Joel set himself up strongly for this afternoon’s decisive qualifying showdown in Macau by topping the times in final FIA F3 World Cup practice.
Coming to the fore in the closing stages of the 40-minute session, which took place in comparatively chilly conditions on Friday morning, Joel used two new tyres to produce a 2m12.032s lap that would remain unchallenged.
This is the first time Joel tops a session at Macau, the annual Formula 3 blue-riband event.
It was another convincing session overall for Motopark with VEB, with Joel followed by team-mate Dan Ticktum in second and Sérgio Sette Câmara taking sixth.
Joel survived a brief scare at R Bend – the final corner – as he came around to complete his pace-setting lap, picking up a wild slide but staying away from the barriers thanks to leaning onto the exit kerbs.
There were three red-flag stoppages in this session, triggered by separate incidents from Mick Schumacher, Pedro Piquet and Ralf Aron. The latter crashed out at Moorish Hill with just three minutes remaining, bringing practice to a slightly premature end.
The outcome of practice bodes well for the important second qualifying session in a few hours’ time, as Joel bids to improve on his preliminary fifth place on the grid (as sealed in Q1 yesterday) for Saturday’s Qualification Race.
Next session: Qualifying 2, 15.25 local time (GMT+08:00) this afternoon.
“A good session, always fun to be on top! We wanted to get a feel for the car on new tyres – my tyres from yesterday were really worn – so we went for two new on the left side for a few laps of qualifying preparation at the end. We didn’t want to waste four new, though, so we still had two really old ones on the right. The car was quite poorly balanced as a result, but it was alright. It will be a cool experience to finally bolt on four new ones in qualifying this afternoon and really go for it.”
RESULTS – Free Practice 2