After one unusual edition that marked the start of a new competition in Macau with the creation by the International Federation of the FIA F3 World Cup, this year’s F3 race seems to be “back to its old days.”
Now without the former champions of the Guia Circuit, who rushed through the first edition of this international event, the second edition of the F3 World Cup, created by the International Deferation, seems to have returned to the days of the former Intercontinental Cup. Previously, the F3 World Cup used to gather the best racers from the European and Japanese F3 Championships in Macau to battle the streets of the Guia circuit for a trophy and also the an opportunity to shine in the eyes of Formula One recruiters.
Putting aside the latter – the Formula One recruitment strategy seems to now start earlier and takes note of a lot more factors than before. This year in Macau, we can expect to see what made F3 the “Queen” of the Macau races, as well as a good number of young racers competing their way to the top, at what is in many people’s eyes one of the most challenging circuits.
The entry list for the 35th F3 Grand Prix in Macau includes several of the most highlighted names of the junior motorsport panorama, as well as the newly crowned FIA Formula 3 European champion Lando Norris.
Norris, a recruit of the McLaren Formula 1 team, will be one of the drivers of the five-car entry from the Carlin Team, driving the Dallara Volkswagen car, which had performed well last year and was a the higher step of the podium thanks to Portuguese driver António Félix da Costa. That allowed Norris to attain nine overall race wins this season in their rookie year in the European championship.
Lining up right beside Norris will be Sweden’s Joel Eriksson. The 19-year-old, who is deemed to be the next Felix Rosenqvist, will be returning to Macau after last year’s unsuccessful debut in Macau, where he did not complete the race. His CV shows that besides being in second position overall in this season’s FIA Formula 3 European championship (right behind Norris) with seven wins and a 53 points lead, Eriksson holds two major title wins from last year – a Masters of Formula 3 as well as the FIA European Formula 3 Championship rookie champion.
Racing with Motopark, Eriksson will also be racing a Dallara Volkswagen, similar to Norris, and with a bit more luck and experience, he is in the run for a win, or at least a podium finish.
Maximilian Gunther, on behalf of Theodore Racing by Prema, will also be competing for a win. The German has been gaining experience and this year, he scored third overall on the FIA European F3, just five points behind Eriksson. Similar to Eriksson, Gunther’s debut in Macau last year was marred by a crash and resulted in his retirement from the race. Together with his teammate Callum Ilott, also featuring a Dallara Mercedes from Theodore, Gunther will certainly try to fight for a place to be amongst the first three to cross the finish line.
Gaining popularity along the season are two other men from the Carlin squad that will have an important role in this race. Jehan Daruvala and Ferdinand Habsburg have been racing all season-long representing Carlin, with Daruvala, a junior driver for the Force India F1 team, making a significant evolution during the year to finish sixth for the FIA European F3 and second in the Rookie Championship, right behind Norris.
For Daruvala, this will be his debut year in Macau and he will surely use the experience of his teammates to cut the learning curve and show his skills on track. It may be too soon to think about a podium finish, but a place in the top five is possible, if he learns the circuit well.
From the Japanese Championship side, a few names come to mind, among them two former Japanese Formula 3 champions – Kenta Yamashita and Yuhi Sekiguchi. While both will be racing on the Japanese Super Formula this year, Sekiguchi has been showing a better form as he is currently fourth overall (Yamashita is 11th) but both have enough experience to take on any of the B-MAX Dallara Volkswagen, who would interfere in their game.
Abother strong competitor is Sho Tsuboi, who finished second at the Japanese F3 Championship. Tsuboi has the chance to prove himself and Macau is another opportunity to increase his rank in the sport.
It will also be interesting to watch the performances of two important names in the motorsport, Mick Schumacher and Pedro Piquet. Mick, who is the son of seven-time Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher, has completed his rookie season in F3 this year and visits Macau for the first time in a bid to continue his family tradition that has already seen his father win the Grand Prix in 1990, and his uncle Ralf repeat the deed five years later.
Pedro Piquet, who is the son of three-time Formula 1 World Champion Nelson Piquet, returns to Macau after a debut last year where he finished a strong ninth.
This time Piquet will try to improve his performance.
Last but not least, Brazilian driver Sérgio Sette Câmara returns to the F3 competition after becoming a race winner in his rookie season in the FIA Formula 2 Championship this year. The Brazilian has some “unfinished business” in Macau, being third with Carlin last year and having set the fastest lap in his rookie year in 2015.
This will be decided through three days of free practice, qualifying sessions and the Qualification Race, before things get really serious during the Grand Prix on Sunday.