The first two days of the Macao Grand Prix were devoted to free practice and qualifying. Sacha Fenestraz made good use of them to find his marks on the famous Chinese circuit. At the wheel of his Formula 3 single-seater entered by the Vaillante-Carlin team, he pursued his steep learning curve and fought his way up to 11thplace on the grid for the qualifying race.
After a very rapid preparation that began the day after his title in the Eurocup Formula Renault, Fenestraz was bubbling with enthusiasm as he discovered the Guia circuit. On Thursday morning he buckled down to the job in the first free practice session to gather the maximum amount of experience on this circuit like no other.
In the early afternoon the Vaillante-Carlin driver confirmed his speed and consistency in the first qualifying session. Despite the fact that it was interrupted by three red flags he kept a cool head and his concentration. With a lap in 2m 13.818sec he set the eighth-fastest time, which singled him out as he was the quickest rookie.
Today, Friday, Sacha adopted the same hard-working approach. He racked up the laps in the second free practice making no mistakes as he continued to learn the circuit and how the Dallara-Volkswagen shod with Yokohama tyres worked.
The crucial second qualifying session that decided pole position lived up to its promise, and the suspense went down to the wire due to the many offs and accidents. With three minutes to go to the chequered flag Sacha snatched 11thplace with a time of 2m 11.880sec. The session was then interrupted by yet another red flag freezing the classification.
After the two days Fenestraz has several reasons to be satisfied. He made absolutely no mistakes on the circuit lined with guardrail, and he was able to maximise the time he spent on the track and build up his speed. His 11thplace behind drivers who have much more experience in Formula 3 means that he will start the qualifying race on the sixth row of the grid with the aim of putting on a scintillating performance in the Vaillante-Carlin colours!
The first race run over 10 laps on Saturday at 10:20 (GM+8) will decide the places on the grid for the Macao Grand Prix. On Sunday at 15:30 the 22 cars will go at it hammer and tongs in the main event, the outcome of which will decide the winner of the FIA Formula 3 World Cup.
Sacha Fenestraz: “Macao is an incredibly difficult circuit, much more so than I had imagined. It’s completely different to Monaco or Pau! Every lap counts in learning about the car, the tyres, and the layout. My objective was to find the limits while staying on the track. Today, there were so many red flags that it was very difficult to string the laps together in Q2. I gave everything on my last attempt for which we put new tyres on the left-hand side of the car. I did my best and I’m satisfied with my eleventh place. Tomorrow, my aim will be the same: stay on the track and take advantage of slipstreaming in the fastest sections to move up into the top 10!”