Valtteri BottasFinland’s Valtteri Bottas finished just shy of the podium for Galaxy Double R Racing at the Circuito da Guia today, Saturday, 19th November, by taking fourth position during the all-important Qualification Race for tomorrow’s hugely prestigious 58th Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix.

The reigning GP3 Series Champion, also a race winner with Woking-based Double R in the British Formula 3 International Series this year, held third on the opening lap and ran three-wide with pole position starter Marco Wittmann and 2011 British F3 Champion Felipe Nasr through the first turn.

On the outside line for the right-hander at Lisboa, Bottas had to settle for third and although unfortunately slipping behind reigning F3 Euroseries Champion Roberto Merhi on lap two at the same corner the Double R racer produced a very strong performance. At the start of the ninth tour the Safety Car was deployed due to an incident so racing ended under caution at the end of lap 10.

Arriving late in Macau on Thursday, 17th November, following a Formula One test outing with the AT&T Williams F1 Team at Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi earlier in the week, Bottas’ troubles were compounded when a further delay meant he also missed the first part of opening qualifying.

Even so, with seriously limited track time, the Finn’s class shone through and he steered his Dallara-Mercedes HWA to fourth fastest during the all-important dry second qualifying session on Friday, 18th November, within just 0.4 seconds of pole position. This then became third on the Qualification Race grid when Merhi was penalised.

“Valtteri did a great job today, it’s a shame he couldn’t stay ahead of Merhi but starting on the second row for tomorrow is good”, said Galaxy Double R team principal Anthony ‘Boyo’ Hieatt, “The pace is obvious, he set the second fastest lap today, so we can definitely fight for the win from there. Considering the difficulties he had missing first practice it’s been a fantastic effort so far.”

Team-mates Marko Asmer and Mitch Evans both face a very tough challenge during the GP itself, the Estonian ending today’s encounter in 18th place – having run as high as seventh before sidepod damage ruined his straight-line speed – while New Zealander Evans finished in 22nd on his first time in Macau after starting at the back of the grid due to engine problems in qualifying.

Asmer, making a welcome return to Macau, was just 0.8 seconds shy of Bottas’ qualifying time to place him 12th on the grid for today’s race despite having had no regular race programme for the past couple of years.

The 2007 British F3 Champion was unfortunately handed a three-place penalty due to erroneously straying over the pit-lane exit marker line in qualifying. This was actually nullified though when other drivers were also handed a variety of penalties.

Climbing superbly into seventh place on the opening lap, Asmer used all of his experience to fantastic effect but after incurring sidepod damage he was powerless to prevent a drop down the order to an eventual finish of 18th position. He will therefore have another incredibly difficult race ahead of him tomorrow, starting on the ninth row of the Grand Prix grid.

Evans’ debut weekend in the former Portuguese enclave began with dire misfortune when his engine had to be changed due to a failure, caused by over-revving, before he had even had a chance to post a time during second qualifying.

Leaving the teenage Kiwi in 30th and last place on the grid for today’s encounter, he actually started 28th due to the varied penalties for others and produced a superb opening lap where he gained half a dozen positions and then proceeded to climb up the order further.

Unfortunately, contact to the rear of his Dallara-Mercedes from Richard Bradley on lap six forced Evans down an escape road and ruined all of his great work although he was able to recover into 22nd – meaning he will begin his first ever Macau F3 GP from the 11th row of the grid and ahead of several experienced drivers who encountered their own difficulties.

“Mitch had a lot of bad luck during the build-up to today and again in the race when he was taken out, he did a great job though and we’ve got high hopes he’ll come through the order well again tomorrow”, added Hieatt.

“Marko had a great start and first lap, really drove well, but then the damage to the sidepod made his car like a brick in a straight line. He’ll have a tough time tomorrow from 18th on the grid but he has the experience and ability to turn it around into a good result.”

The 58th Macau F3 Grand Prix will begin at 15.30 (local time) tomorrow, Sunday, 20th November.

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography