F3: Browning tops FIA Formula 3 World Cup qualifying as Macau rookies star


Luke Browning, making his FIA Formula 3 World Cup debut, is set to start Saturday’s Qualification Race from pole position following a sensational effort in Qualifying 2 on Macau’s iconic street track today

The 21-year-old Briton, second after Thursday’s Qualifying 1 on a 2m06.018s, went faster still on Friday afternoon to deny Gabriele Minì top spot at the 70th Macau Grand Prix.

After posting a 2m05.435s to take pole by 0.006s, the Hitech Pulse-Eight driver said: I’m absolutely elated, I think I lost my voice shouting on the in-lap.”

When asked to describe the preparations that helped him to master the challenging 6.21-kilometre Guia Circuit, Browning put it down to “close to 1000 laps in a simulator at home, walking the track and watching as many on-bards as possible.”

He added: “You can do all this, but ultimately this place is an animal! No amount of preparation can pay off enough for what you’re going to experience.”

Italian Minì, who was fastest in Free Practice 1 and again in Qualifying 1 for the SJM Theodore Prema Racing Team, ended up second quickest. His Swedish team-mate Dino Beganovic, another Macau rookie, was third fastest.

“We’ve showed good speed straight from the first laps,” Minì, 18, said. “I’m disappointed not to have taken pole but it was by [0.006s]. We had a chance, we had two more laps and I was really quick but we got a red flag.

“This year we already had a street circuit in Monaco, and it went pretty well, but Macau is a much tougher track – it’s a bit like Monaco but three times harder.

“It’s not going to be an easy race, but we’re going to give our best and see how it goes.”

Beganovic, who is being mentored by 1992 Macau Grand Prix winner Rickard Rydell, said: "Coming here is just incredible. It puts a smile on face of a driver. All of us are rookies here and I think it shows the level of our generation right now and the level in Formula 3. I’m happy with this result."

Qualifying 2 was four minutes old when Nikola Tsolov brought out the red flags after crashing at Police, Turn 15.

Isack Hadjar then spun at Moorish, T16, and partially blocked the track, leading to another red-flag intervention after he was unable to continue, as Sebastián Montoya failed to make it round the Melco Hairpin and caused a momentary obstruction seconds later.

Marcus Armstrong, who had set the pace earlier in Qualifying 2, crashed on the exit of Dona Maria Bend with five minutes of the session remaining. And with Ugo Ugochukwu going off at Police and blocking the road, Qualifying 2 was halted for a third time.

A fourth red flag was required after Hadjar crashed heavily exiting Moorish. With only two minutes remaining, Qualifying 2 did not resume leaving Browning at the head of the order.

Despite his woes, Frenchman Hadjar is fourth in the provisional overall classification to make it a Macau rookie top-four followed by New Zealander Armstrong, Irishman Alex Dunne and Germany’s Oliver Goethe.

Dennis Hauger (Norway), American Ugochukwu and Spaniard Mari Boya fill the provisional overall top 10 places.

The combined results following Thursday’s Qualifying 1 and today’s Qualifying 2 will now be used to form the starting grid for Saturday’s 10-lap Qualification Race, which is due to begin at 15:50 local time (GMT +8 hours) with live streaming on the FIA’s YouTube channel.

Prior to the FIA Formula 3 World Cup Qualification Race, the stars of the FIA GT World Cup will be in action in their Qualification Race, which is scheduled over a distance of 12 laps from 14:05. It will also be live on the FIA’s YouTube channel. Click HERE for live timing.