Juri Vips wins Macau qualifying race to take pole
Red Bull protege Jüri Vips was flawless for the third session in a row, as he perfectly executed a lights-to-flag victory during Macau's Qualifying Race, to secure pole positon for Sunday's 66th Macau Grand Prix, at the FIA F3 World Cup.
Robert Shwartzman finished a close second, having been unable to reel in the Hitech GP racer, while Christian Lundgaard passed Callum Ilott for the final spot on the podium.
Having seen Vips bomb off the line, Shwartzman tucked in behind him when the lights went out and attempted to follow in tow. Behind them, Lundgaard squeezed passed Ilott at the start and lined up directly behind the Russian, in his slipstream.
There was chaos at the first corner, as Daniel Ticktum clipped the front of Arjun Maini, which sent the Indian into a spin and threw the Brit slightly into the air. Those following were forced to slam on their brakes, as Jake Hughes and Enaam Ahmed also fell victim to the collision.
This handed an advantage to the drivers starting at the back of the grid, who managed to squeeze past the traffic jam that had formed. Enzo Fittipaldi was the biggest beneficiary, as he leapt from 30th to 15th. With a safety car introduced, Ticktum was able to make it to the pits and re-join at the back of the grid.
When the safety car returned, Macau rookie Richard Verschoor continued his impressive start to the weekend as he began to reel in Ilott. Meanwhile, it had been a nightmare start for top ten runners Marcus Armstrong and Frederik Vesti, who plummeted to the back of the grid, due to the opening lap collision.
This saw Alessio Lorandi and David Schumacher squeeze into the top ten, although the latter was later forced to dive into the pits, which threw him back down the order.
Shwartzman continued to chase Vips at the front of the field, managing to close the gap from 1.8s to 1.1s thanks to a purple final sector, however, the Estonian eked more out of his Hitech machine to set the fastest lap on his subsequent tour of the Guia Circuit.
Having followed in the heels of Ilott, Verschoor was finally able to make his move, performing a slick overtake of the Sauber Junior Team by Charouz racer. The Dutchman swung into the Briton’s slipstream and opened up DRS to slingshot past him down the main straight.
There was one final casualty ahead of the chequered flag, as Felipe Drugovich misjudged the braking point ahead of Lisboa and slammed nose first into the wall. The Brazilian clambered out of his car safely, but his race was over.
Vips continued to cross the line almost unopposed, as Shwartzman was unable to claw his way past. Lundgaard followed in third, ahead of Verschoor, Ilott, Logan Sargeant, Lorandi, Ferdinand Habsburg, David Beckmann and Leonardo Pulcini.
The Estonian will be aiming to top his fourth successive session in the main race tomorrow, as he attempts to add his name to the prestigious list of Macau Grand Prix winners, at the FIA F3 World Cup. Action starts at 3.30pm (local time).