“Formula 3: Da Costa triumphs in Macau”

Macau. © Creative Commons / Sentoan

Antonio Felix da Costa became only the second Portuguese driver {note 1} to claim the Macau Grand Prix on Sunday morning, winning out ahead of Felix Rosenqvist and Alex Lynn.

Like the previous day’s qualifying race, da Costa was dominant, only losing the lead to Rosenqvist for the opening few hundred metres.

Determined, the Carlin racer drew to the rear of Rosenqvist’s Mücke Motorsport machine through the Mandarin Bend, before feeding through to the head of the pack on the approach to Lisboa.

Rosenqvist also briefly lost out to Lynn, with the Englishman also seizing advantage prior to Lisboa by gliding down the inside line; however a wobble toward the end of the opening tour allowed the Swede Rosenqvist back into 2nd.

The Mercedes-powered man had a second bite dive for the lead thanks to an early safety car period to clear Lucas Wolf’s stranded URD-Mercedes.
Restarting on lap six, Rosenqvist found a powerful slipstream exiting the opening band, quickly plying the Portuguese racer in Lisboa, but a confident da Costa held firm, making sure Rosenqvist was hung out on the outside line.

Lynn may have taken advantage of Rosenqvist’s situation had he not been under pressure himself.
Pascal Wehrlein, who had bolted from the fourth row into 4th place at the race start, got another solid getaway when the race returned to green conditions. Tucked under Lynn’s rear wing, the 18-year-old attempted a move on the Lisboa approach, only for the wily Lynn to detect the threat and close Wehrlein off.
It also ensured Lynn was in no position to attack Rosenqvist.

From there, the top three clung together, covered by less than two seconds with Wehrlein and Felipe Nasr in the shadows, yet for their closeness, opportunities to make decisive moves were rare.
Out front, da Costa compacted the leading group as he cut a way through the infield, yet was able to jump clear out of Melco and pull far enough ahead through Mandarin to make a challenge for the lead virtually impossible.
Each time by, the gap to Rosenqvist was just enough to safeguard the lead into Lisboa – first it was six-tenths, then seven-tenths, before peaking at just over a second after the halfway mark.

As the race aged, da Costa nailed several fastest laps in a row, while Rosenqvist – keen to get in one final attack – ran wide through Fishermen’s on lap twelve, bringing Lynn back into the picture.
The Swede’s error gave the race leader breathing room and the victory and although Rosenqvist got back on the pace, it was too late to displace da Costa.

Da Costa’s position was protected further in the final two laps when a big crash at the exit of R Bend brought out double waved yellow flags as the bend gave way to the start / finish straight.
For a moment, it was thought a safety car might be needed as Ryo Hirakawa lost control of his RSS-run Dallara Toyota, ploughing into the Armco. Hirakawa’s troubles were still not over – Euro Series regular Lucas Auer could not see the wreckage coming out of the final corner, leading the Austrian to ram the rear of the Japanese F3 Champion.
Auer’s destroyed van Amersfoort and much of the debris would be cleared by the time the leaders would start lap fourteen; however Hirakawa’s stricken machine would ensure drivers would be forced to lift off, or take a penalty, effectively nullifying any advantage / disadvantage coefficient on the Macau’s high speed section.

In the end, it was also too little too late for Lynn. Rosenqvist’s late error may have given Lynn some late impetus, but the Englishman simply ran out of time to take the Swede, while he was also affected by the double-waved yellows in the R Bend.
Irrespective, it was an impressive podium for the 19-year-old on his Macau debut.

Wehrlein fell a further second behind Lynn taking a solid 4th, well ahead of Nasr who faded as the race aged.
Pipo Derani impressed with a drive from 13th to 6th. The Brazilian had already risen to 8th by the end of the second tour – helped somewhat by retirements from Prema Powerteam duo Daniel Juncadella and Hannes van Asseldonk; both of who suffered damage after brushing the barriers.
Moves on Raffaele Marciello (lap 6) and Harry Tincknell (lap 7) took the Fortec man to the rear of Nasr, but from there his race stalled.

