Felix Rosenqvist grabbed provisional pole position for the Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix on Thursday, after dominating the first qualifying session.

The SJM Theodore Racing by Prema driver moved to the top of the timesheets early on and, despite strong challenges from Carlin duo Callum Ilott and Antonio Giovinazzi, he was able to keep his spot at the top throughout to end the session 0.822 seconds clear of his nearest rival.

After Rosenqvist ended the first runs just 0.088 seconds clear of Giovinazzi, he pitted to make some set-up changes but elected not to use new tyres as many of his rivals switched to fresh rubber for the second half of the session.

Rosenqvist showed his confidence, however, by extending his advantage – before Ilott (who also did not use new tyres) showed a morning crash had not affected his confidence to grab second place.

The Carlin driver pipped Giovinazzi, who stopped a few minutes from the end of the session after feeling his brake pedal was getting long, late on to briefly get within 0.084 seconds of Rosenqvist.

But on his final flying lap of the session, with the track clearly at its best, Rosenqvist went quickest again to end the day with a best lap of 2m11.841 seconds.

“I’m pretty happy with that,” said Rosenqvist, who won Macau last year. “I think I’ve made a step forward in my driving this year and I think I’ve found the key to a good lap around here. The pace is looking good.”

Ilott was delighted with his performance too, having lost track-running time in the morning session after crashing.

“It was a good result,” said the Briton. “After this morning I thought we were going to struggle, but I just stayed out there and kept improving. I could see my board each lap saying P5, P4, P3, and then P2 – so I’m pretty happy.”

Sam MacLeod ended up fourth quickest for Team West-Tec, while Daniel Juncadella recovered from the gearbox problems that left him stranded in the pits in morning practice to claim fifth spot.