Esteban Ocon finished fourth in the qualification race for the Macau Grand Prix as all three SJM Theodore Racing by Prema drivers earned good grid positions for Sunday’s big race.
Ocon, the FIA Formula 3 European champion, lost one position away from the start and dropped to fifth. But the Frenchman then moved up to fourth when Max Verstappen crashed.
A safety car meant a three-lap dash to the finish, and Ocon put the pressure on third-placed Tom Blomqvist, only narrowly missing out on a podium position.
Canadian Nicholas Latifi finished seventh from ninth on the grid. He had a good battle with Jordan King along the way, losing seventh to the Briton before the safety car but then regaining it after the restart.
Italy’s Antonio Fuoco made good progress from 17th on the grid. He managed to steer through several incidents on the first lap, and despite sustaining front-wing damage he rose to 11th. Fuoco held that position to the finish, despite handling difficulties caused by the damage.
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 Macau Grand Prix takes place on Sunday at 1530 local time.
“I lost a place at the start. I wasn’t taking any risks because I was expecting to catch up later, but unfortunately we were just missing a little bit of pace in the race. We struggled a bit, and this race was all about staying towards the front. I didn’t quite have the speed to pass Tom Blomqvist. We still have the chance to do well tomorrow because we are starting on the second row, and we are working hard now to find some speed.”
“I got through cleanly on the first lap and pretty much maintained my position. The main thing was to get through cleanly. The pace felt quite good at the beginning of the race, I think I just didn’t have the speed on the straight compared to the others around me. I felt strong in the middle sector but I think I had maybe too much tyre degradation. The main thing was to not make mistakes, and seventh is a pretty good place to start tomorrow – anything can happen.”
“I passed only two cars at the start and then at the first corner someone crashed and I picked up four more! But I touched my front wing on one of them and from that point it was quite difficult for the race. It was very tough in sector two, especially whenever I turned right, so I just tried to finish the race. But I was quite close to the top 10 so tomorrow I will try to get into the top 10 or even top five.”