Nelson Piquet Jr endured a character-building weekend during his first visit to the challenging Macau Grand Prix, ending his weekend as one of only 16 classified finishers but ruing a costly first race mistake.

The British Formula Three championship frontrunner was running an excellent fourth fastest when he crashed out of qualifying but, despite not running when the track was at its fastest, he still ended the first session in an impressive eighth quickest overall. A less fortunate second session then saw him slide to 13th overall

"It was good, but it is still very difficult having to learn the circuit," the 18-year old admitted at the time, "Now I have had this accident, we need to repair the car and then see tomorrow how everything is going to work. I think it is going to be okay, but I have a long night to think about everything, think about the track and see how we can do better."

'Nelsinho' had another incident in the warm-up on race morning, costing him valuable learning time.

"It is very easy to go off here," he explained, "I knew it wouldn't be easy and this is a good experience for me when we come back next year. In final qualifying, we didn't have the right strategy and, although we improved our time from first practice, we ended in only 13th position. The race will be better - there are two races, the first race
result counts as your grid position for race two - and anything can happen."

Leg one of the double-header to not start well for the Brazilian, as he went off the road on his out-lap from the pits and had to return to the pits with damage to the front wing and tyre of his Hitech Dallara-Renault. Fortunately for Piquet, there was then a large incident on the first lap, resulting in the safety car appearing, and this gave the mechanics vital extra time to make repairs.

When Piquet rejoined, he was three laps down, but managed to complete the remaining seven laps unscathed and was classified in 22nd position out of the 28 starters.

Part two of the weekend saw Piquet start from the outside of row eleven, but he quickly began picking off those ahead of him, either through them suffering incidents or by proving that overtaking was possible on the tight and twisty street circuit.

On lap six, he pounced on Cesar Campanico and Marco Bonanomi, and then, two laps, capitalised on Nico Rosberg's damaged front wing to claim another spot. These incidents moved Piquet into eleventh and, by lap ten, he was running second fastest in the entire field. When long-time race leader James Courtney crashed out, he moved up another slot, and into the top ten and, on lap 13, he produced his fastest lap of all to make the most of two further errors up front, moving him into eighth overall.

Macau is renowned as one of the very toughest circuits in the world and 'Nelsinho' is confident that he has benefited from his first experience.

"Macau is good, but I am not that keen on street circuits," he said, "I have no experience on them, other than one race I had in Uruguay. I just wanted to learn the most I could this weekend and then, maybe, I can win next year with the team. I am just trying to learn as much as I can."

From the former Portuguese colony, he now travels straight to Korea for the second part of the Far Eastern double-header in Changwon, before returning to the UK for further F3 tests with his Piquet Sports team in preparation for 2004 championship.



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