Marcus Ericsson secured pole position for the qualification race at the Macau Grand Prix with a last gasp effort in second and final qualifying on Friday – before making a mistake that caused minor damage to his car.
The TOM's driver, who had been quickest in first qualifying on Thursday, saw a number of his rivals improve on his overnight benchmark early on in Friday's session, pushing him down the order. However, following a lengthy red flag spell, caused by water on the track, halfway through second qualifying, Ericsson instantly responded to deliver a lap time that secured him pole position by just 0.039secs and demote Signature's Jean-Karl Vernay to second.
“I had got pole but, on the radio, the team said it was tight, so I pushed harder,” Ericsson explained, “Unfortunately, I went into the wall and bent a wishbone. It is not a problem, and it's looking good for tomorrow.”
Vernay was disappointed about missing out on the top spot by such a small margin, but pleased that he had been able to secure a slot on the front row of the grid on his first visit to Macau.
Finland's Valtteri Bottas, driving for ART Grand Prix, took third place ahead of morning practice pace-setter Edoardo Mortara, who had been quickest of all in the mountain section of the track but could not deliver on the promise shown in practice.
British F3 champion Daniel Ricciardo will start fifth, having briefly put himself second overall before making a mistake under braking for Lisboa and sliding into the barriers. He was able to get going again, but could not improve his best time.
Several drivers hit trouble in the session, including Brendon Hartley, who crashed at R Bend, and Kevin Chen who went off at Paiol.
Mortara had set the quickest time in the final free practice session – and then admitted even he was surprised by how quick he had gone. The Italian's best effort of 2min 10.593secs, which he set halfway through the 30-minute practice session, was just more than four tenths quicker than nearest challenger Ricciardo but, with his dashboard display not letting him know his times as he completed practice, Mortara confessed to being taken aback by how strong a performance he had delivered.
“I didn't know my times in the car, so it was a surprise to have gone quicker than the lap record,” he admitted, “But, of course, I am pretty happy. It was a good free practice session, and we've taken another step forward with the set-up of the car. Now it will be important to have a clean qualifying session with no bad luck, because there are four or five drivers who are really strong.”