The key moment in Luke Browning’s Macau Grand Prix qualification race win was a strong braking move into Lisboa to fend off Gabriele Mini and Alex Dunne.
Theodore Racing’s Mini and Browning’s Hitech GP team-mate Dunne had benefited from the leader’s slipsteam on the lap five safety car restart to pull alongside the Williams junior. Mini was momentarily ahead on the outside line, but Browning in the middle held him off, and that opened the door for Dunne to slot into second on the inside.
“I wasn’t letting them past, I can tell you that for nothing,” Browning said on the podium. “It was close to the locking point in T2, that was as late as I could have braked, and that was how much I was willing to risk. It was just enough.”
He then followed on in the press conference: “That was pretty sketchy. It was not easy out there, really wasn’t easy to stay focused. All the walls are coming at you so quickly, and that three-wide moment into T3 [Lisboa] was definitely eye-opening, to say the least. I broke as late as I could, I put it all on the line.”
Dunne, who had gone from sixth to third on lap one before taking second at the safety car restart, was concious it is still all to play for in Sunday’s main race.
“I had a really good launch and had the slipstream to get into third before turn three. I just tried to manage my tyres at the beginning, and I had a pretty good idea that there was probably going to be a safety car early on.
“Then I had a really good restart, made it three-wide into T3 and managed to gain another place. I’m over the moon.”
He went into more detail about his move for second: “Got a really good run out of the last corner, and then I slipstreamed up to the top two. I made it three-wide into T3, but I didn’t risk it all on the brakes, I wanted to keep my nose clean. Good to get into second.”
The qualification race “was not an easy [one]” for Mini, who struggled for pace after topping Thursday practice and qualifying then only missing out on pole to Browning by 0.006 seconds on Friday. However, “third is a good place to start tomorrow”.
His attempt to pass Browning began straight away, as “[we were] already on the start side-by-side into [Mandarin], and we both did it flat”, but as “I didn’t manage to overtake before the braking points, I just had to be careful”.
“Today we were probably not the quickest, but I still tried to overtake Luke into [T3] twice,” he added. “Luke left the door open for Alex, so then I didn’t want to be the guy three-wide on the outside in turn three, which is never going to end up well. So just lifted a bit earlier and let them by. Didn’t have the pace to overtake them today.”