Macau GP: Sophia Floersch avoids incidents to finish Qualification Race in P21
Sophia Floersch will take the start of the 66th Macau Grand Prix from P21 in the 30-cars field, after avoiding a first lap pile-up in the qualification race.
Sophia Floersch made her return to the iconic Guia Street circuit together with Macau-debutant team HWA Racelab on Thursday, completing the first practice session in a promising 20th place. The German 18-year old was 27th fastest in Friday's qualifying, after being hindered by issues in FP2 and thus started her first FIA F3 race from the 14th row.
The qualifying race of the historic Macau Grand Prix was a matter of F1-supported drivers: it was Red Bull-backed junior Juri Vips to take the sought-after victory as the Estonian driver controlled the race from pole position to chequered flag.
Vips had already scored the fastest lap ever in the history of the racetrack, with an impressive 2:04.997 in Friday's second qualifying session: five seconds faster than last year's pole position lap time.
Winner of the last two editions, Brit Dan Ticktum (and Floersch teammate in the 2019 Formula Regional championship) took the start from the 13th place on the grid. Joining Carlin team in order to defend his prestigious win, Ticktum will look forward to complete a task no-one has ever achieved before: winning the Macau GP three times in a row.
An old-school street circuit, widely loved by racing drivers, the Macau layout is unchanged with only run-off zones being slightly altered in order to accommodate the newest FIA Formula 3 cars, also following Sophia Floersch's scary frightening in 2018.
At the qualification race start, Vips nailed the start as Schwartzman and Lundgaard, who had a better start off the line to overtake Ilott, went towards Lisboa corenr fighting for second.
Behind them, it was the classic mayhem into Lisboa: Arjun Maini was tagged on the back of his Jenzer car by Logan Sargeant, sending the Indian driver into the barriers and bringing out the only Safety Car of the race.
The accident involved front-runners and contenders Jake Hughes and Dan Ticktum, as well as Enaam Ahmed who also had to retire. Many more drivers saw their races affected, as the road blockage forced them to rejoin from the back of the field.
Sophia Floersch successfully managed to avoid the incident and advanced to P17, while Enzo Fittipaldi moved up to P15 from the very last grid spot.
At the restart, Vips held the lead and crucially gained a couple of seconds gap on FIA Formula 3 champion Robert Schwartzman, with the whole field now much more cautious into the hard braking zone of Lisboa. Lundgaard started to put some pressure on Schwartzman, while Verschoor managed to move up to fifth and closed in on a slower Ilott.
In a clean first half of the race, Floersch was attacked and passed by Estner and Drugovich, with Tsunoda and Armstrong recovering quickly behind her.
Russian Schwartzman charged back with a series of fast laps, but Vips always kept him at bay and never within DRS reach. Verschoor passed Ilott with a clean move under braking at Lisboa on lap 9, as the hectic mid-field fights saw Felipe Drugovich outbraking himself and ending up into the barriers. The crash luckily did not require the intervention of a second Safety Car and the Carlin car was promptly removed by the efficient marshals at Lisboa.
Floersch battled hard around the 20th position for the entire race, but had to give up one more place to Lawson on the last lap.
After 10 laps, Juri Vips won the first race of the FIA F3 era at Macau and conquered an important pole position for tomorrow's main event, ahead of Ferrari's Robert Schwartzman and Renault's Christian Lundgaard. They will be among the leading contenders for the big race, but the Macau layout will inherently keep most of the field in contention.
Sophia Floersch will start the 66th edition of the Macau Grand Prix from P21 after a solid, mistake-free qualification race.
“The most important thing today was to finish the race and I managed that." - said Floersch after Saturday's race. "After the accident at the start, I was suddenly surrounded by a few fast lads. This was my first time driving with DRS and I will have to get used to that."
"Now I know what this car is about and I am excited to see how things go tomorrow.”
Thomas Strick, HWA Rcelab team principal, commented: "Sophia deserves praise as she has got used to the new car very quickly in the last few days. Now we have to concentrate totally on tomorrow and attempt to record the best possible result.”
Lights will go out at 15:30 local time, 08:30 CET.
In Sophia's words:
“The most important thing today was to finish the race and I managed that."
Ph credits: FIA F3 Media / Macau GP