Strong performance on Macau debut goes unrewarded

Maximilian Günther lined up this weekend in the world’s most famous Formula 3 race, the FIA F3 World Cup Macau Grand Prix. The Formula 3 European championship runner-up drove for well-established racing team SJM Theodore Racing by Prema, who have already won the street race in China eight times, including once back in 1983 with Formula 1 legend Ayrton Senna. Günther, recently voted ADAC Junior Motorsport Athlete of the Year, turned in a strong performance to start the weekend at the Guia circuit. He was the third-best Macau rookie in qualifying on the 6.12-km track. He qualified in seventh place on the grid in the field of 29 of the world’s best Formula 3 drivers but had to retire from the qualifying heat on Saturday while lying in sixth place. During the main race on Sunday, a damaged suspension, caused through no fault of his own, led to his retirement after a strong charge up the field.

Max, you could hardly have made a better start. You were the third-best rookie and secured seventh place on the grid in qualifying.

I was really very pleased with seventh place in my first qualifying in Macau, especially in the face of more experienced competition. I even left my team-mate Felix trailing behind me, and he’s already won the race twice. I posted my best lap time on used tyres. I could definitely have achieved even more on a fresh set, which shows how good our speed at this challenging circuit was.

The qualifying heat was soon over for you after starting seventh on the grid. What happened?

I got a good start and was able to improve by one position to sixth. The inside line in Turn 2 was blocked by other cars. My speed was too great and so, I decided to go round the outside, which is absolutely possible in this turn. I thought everything would be OK, but I was on the dirty side of the track and ran a little too wide to the left. Just one small contact with the barriers was enough to damage my car’s suspension, so that I was unable to continue.

You had some bad luck in the main race after making a strong start. What led to the retirement?

I made a good start and immediately left four or five cars behind me. I moved to overtake another car on Lap 4. My right rear tyre suddenly punctured as I pulled out of his slipstream. I tried to make it back to the pits, but my suspension was damaged, and I had to retire, unfortunately. That was very disappointing, because a top finish would have been possible.

Did you find the Macau Grand Prix enjoyable overall?

My first race in Asia was a terrific experience overall. I could hardly wait for the Grand Prix to start. Not only was the circuit a unique experience, but the general atmosphere over the weekend was absolutely fabulous. The spectators were fantastic and cheered us on during every session. Plus, we also had a few fun PR activities with the team, during which I even learned a few Chinese words. For one of the events, we raced shopping trolleys in a supermarket, which was just mad, as was the track walk at the start of the weekend – right during the city traffic! That’s something you would only ever get to experience in Macau. I would have liked to have rounded off a great Formula 3 season with a better result, but the luck I needed just wasn’t there in the end.