Luke Browning says that Hitech GP’s pace at the Macau Grand Prix has been so strong that he thought he was “almost sandbagging” before taking pole.
He was second fastest to Theodore Racing’s Gabriele Mini in practice and qualifying on Thursday, more than 0.42 seconds off the pace in both sessions, then was 0.029s away from top spot in Friday practice as Paul Aron went fastest.
In the second qualifying session later that day he beat Mini to pole by 0.006s, the closest margin in the event’s single-seater history, and revealed afterwards that he should have been far closer to Mini in Q1.
“To be honest, every session up to this point was a mess. We had DRS not working in the first qualifying, and we didn’t use the second set of tyres, we were still running on the same ones as free practice. So we knew we were going to be in a good place coming into qualifying, and we thought we were almost sandbagging before it.
“Luckily we pulled it together in Q2. I was just trying to build up slowly, and you can’t attack this place, you’ve just got to build up to it and massage yourself in. Of course a Formula 3 car around here’s amazing, and looking back at the past people that have had pole positions and wins around here, it’s an absolute bucket list dream for me [to join them].”
On the challenge of the Guia street circuit, which he prepared for by doing “close to 1000 laps on the simulator at home”, Browning added: “Ultimately this place is an animal. And when you turn up, it’s just about turning it on. I think no amount of preparation can prepare you enough for what you’re going to experience out there.
“I think I did as much prep as I possibly I could of, I came to the event thinking there’s no more really I could have done. I worked on every area of my life considering last year’s performance wasn’t exactly where I wanted it to be. So yeah, coming off [missing out by 0.003s on] my first pole in F3 in Monaco, it feels special.”
The elated Browning reckoned he lost his voice “shouting on the in-lap” after taking pole.
“The guys at Hitech GP have done a brilliant job, the car was absolutely on fire. There’s something special about this place, there really is. It’s like a Monaco on steroids. You’re flying past these barriers at incredible speeds, and I was incredibly excited out there.”
Hitech ran Juri Vips to pole in the last running of the FIA F3 World Cup in Macau back in 2019, and Browning said “it definitely helps knowing that I’ve seen the data of” Vips’ lap. However he noted the limited relevance of it as “the track here changes so much; you’ve got street cars going around in between the races”.