Suncity Group Formula 3 Grand Prix – FIA F3 World Cup preview

Suncity Group Formula 3 Grand Prix – FIA F3 World Cup preview

17.10.2019: Reigning Champion Ticktum Amongst All-Star Cast Reigning and two-time Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix - FIA F3 World Cup champion Dan Ticktum returns to the 6.2km Guia Circuit this year to attempt what no other driver has so f

Reigning Champion Ticktum Amongst All-Star Cast

Reigning and two-time Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix - FIA F3 World Cup champion Dan Ticktum returns to the 6.2km Guia Circuit this year to attempt what no other driver has so far achieved in the race’s 37-year history: take the category’s most coveted victory a record third time.

As the new FIA Formula 3 Championship cars make their Guia Circuit debut this year, however, Carlin Buzz Racing driver Ticktum will face one of the strongest fields ever assembled at Macao.

The formidable line-up includes the champion and all the top stars from this year’s FIA Formula 3 Championship, a host of Formula 1 junior team prodigies, and the latest members of the Schumacher and Fittipaldi racing dynasties. All signs point to a thrilling Suncity Group Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix, as the cream of the world’s young racing talent do battle in a bid not only to earn the historic Macau Grand Prix crown, but the prestigious FIA F3 World Cup title.

A new era begins for the 37-year-old race, which first ran for Formula 3 cars in 1983 when it was won by the great Ayrton Senna. Using the cars from the new FIA F3 Championship for the first time also means several new teams as well as drivers will make their debuts this year.

No stranger to the event, however, is SJM Prema Theodore Racing, who return to Macao as strong contenders for victory. Italian squad Prema’s drivers took a top-three clean sweep of the FIA F3 Championship standings this season, and the trio have all raced in Macao before, meaning that they have crucial circuit experience. Prime among them is champion Robert Shwartzman. The 20-year-old Ferrari Driver Academy prospect from the Russian city of St Petersburg finished ninth on his Macao debut in 2018, and will be very hard to beat.

But that won’t stop team-mates Marcus Armstrong and Jehan Daruvala. New Zealander Armstrong, another member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, was the top Macao rookie in 2018 on his way to eighth position, and only bad luck prevented him taking the FIA F3 title fight to the final round this season. Indian racer Daruvala has raced in Macao twice before, and got into the top 10 on his debut in 2017.

The Prema trio’s closest challenger in FIA F3 this year was Jüri Vips, and the hard-charging Estonian looks set to lead the attack of Hitech Grand Prix. Vips is joined at Hitech by two drivers switching across from other teams, and both are making their debuts in Macao. Briton Max Fewtrell, who is affiliated to the Renault F1 team as a Renault Sport Academy youngster, has taken two podiums in FIA F3 this season. Meanwhile, exciting Japanese Yuki Tsunoda – who is a junior driver for both Red Bull and Honda – has been a race winner not only in FIA F3, but also in the Euroformula Open series on his first season in Europe.

The French ART Grand Prix team, one of the most storied in junior single-seater history, returns to Macao for the first time since it ran current F1 star Valtteri Bottas and the late Jules Bianchi in 2009 with an intriguing line-up. Young Danish talent Christian Lundgaard, who like Fewtrell is a Renault Sport Academy driver, looked like a title contender in his rookie F3 season this year until a run of bad luck scuppered his challenge, and stays on board with ART for this event.

Lining up alongside him is Austrian nobleman Ferdinand Habsburg, back for his fourth crack at a race that he came within one corner of winning in 2017, after racing this season in the DTM touring car series. Also joining the ART line-up for the first time is Venezuelan FIA F3 regular and Macao newcomer Sebastián Fernández.

One team that is always a factor in Macao is Carlin. Three times a winner, it returns in 2019 under the guise of Carlin Buzz Racing with a fascinating recruit in the form of two-time Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix winner Ticktum. The Briton has had a disappointing season in 2019, which began in Japan’s Super Formula series before a period of inactivity, and then some end-of-season Formula Regional outings.

 Now he is back in Macao to bid for his third successive win, and his presence will no doubt help his Macao rookie team-mates, Brazilian Felipe Drugovich and American Logan Sargeant, both of whom have been regulars in FIA F3 with the team this season.

A host of teams new to Macao feature on the entry list. The Italian Trident Motorsport squad has snapped up David Beckmann, who has raced in FIA F3 with ART in 2019. German Beckmann did compete in Macao in 2016 at the tender age of 16, so knows his way around, which will be useful for Trident as it has never been to the race before. Among his team-mates is British newcomer Oliver Caldwell, whose season to date has been spent in the Formula Regional European Championship, where he has been a race winner.

German motorsport giant HWA RACELAB makes its Macao debut as a race team – but has plenty of history in the race. HWA built the Mercedes engines that have enjoyed such success in the Grand Prix during the 21st century, and is also heavily involved in the design and construction of the Mercedes GT cars that always star in the Macau GT Cup - FIA GT World Cup.

British driver Jake Hughes has been a race winner for the team in FIA F3 this season, and is back in Macao for his third visit – he finished just one spot off the podium in 2018, so is bound to be a strong contender. He is joined by Keyvan Andres, who also has Guia Circuit experience.

Dutch operation MP Motorsport has a Red Bull Junior in its ranks in the form of Liam Lawson. The New Zealander has had a strong season, notably beating Armstrong to the Toyota Racing Series crown and scoring FIA F3 podiums. He also finished runner-up in Euroformula Open, narrowly defeating Austrian Lukas Dunner, who joins MP in Macao.

Spanish team Campos Racing, meanwhile, brings Italian Alessio Deledda who, like Lawson and Dunner, is a first-timer in Macao.

Two teams with strong Swiss connections are making the trip to Macao for the first time. Jenzer Motorsport fields Macao’s own Hon Chio Leong, who is out for his second attack at his home race, and German Macao newcomer Andreas Estner. But while Leong will be the focus of many Macao observers, it’s the drivers at the Sauber Junior Team, run by Czech team Charouz, that will be the subject of intense interest worldwide.

Enzo Fittipaldi and David Schumacher have both raced in the Formula Regional European Championship this season, finishing second and third respectively. And, while Ferrari Driver Academy youngster Fittipaldi is making his F3 debut, Schumacher did at least contest the final round of this year’s FIA F3 Championship at Sochi.

Schumacher is the son of 1995 Macau Grand Prix winner Ralf Schumacher, and nephew of seven-time world champion and 1990 Macau victor Michael, while his cousin – Michael’s son Mick – raced in the streets in 2017 and 2018.

Fittipaldi is the grandson of two-time world champion Emerson Fittipaldi, and his cousin-once-removed Christian Fittipaldi took a Macau podium in 1991.

Illustrious as those names are, it could be that Callum Ilott – yet another Ferrari Driver Academy

starlet – will be the Sauber Junior Team’s favourite for honours. He doesn’t have an illustrious motorsport pedigree but he has truly shone around the streets of Macao in the past, taking a Qualification Race win in 2017. Such is Ilott’s love for the race that he is stepping down from the FIA Formula 2 Championship for his fifth crack at Macao.

With that level of talent and achievement throughout the field, it’s little wonder that the eyes of the world will as usual be upon the Guia Circuit to see who will emerge on top among a grid packed with quality.

- Nikki Kemp - photos Macau GP 2018


17.10.2019 / MaP

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