Gabriele Mini was at the wrong end of the closest finish to qualifying in Macau Grand Prix history, leaving him “a bit sad” after starting Q2 on provisional pole.
The Theodore Racing driver had led Hitech GP’s Luke Browning in free practice and Q1 on Thursday, and his 2m05.521s laptime from that session needed to be beaten in Q2 for him to be denied pole.
Mini beat it himself, but Browning pipped him to pole by 0.006 seconds with a 2m05.435s lap. It was the closest ever pole margin for the grand prix.
“The team has done an amazing job, we have had a lot of prep in the simulator, so we arrived here quite well prepared. In the end we showed good speed straight from the first laps,” said Mini.
“Disappointed of course not to have taken pole since it was by [0.006s]. But Luke did a really mega job, so congratulations to him. But of course a bit sad to not have been on pole. It was a good lap.
“Just started very slowly as we had to do the last corner in first gear, and I guess that’s already one tenth only in the main straight. And I guess that’s where we already lost pole. But we had another chance, we had two more laps, but we got red flag on both in the middle of the fourth sector and I was going really quick. But for sure everybody was on an improving lap [at those points].
Luke Browning's #MacauGP pole margin is the smallest on record (which date back to 1976)
0.006s Luke Browning 》Gabriele Mini (2023)
0.02s Rickard Rydell 》Roberto Colciago (1992)
0.024s Joel Eriksson 》Lando Norris (2017)
0.025s Ralf Schumacher 》Max Angelelli (1995) pic.twitter.com/6VH73nVjw8
— Formula Scout (@FormulaScout) November 17, 2023
Mini took pole and won the feature race in FIA Formula 3’s trip to Monaco this season while racing for Hitech, but he did not think it was worth making a comparison of his Macau pace to what he achieved earlier in the year.
“Macau is a much tougher track than that, it’s a bit like Monaco but three times harder and much longer of course. There are many more places where you can do a mistake and just end up in the wall. We know it’s not going to be an easy race, but of course we will give our best and then see how it goes.”
Dino Beganovic, also driving for the Theodore-branded Prema team in this weekend’s FIA F3 World Cup, was just 0.083s off pole after going third in Q1 and Q2. He revealed that his DRS was not working in Q1, so “I knew there was a bit of time to find, but it was just a back-up yesterday to have a good lap and to have a good result as well there”.
“All of us are rookies here and I think it shows the level of our generation right now and the level in F3 this year and potentially next year as well,” he said. “I’m happy with this result.”