Spaniard wins mayhem-filled race

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 November, 2011, 12:00am


Spain reigned for the first time in the 58 years of the Macau Grand Prix. But it was Daniel Juncadella who emerged as the unlikely champion and not his more illustrious teammate and compatriot Roberto Merhi as the Formula Three showpiece brought the curtain down on a weekend of thrills and spills.

'I can't believe I have won it,' said Juncadella, who emerged unscathed after front runners were eliminated in a crash-filled spectacle. 'I am extremely lucky to win. It is incredible and unbelievable.'

Juncadella made the most of the fortune that smiled on him in the form of the safety car, which came out midway through the 15-lap race.

Marco Wittmann had a 2.7-second lead at that stage. But with the safety car out on the track, it gave the rest of the chasing field an unexpected bonus as they were allowed to close in on the German.

'When the second safety car came out, I knew I had my chance,' said Juncadella, who was in fourth place at the time.

Wittmann, who had begun in pole position, could only watch aghast as the others accelerated past him and by the time he had recovered, he had fallen back to fifth place.

'This is really disappointing for me and the team. We had dominated throughout the weekend and we were unlucky,' said Wittmann, who was hoping to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious countrymen, Michael and Ralf Schumacher, by winning the Macau race.

In the end, he had to settle for third place while Brazilian Felipe Nasr finished as runner-up.

Spaniard Juncadella had not hogged the limelight in the run-up to the race. That was mostly taken by others such as Prema Powerteam teammate Merhi, the inaugural champion of the FIA Formula Three Intercontinental Trophy.

Merhi was in contention for most of the race, but a third pile-up claimed him. He was one of 10 drivers who failed to finish. Among this lot was fancied Finn Valtteri Bottas. Only 19 of the 29-strong field finished, again highlighting the high attrition rate on the dangerously tight Guia circuit.

Luck smiled on Juncadella throughout the race. Soon after he had nosed his way into the lead, Juncadella was given another boost when he saw the safety car come out for the third time, and with only about 10 kilometres left - about 1 1/2 laps - he knew he had landed the prestigious victory.

'I was so nervous when I saw the safety car come out at the end that I made so many mistakes. I was shaking inside the car,' Juncadella said. 'I never cried that much in my life than in that last lap.'

It was a rather tame ending to the race but Juncadella did not mind. He was crying tears of joy.