The Suncity Group Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix – FIA F3 World Cup again features the cream of the world’s young racing talent in the entry. All eyes will therefore be on the year’s most eagerly anticipated festival of up-and-coming stars as they battle for their biggest prize on the streets of Macao from November 16-19.
The entry list for the 35th running of Macao’s famous F3 Grand Prix features newly crowned FIA Formula 3 European champion Lando Norris as well as two former Japanese Formula 3 champions in the forms of Kenta Yamashita and Yuhi Sekiguchi. They will take on a host of rivals through the three days of free practice, qualifying and the Qualification Race, before the all-important Grand Prix as the climax on Sunday.
Norris, a protégé of the McLaren Formula 1 team, heads a highly potent five-car entry from Carlin, the British team returning to Macao after winning the 2016 race with the popular Portuguese António Félix da Costa. Using Dallara chassis – in common with the rest of the F3 field – and Volkswagen engines, Carlin ran Norris to nine overall race wins this season in the European championship, in which he also won the Rookie title. Norris, who celebrates his 18th birthday on the Monday before action begins, made his Macao debut last year and recovered to finish 11th after crashing in the Qualification Race.
Joining him are his season-long team-mates Jehan Daruvala and Ferdinand Habsburg. Indian Daruvala is a junior driver for the Force India F1 team and finished sixth in the European championship this season, one position ahead of Habsburg, who is descended from the former Austrian royal family. Both have won races in Europe this season, with Daruvala making his first appearance in Macao and Habsburg his second.
Formula Renault Eurocup points leader Sacha Fenestraz is a Formula 3 star of the future. The Frenchman has already made his category debut in the FIA European F3 round at the Nürburgring. Raised in Argentina, he is the brother-in-law of José María López, who won a FIA World Touring Car Championship race in Macao in 2014! Completing the Carlin line-up is Canadian Devlin DeFrancesco, who has raced mainly this season in Euroformula Open, but also contested the final two FIA European F3 rounds.
The Theodore Racing name returns to Macao once again in conjunction with Italian team Prema as SJM Theodore Racing by Prema. Using Mercedes-Benz power, the squad brings its four regular drivers from the FIA European championship.
Foremost among these is German Maximilian Günther, who finished third in the points this season with five race wins and is making his second visit to Macao. He finished one spot ahead of Briton Callum Ilott, who nevertheless exceeded Günther’s win tally with six. Newly promoted to the Ferrari Driver Academy, Ilott bids to improve on his fifth position in Macao last year.
Shanghai’s Guan Yu Zhou, like Ilott a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, finished eighth in the FIA European standings this season and makes his second appearance at Macao. Great interest will revolve around Mick Schumacher. The son of seven-time Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher has completed his rookie season in F3 this year and visits Macao in a bid to continue a family tradition: his father won one of the most famous editions of the Grand Prix in 1990, while his uncle Ralf triumphed in 1995.
The famous Toyota-powered TOM’S team from Japan returns once again to a race in which it still holds the record number of wins since the event switched to F3 regulations in 1983.
Sho Tsuboi returns for a second time having been the form man of the second half of the Japanese championship on his way to runner-up in the standings – he won nine of the last 11 races and was narrowly beaten to the title. Also impressive has been rookie team-mate Ritomo Miyata, the 2016 Japanese Formula 4 champion who took fourth in the Japanese F3 standings this year and makes his first trip to Macao.
Much interest will surround German team Motopark with VEB. The Volkswagen-engined squad’s leading driver in the FIA F3 European Championship this season was Swede Joel Eriksson, who took seven wins on his way to runner-up in the points. Eriksson had an accident-plagued Macao last year but the BMW Junior Team talent has all the ability to put that behind him. Intriguingly, Sérgio Sette Câmara returns to F3 competition after becoming a race winner in his rookie season in the FIA Formula 2 Championship this year. The Brazilian has an interesting Macao history – he was third with Carlin last year, and set fastest lap on his debut with Motopark in 2015.
Red Bull Junior Team driver Dan Ticktum returns to the Guia Circuit with the team having competed in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 this season and making his GP3 debut in September. Also back for another crack at Macao is young Honda-backed talent Tadasuke Makino, who showed ever-improving form in this season’s F3 European Championship.
Japan’s Marino Sato has raced with Motopark all season in Europe as an F3 rookie and will make his first appearance in Macao.
The ThreeBond Tomei engine performed extremely well in Macao last year, with Kenta Yamashita taking it to fourth place with British team T-Sport, but the project has transferred for 2017 to Japanese championship operation ThreeBond Racing with Drago Corse, whose principal is FIA WTCC Honda racer Ryo Michigami. Álex Palou scored three wins on his way to third in the standings this season, and the talented Spaniard is back in Macao for the first time since 2014.
Pedro Piquet, the son of three-time Formula 1 World Champion Nelson, finished a strong ninth on his Macao debut in 2016 before staying on at Van Amersfoort Racing for another season in Europe this year. He is one of a two-car entry for the Mercedes-engined Dutch team, which will also run Ralf Aron. The Estonian was a race winner in European F3 in 2016, and proved his street-circuit credentials with a pole position at Norisring this season: good preparation for his first Macao attack.
Finally, the Volkswagen-powered, 2017 Japanese championship-winning B-Max Racing Team is back for another Macao challenge, and has assembled a formidable line-up. Yamashita, the 2016 Japanese F3 champion, made the step up to Japan’s Super Formula this season, but returns to Macao, as does Yuhi Sekiguchi. The 29-year-old Sekiguchi is a big star of Super Formula now, but won the 2011 Japanese F3 title with B-Max and is racing in the Macao GP for the fifth time – he will bid to improve on his fourth position from 2011. The line-up is completed by B-Max team boss Ryuji Kumita. Racing under the pseudonym of ‘Dragon’, he won the National Class – for older cars – of the Japanese F3 title this year, before stepping up to the Championship Class for the final two rounds.
2016 Suncity Group Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix – FIA F3 World Cup
|1.||António Félix da Costa||PRT||Carlin||Dallara Volkswagen|
|2.||Felix Rosenqvist||SWE||SJM Theodore Racing by Prema||Dallara Mercedes|
|3.||Sérgio Sette Câmara||BRA||Carlin||Dallara Volkswagen|
|Fastest Lap: Felix Rosenqvist/SJM Theodore Racing by Prema/Lap 14/2:11.080/ 168.08kph|