Edoardo Mortara got his bid to win two consecutive Macau Grands Prix off to a perfect start on Thursday when he grabbed provisional pole position in first qualifying.
The Signature driver, who is hoping to become the first man in history to win the prestigious international F3 race twice, got steadily faster through the session before knocking closest rival Valtteri Bottas off the top of the times with 11 minutes remaining.
Almost immediately after Mortara set that provisional pole position time, Carlin's Jazeman Jaafar crashed at Fishermen's Bend, leaving his car stranded near the barriers on the inside of the track and bringing out the yellow flags. Those caution flags meant drivers were unable to improve on their fastest times before the end of the session – meaning that Mortara's best effort was enough to keep him 0.113sec ahead of Bottas.
"I'm happy to be first, but I don't really care about the times at the moment," said Mortara. "Today is all about getting prepared for qualifying and the race. I'm feeling good so let's see what we can do tomorrow."
Bottas was far from unhappy about the result of the session – as he was well aware that improved track conditions tomorrow, plus more confidence in the car and new tires would see times tumble.
"It was a bit of a shame with the yellow flags because the car felt good and there is plenty of time still to come," said the Prema Powerteam driver. "I used the same tires as this morning so I know second qualifying will be quicker. I also know we can push a lot harder tomorrow, as today I didn't take any risks at all."
Mortara's teammates Marco Wittmann and Laurens Vanthoor ended the session third and fourth fastest, ahead of Carlos Huertas and Renger van der Zande.
The session was red flagged after 14 minutes when Daniel Juncadella hit the wall at Fishermen's Bend. There was a short delay while his car was retrieved and the barriers were fixed.