Rude awakening from podium dream

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 November, 2007, 12:00am

Qualifying crash leaves Senna with uphill battle to emulate feats of his legendary F1 uncle

Sentiment went out of the cockpit and hard reality struck home for Bruno Senna as his bid to follow his late uncle Ayrton Senna on to the winners' podium suffered a huge blow when he crashed during the first qualifying session in the Formula Three race.

Senna lost control and clattered out at the San Francisco Bend. But worse was to follow when Japanese driver Takuya Izawa rammed into him from behind swivelling his car around. Luckily Romain Grosjean, who was following, managed to brake in time and avoided Senna.

The Brazilian, who is hoping to complete an emotional victory on Sunday by emulating three-time Formula One world champion Ayrton Senna's triumph in the inaugural F3 race in 1983, must now hope his team can get his car together again and allow him to compete in today's final qualifying session. He stands in 20th position on the provisional grid and knows it will be virtually impossible to win the race if he starts that far back.

British Formula Three champion Marko Asmer, of Estonia, grabbed the provisional pole position after holding off a late challenge from Frenchman Grosjean.

'I'm happy. The car felt good and I feel we can still improve. The laps were not perfect, but they were reasonably OK. So I am confident we should improve again,' said Asmer after recording the day's best time of two minutes and 13.122 seconds.

Asmer had to wait a nervous nine minutes, until the end of the qualifying session, before realising the top spot was his for the day.

He is however likely to face a much stronger challenge from Grosjean in final qualifying today, as the Frenchman revealed that his steering had been crooked as a result of an accident during the morning's practice round.

'I've improved this year and really want to win this race,' said Grosjean, who is the reigning F3 Euro Series champion.

Dutchman Yelmer Buurman and Swiss ace Sebastien Buemi were third and fourth fastest respectively after yesterday's round.

Newcomer to Macau, Brendon Hartley, took his time to adjust to the twisting 6.2km circuit finishing way down the list in 23rd position. His best time was 2:16.442, but the Kiwi will not be unduly perturbed as he got in a healthy 18 laps and would have acclimatised himself with the testing conditions.

Meanwhile, in the Motorcycle Grand Prix, defending champion Steve Plater led rivals John McGuinness and Michael Rutter at the end of the first qualifying session, confirming that tomorrow's race will be a battle between the trio.