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Mini and Browning stun in opening Macau GP practice session

by Ida Wood

Photo: Macau GP Organising Committee

Gabriele Mini led the way in the opening practice session for the Macau Grand Prix.

Teams further back in the pitlane got their cars into the pitlane’s fast lane before track action began to make sure they would not be caught out in what turned out to be a relatively disruption-free 40-minute session.

Hitech GP and MP Motorsport’s drivers were first out, and a 2m37.735s from Luke Browning was the first benchmark. It was immediately beaten by Hitech team-mate Isack Hadjar by three seconds, then by a further six seconds as Alex Dunne lapped in the 2m28s. MP’s Marcus Armstrong, Dennis Hauger and Mari Boya slotted into fourth, fifth and sixth, with Rodin Carlin’s Zane Maloney and Dan Ticktum in seventh and eighth.

Van Amersfoort Racing’s drivers completed their first laps seven-and-a-half minutes in, with Noel Leon and Tommy Smith getting into fourth and fifth place, while Hadjar had an issue that led to him stopping in the mountain section and then again at Fisherman’s Bend but only local yellow flags were required as he was able to get going again.

Leon was next to top the times, setting a 2m17.820s to lead Smith by just 0.006 seconds. He remained on top for a while, with many drivers returning to the pits on their second laps and others getting warnings for crossing the pit exit line.

After 16 minutes, Mini briefly got himself into third ahead of Ticktum. But Maloney then bettered both to get within 0.803s of Leon and into third place.

The Prema drivers were soon the ones to beat, with Dino Beganovic lowering the pace to 2m14.407s. Smith improved to be 0.306s behind in second, and Beganovic’s team-mate Paul Aron was 2.812s back in third.

That became fourth when Mini set a 2m11.580s to go top, with Armstrong then Hauger going third fastest.

Trident’s defending FIA Formula 3 World Cup winner Richard Verschoor lapped within 0.807s of Mini’s time after 19 minutes to get into second, and Mini looked unable to improve due to traffic but it ultimately did not matter as ART Grand Prix’s Laurens van Hoepen crashed at Lisboa and red flags waved.

Action resumed with 14 minutes to go and the field queued to leave the pits. Beganovic had finished his lap before the red flags to return to the top two, but was knocked down to sixth once the first post-restart laps came in.

Browning set a 2m09.091s, with Maloney 2.228s slower in second before Ticktum reduced Browning’s advantage by 0.044s. Both were unaffected by Dunne crashing at Lisboa, as he was able to get going again.

Mini got within 1.167s of Browning with seven minutes remaining, then avoided a crash when he encountered traffic once again.

Beganovic had clear air and he set a 2m08.549s, going fastest by 0.525s by Armstrong. Verschoor reduced his advantage to 0.319s, then they were all blown out of the water by a 2m07.300s from Browning.

Hauger lapped 1.012s slower yet got into second, and Browning looked unbeatable until Mini set a 2m06.871s with 35s left on the clock. Verschoor went third fastest, 0.993s off the pace, then the chequered flag waved.

Boya jumped up to fourth after that, putting him ahead of Hauger, Beganovic and ART GP’s Nikola Tsolov.

Free practice results

Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 Gabriele Mini Theodore Racing 2m06.871s 11
2 Luke Browning Hitech GP 2m07.300s +0.429s 12
3 Richard Verschoor Trident 2m07.864s +0.993s 11
4 Mari Boya MP Motorsport 2m08.148s +1.277s 11
5 Dennis Hauger MP Motorsport 2m08.312s +1.441s 11
6 Dino Beganovic Theodore Racing 2m08.335s +1.464s 12
7 Nikola Tsolov ART Grand Prix 2m08.490s +1.619s 11
8 Dan Ticktum Carlin 2m08.632s +1.761s 11
9 Isack Hadjar Hitech GP 2m08.724s +1.853s 11
10 Alex Dunne Hitech GP 2m08.804s +1.933s 10
11 Marcus Armstrong MP Motorsport 2m09.074s +2.203s 11
12 Sophia Floersch Van Amersfoort Racing 2m09.170s +2.299s 9
13 Christian Mansell ART Grand Prix 2m09.253s +2.382s 11
14 Ugo Ugochukwu Trident 2m09.258s +2.387s 11
15 Oliver Goethe Campos Racing 2m09.308s +2.437s 12
16 Zane Maloney Carlin 2m09.443s +2.572s 11
17 Charlie Wurz Jenzer Motorsport 2m10.126s +3.255s 11
18 Noel Leon Van Amersfoort Racing 2m10.129s +3.258s 12
19 Roman Stanek Trident 2m10.228s +3.357s 11
20 Matias Zagazeta Jenzer Motorsport 2m10.476s +3.605s 11
21 Tommy Smith Van Amersfoort Racing 2m10.521s +3.650s 14
22 Sebastian Montoya Campos Racing 2m10.597s +3.726s 12
23 Pepe Marti Campos Racing 2m11.363s +4.492s 10
24 Max Esterson Jenzer Motorsport 2m11.371s +4.500s 11
25 Paul Aron Theodore Racing 2m13.227s +8.356s 9
26 Laurens van Hoepen ART Grand Prix 2m15.992s +9.121s 4