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Monday, November 20, 2006

Macau Grand Prix Roundup

Its a testament to Lewis Hamilton's blinding speed to find that his lap record of the 6.1 km Guia circuit has stood since 2002 and has only been beaten today by Robert Streit. But once again, the Macau Grand Prix has proven to be a hard test for the grand prix stars of tomorrow. Of course, far be it for bloody Star Sports to carry the qualifying race held yesterday so I missed out on a lot of the action. Big name casualty during race 1 was one Sebastien Vettel, who had to start this race from the back.

Formula 3 Euro Series runner Kamui Kobayashi started from pole ahead of Marko Asmer and Kohei Hirate. All of these guys running in Dallara Mercedes run by ASM, Hitech and Manor respectively. But the one everyone had their eye on was Paul di Resta who started fourth is the second ASM Dallara-Merc. Having beaten Vettel in the Euro Series and taken the Masters at Zandvoort, he was in with a chance to do the triple grand slam by taking the Macau Grand Prix.

As ever, the race itself proved highly unpredictable. Going into Lisboa on the opening lap, we were treated to a highly amusing incident involving Kobayashi (favourite for the race after a storming qualifying), di Resta and Asmer. Kobayashi tried to go on the outside of Asmer, who himself was just simply too late on the brakes and simply went straight ahead. I'm not sure if di Resta was concentrating too hard on the car ahead of him, but he too went straight ahead after punting Asmer. In all the confusion, British Formula 3 champion, 22 year old Mike Conway found himself in the lead ahead of Hirate, newly signed Williams F1 tester Kazuki Nakajima, Andre Sutil (another highly rated runner) and Richard Antinucci.

Paul di Resta would restart but would crash at the end of that lap, prompting the deployment of the safety car. After the restart Sutil would pass Nakajima who attempted a fightback only to outbrake himself into Lisboa and letting through Sutil and Antinucci.

Of all the runners today, I was quite impressed by Antinucci's pace and consistency. Of course Conway was running away in front after a good restart but Antinucci seemd to have the fighting spirit in him today. The 25 year old Roman born and resident American pulling out some really quick laps and putting a really solid drive. His moves against both the highly rated Sutil and later on Hirate were particularly sweet and decisive. I think he's a little too old now to enter Formula 1 and certainly his past record hasn't been too good but today he seemed on form. I think he must have taken second fastest lap of the race and also beating Lewis Hamilton's 4 year old record.

This year's Formula 3 race must have been the best I've seen in a while at Macau. I just wished Vettel could have been up front with the leaders and I had fancied him to win. But the challenge of Macau's bumps and demanding turns is to keep it on the island in the first place. This he failed to do although it must be said he had problems with his brakes in the qualification race. However, Mike Conway is a worthy winner of this race. He had a stunning mid season in British Formula 3 with KKR beating much fancied Bruno Senna with a good string of victories. Now he's won Formula 3's premier event. Hard luck if he doesn't get a GP2 drive next year but with this victory I'm sure he will.

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