Merhi sent back in pack for role in F3 crash
A thrilling duel for pole position in the Formula Three event at the Macau Grand Prix was settled outside the Guia circuit and inside the boardroom of the stewards, who slapped Spain's Roberto Merhi with a stringent fine for causing an accident during Thursday's first qualifying session.
Prema Powerteam's Merhi finished yesterday's see-saw second qualifying session with the second-fastest time, but sadly it was all to no avail after race officials handed him a seven-place penalty for his role in an accident with Felix Rosenqvist the day before.
Merhi, 20, briefly had pole position in his grasp, but on the final lap, Germany's Marco Wittmann pipped him with a faster effort - by just 0.064 seconds.
'To do it in the last lap was really amazing,' said 21-year-old Wittmann, who is driving for Singature.
'It is a great feeling to finish first in qualifying but we still have two long races to go.
'You can overtake here easily in the straight, but I think we have good pace and I am quite confident.'
The German maintained the strong form he showed in the morning's free practice session as drivers experienced dry conditions for the first time this weekend to move to the top of the standings early on.
But Merhi retook the top slot, before Wittmann responded with 10 minutes left. The see-saw battle continued as the lead changed hands again before Wittmann delivered his coup de grace.
Merhi's penalty has allowed Portugal's Antonio Da Costa to move into second place and start today's 10-lap qualification race alongside Wittmann.
A good night's sleep was the perfect tonic for Valtteri Bottas, who claimed third place on the grid. Bottas showed his late arrival from Abu Dhabi, where he was testing for Formula One team Williams, had no ill effects as he made up for lost time with a sparkling drive.
'I was lucky it was dry today which meant the first qualifying session, which was in the rain, didn't really matter. I'm happy how things are progressing,' Bottas said.