Esteban Ocon qualified second fastest for the Macau Grand Prix in his SJM Theodore Racing by Prema car.
Ocon, the FIA Formula 3 European champion, held the fastest time for much of the session, only to be demoted with seven minutes to go.
Unfortunately, a tactic for Ocon and Nicholas Latifi to take two new tyres late in the session did not pay off as yellow and then red flags played a large part in them not improving.
A two-place grid penalty for missing the signal to have his car weighed in free practice means that Frenchman Ocon will start the qualification race from fourth on the grid, but still in contention for honours.
Canadian Latifi enjoyed some time in the top six during the final qualifying session but was relegated to ninth as he was taking on his two new tyres.
However, Ocon, Latifi and their Italian team-mate Antonio Fuoco have two more fresh tyres from their event allocation of 14 than most of their rivals to use either in the qualification race or the Grand Prix.
Fuoco suffered a setback when he crashed at the beginning of Friday’s free practice session, but he found his rhythm in qualifying to take the 17th fastest time.
Theodore Racing returned to the Macau Grand Prix in 2013, the event’s 60th year, in a decision taken by Teddy Yip Jr as a tribute to his father, the late Teddy Yip, who was synonymous with the race. Under Yip Sr’s guidance, Theodore Racing won the Macau Grand Prix six times, including with Ayrton Senna in 1983. Alex Lynn then became a first-time winner for Yip Jr in 2013.
The team’s sponsor is hotel group Sociedade de Jogos de Macau, S.A. (SJM). SJM is famous for its links with the Macau Grand Prix, dating back to the 1960s when, as STDM, it began a long-standing relationship with the race and with Yip Sr.
The qualification race takes place on Saturday at 1345 and the Macau Grand Prix is on Sunday at 1530.
“Today it was much better than yesterday. We worked on the car, I worked on myself and we found the speed finally. I’m quite happy about second place. Unfortunately we got the penalty so I start on the second row, but it’s always good to be starting towards the front at Macau because you can overtake. The Macau Grand Prix means as much if not more than the Formula 3 European Championship. I think it’s the best race in F3, and one of the best in the world. That’s why we all come here – there’s so much good history with all the best drivers so we all want to win this race.”
“Before second qualifying it went OK. I’m kind of disappointed with the end result. I was hoping for much more than P9. I was quite happy with the lap on the first set of tyres. After that we put only two new tyres on and with the yellow flags and the traffic it was quite difficult to improve. It was like a train of slower guys in front, slowing each other and battling, and you’d keep catching them up. But if I stay out of trouble in the first race it’s possible to move up and be in a good position for the final.”
“I’m not really happy, but this is my first time in Macau. This morning I crashed, but this is a difficult track and tomorrow we have a race and we will be fighting to improve. Maybe we can move into a better position for the final, but first we have to focus on the race tomorrow.”