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Qualifying report

Alpine junior Mini takes provisional pole for Macau GP amid three red flags

Alpine junior Gabriele Mini secured provisional pole position for the Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix on Thursday after a red flag marred first qualifying session.

The Theodore Prema driver, who had been quickest in the morning’s free practice session, saved his best until the end to deliver the fastest lap as he took the chequered flag.

It was an effort that knocked Williams Academy youngster Luke Browning (Hitech) off the top spot by an impressive 0.497 seconds, with Ferrari Academy driver Dino Beganovic (Theodore Prema) ending up third.

But the final times mattered little as the majority of the field steered clear of opting for new tyres, as they instead preferred to hold sets back for the critical final qualifying session on Friday that will almost certainly decide the final grid.

Drivers also found it hard to build up a rhythm through the scheduled 40-minute qualifying session as three separate red flags triggered a spate of delays and forced cars back to the pits.

The first stoppage came after just seven minutes when Campos driver Sebastian Montoya, the son of former Formula 1 driver Juan Pablo, ran off into the barriers at Lisboa corner.

The session got going again for little more than five minutes before a second red flag came out after two cars ended up down the escape road at the same turn.

Although van Amersfoort Racing’s Tommy Smith and Trident’s Ugo Ugochukwu eventually were able to get going again under their own steam, race control had little option but to bring out the red flag because their cars initially looked stopped in a dangerous position.

The third red flag came out with just under 16 minutes remaining after Rodin Carlin’s Zane Maloney clouted the wall in the Moorish Hill section. The impact badly damaged the left side of his car, and he stopped on track.

Gabriele Minì, SJM Theodore Prema Racing

Photo by: Macau GP

Gabriele Minì, SJM Theodore Prema Racing

Following an extended break while marshals also took the opportunity to make barrier repairs at Lisboa, the fastest laps of the session all came at the end.

First, Hitech’s GB3 graduate Alex Dunne went top, before Browning appeared to have done enough with a time that briefly moved him to the top with two minutes remaining. But the Briton was eventually dropped down to second as Mini - who raced for Hitech in F3 this season - pulled off his benchmark lap at the end.

Dennis Hauger, the 2019 F3 champion returning to the category with MP Motorsport following a last-minute call-up to replace Franco Colapinto, ended up fourth quickest, with Dunne’s earlier effort being good enough for fifth.

Another category returnee Isack Hadjar (Hitech) took sixth in the standings, with IndyCar driver Marcus Armstrong ending up seventh for MP Motorsport.

Formula E racer Dan Ticktum, who has the chance to become the first driver to win Macau three times this weekend, finished 10th for Rodin Carlin.

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