Carlos Sainz Jr took 7th thanks to late passes on Marciello and Tincknell; however there was an element of what might have been for the Spaniard. The Carlin racer lined up on the second row, only to drop to 10th following a bad start.
Sweeping past Will Buller on lap 11 gave Sainz Jr access to the Marciello / Tincknell pairing, who spent the race fighting amongst themselves while being passed by others.
It was a battle eventually won by Marciello. Having chased Tincknell throughout, the Italian seized an opportunity to take the Englishman on the final tour. Buller rounded out the top ten, a solid result considering he started 14th; however the Northern Ireland man was probably expecting more from the weekend.

Luis Sa Silva and Dennis van der Laar proved their credentials when they managed to take each other out on the straight towards Lisboa on the final lap.

Alas, many will remember da Costa’s driver mainly – a stellar performance in a good, but not great race.
If nothing else, the post-race celebrations became memorable in their own right when the organisers could not find the correct national anthem for several minutes, leading an emotional crowd to sing A Portuguesa for the tearful victor.
Only in Macau…

{note 1}
Technically three drivers have won the Macau Grand Prix in the “single-seater” category. Other than da Costa, Eduardo de Carvalho took the inaugural race in 1954, while André Coute won the race in 2000; however Coute, who was born in Lisbon, has claimed Macanese nationality after having moved there at the age of four.

2012 Formula 3 Grand Prix of Macau (15 laps)
Pos  Driver                  Team/Car                       Time/Gap 
 1.  Antonio Felix da Costa  Carlin Dallara-VW              38m02.845s 
 2.  Felix Rosenqvist        Mucke Dallara-Mercedes           + 1.573s 
 3.  Alex Lynn               Fortec Dallara-Mercedes          + 2.468s 
 4.  Pascal Wehrlein         Mucke Dallara-Mercedes           + 3.471s 
 5.  Felipe Nasr             Carlin Dallara-VW                + 9.127s 
 6.  Pipo Derani             Fortec Dallara-Mercedes         + 11.043s 
 7.  Carlos Sainz Jr         Carlin Dallara-VW               + 11.417s 
 8.  Raffaele Marciello      Prema Dallara-Mercedes          + 14.376s 
 9.  Harry Tincknell         Fortec Dallara-Mercedes         + 16.944s 
10.  Will Buller             Carlin Dallara-VW               + 21.650s 
11.  Jimmy Eriksson          Double R Dallara-Mercedes       + 22.955s 
12.  Daniel Abt              Carlin Dallara-VW               + 24.025s 
13.  Kevin Korjus            Double R Dallara-Mercedes       + 24.632s 
14.  Hideki Yamauchi         B-Max Dallara-Toyota            + 26.502s 
15.  Alexander Sims          T-Sport Dallara-Nissan          + 26.757s 
16.  Jazeman Jaafar          TOM'S Dallara-Toyota            + 27.834s 
17.  Tom Blomqvist           Euro International Dallara-VW   + 28.565s 
18.  Mitchell Gilbert        Mucke Dallara-Mercedes          + 31.899s 
19.  Sven Muller             Prema Dallara-Mercedes          + 32.744s 
20.  Felix Serralles         Fortec Dallara-Mercedes         + 33.276s 
21.  Yuichi Nakayama         TOM'S Dallara-Toyota            + 47.525s 
22.  Andrea Roda             Jo Zeller Dallara-Mercedes      + 59.222s 
23.  Luis Sa Silva           Angola Dallara-Mercedes           + 1 lap 
25.  Dennis van de Laar      Van Amersfoort Dallara-VW         + 1 lap 
     Ryo Hirakawa            RSS Dallara-Toyota                12 laps 
     Lucas Auer              Van Amersfoort Dallara-VW         12 laps 
     Jack Harvey             Carlin Dallara-VW                 12 laps 
     Daniel Juncadella       Prema Dallara-Mercedes             2 laps 
     Hannes van Asseldonk    Prema Dallara-Mercedes             2 laps 
     Lucas Wolf              URD Dallara-Mercedes               0 laps

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