of Ocon and top Macau rookie Cassidy’s impressive T-Sport Dallara-NBE.
Cassidy had passed Roberto Merhi – who had a strong first lap to rise from 10th to sixth in his Double R Racing Dallara-Merc – after the restart.
Jordan King lost ground on the first lap and ended up in a scrap for seventh with Nicholas Latifi, which he lost during the jostling after the restart, while Felix Serralles and Stefano Coletti rounded out the top 10.
Apart from Verstappen, the other likely leading contender to go out of contention was Antonio Giovinazzi, who brushed the barriers at Mandarin Oriental after the start and, with his loss of momentum, was hit by Alex Palou at Lisboa.
As Giovinazzi slewed across the track on exit, he also took out team-mate Sean Gelael.
Of the other UK drivers, Will Buller pitted at the end of the first lap before rejoining, while Dan Wells made good progress from the back of the grid before dropping back to finish 22nd after the restart.
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RESULTS – 10 LAPS:
|1||Felix Rosenqvist||Kashbet.com by Mucke Motorsport||Dallara/Mercedes||27m11.512s|
|2||Lucas Auer||KFZTeile24 Mucke Motorsport||Dallara/Mercedes||0.935s|
|3||Tom Blomqvist||Jagonya Ayam with Carlin||Dallara/Volkswagen||2.494s|
|4||Esteban Ocon||SJM Theodore Racing by Prema||Dallara/Mercedes||3.657s|
|5||Nick Cassidy||ThreeBond with T-Sport||Dallara/NBE||4.544s|
|6||Roberto Merhi||W66.com Double R Racing||Dallara/Mercedes||6.650s|
|7||Nicholas Latifi||SJM Theodore Racing by Prema||Dallara/Mercedes||7.429s|
|8||Jordan King||GR Asia with Carlin||Dallara/Volkswagen||7.857s|
|9||Felix Serralles||Team West-Tec F3||Dallara/Mercedes||8.419s|
|11||Antonio Fuoco||SJM Theodore Racing by Prema||Dallara/Mercedes||10.706s|
|12||Santino Ferrucci||Fortec Motorsports||Dallara/Mercedes||11.730s|
|15||Gustavo Menezes||Van Amersfoort Racing||Dallara/Volkswagen||15.027s|
|16||Tatiana Calderon||JZR/ Mucke Motorsport||Dallara/Mercedes||16.114s|
|17||Martin Cao||Fortec Motorsports||Dallara/Mercedes||17.198s|
|18||Richard Goddard||ThreeBond with T-Sport||Dallara/NBE||18.721s|
|20||Mitsunori Takaboshi||B-MAX Racing Team||Dallara/Toyota||21.925s|
|21||Andy Chang||Team West-Tec F3||Dallara/Mercedes||25.016s|
|22||Dan Wells||Toda Racing||Dallara/Toda||25.267s|
|–||William Buller||Signature||Dallara/Volkswagen||Not classified|
|–||Max Verstappen||Van Amersfoort Racing||Dallara/Volkswagen||Retirement|
|–||Sean Gelael||Jagonya Ayam with Carlin||Dallara/Volkswagen||Retirement|
|–||Alex Palou||Fortec Motorsports||Dallara/Mercedes||Retirement|
|–||Antonio Giovinazzi||Jagonya Ayam with Carlin||Dallara/Volkswagen||Retirement|