James Winslow's hopes of ending his international Formula Three career with a podium finish in the blue riband Macau Grand Prix were dashed by the Guia Circuit's traditional combination of intimidating walls and other people's mistakes.
Running for the first time with the Italian Ombra team, Winslow struggled to make an immediate impact on the world's best F3 racers as his natural pace was blunted by a series of problems that meant he was unable to get into a rhythm around the notoriously tricky street circuit.
Down in 17th place after first qualifying, the recently-crowned Australian F3 champion slipped back early in the second session, but appeared on course for a massive improvement after his engineers found and corrected a problem with the Dallara-Mugen package. However, despite being a full two seconds up on his previous best at the second split, Winslow's charge was ended when the red flag re-appeared to halt the session.
“We had good speed from the start of the weekend, but also had many problems - everything that could go wrong did go wrong,” the Briton lamented, “Then we were robbed in qualifying when the red flag came out - again. We would have been on for a top ten grid position after we found a problem with the car – the lap that we were on when the session was halted would have put us around the top six.”
Knowing that the Macau Grand Prix is rarely the preserve of the front row starters, Winslow realised that there was still everything to play for despite starting towards the rear of the field, and charged up the order in Saturday's qualification race to claim eleventh place.
Another good start to the main event then vaulted him past four cars and into seventh place by the first corner, although he was fortunate not to be caught up in an accident involving fellow Briton Sam Bird and Brazilian Roberto Streit that eliminated both men on the spot.
That incident saw the Ombra car move into the top five and poised to battle for the podium places, but another mistake beyond Winslow's control would soon dent his hopes as Macau rookie Marcus Ericsson ran out of room at Lisboa, blocking the road as he tagged the wall. Unfortunately for Winslow, the Carlin driver had been directly in front of him at the time of the incident and badly delayed the Briton.
Stationary for nearly a minute before the track was cleared, Winslow tumbled to the rear of the field, resuming in 25th position. The setback, however, merely prompted another fightback from the Team GBR A1GP driver and, in tandem with fellow countryman Oliver Turvey, he carved through the pack, passing nine cars in two laps to quickly recover to 16th position.
In the midst of his charge, however, Winslow put a wheel onto the mix of oil and cement dust laid down during a previous touring car race and found himself heading for the wall and early retirement from what looks certain to be his final F3 race.