Macau Grand Prix Preview Part One

The Macau Grand Prix is the most prestigious one-off race in the junior racing calendar, with former winners including Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard. The race has been open to Formula Three cars since 1983, and every driver that has raced here raves about how challenging the street circuit.

Unlike most street circuits this has plenty of fast corners, along with the slow turns and unforgiving nature typical of most street tracks. After some concerns the revamped FIA  F3 cars wouldn’t be able to return, safety changes were implemented to ensure the FIA Formula Three World Cup returned to it’s rightful home in Macau. Part One looks at the first third of a talented 30 car entry this year.

#2 SJM Prema Theodore Racing Dallara F3 2019: Marcus Armstrong

Ferrari Academy driver Marcus Armstrong will be looking for a Macau win after team mate Robert Shwartzman bested him for the FIA F3 title this year. The New Zealander impressed in his second year in the category, with three wins.

He was a consistent points scorer, and proved a close challenger to Shwartzman until a non-score in the penultimate round at Monza ended his chances. He is a very promising prospect and with the might of dominant team Prema behind him he will be one of the race favourites.

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Armstrong must enter the race confident with his experience and Prema backing him this year. Photo: Motorsport.com.

#3 SJM Prema Theodore Racing Dallara F3 2019: Frederik Vesti 

Vesti was a late addition to the Prema team, replacing Jehan Daruvala after a training injury. The Dane steps up as Formula Regional European champion, with a truly dominant season. 13 wins in 24 races is impressive, and explains why Prema are promoting him for Macau.

Vesti made his Macau debut last year, acquitting himself well with a solid 15th in his first F3 race. Now returning with Prema and full of confidence he may surprise some with a strong run at Macau, before a likely step up to FIA F3 with Prema for 2020.

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Frederik Vesti claiming one of his 13 wins in 2019, but how will he adapt stepping up to the FIA F3 level? Photo: FormulaScout.com. 

#5 SJM Prema Theodore Racing Dallara F3 2019: Robert Shwartzman     

2019 has been a standout year for Robert Shwartzman, winning the first title of the revamped FIA F3 series. The Ferrari Academy driver fought off fellow Ferrari junior and Prema team mate Armstrong for the title.

He impressed last year as a rookie with third, but stepped up this year with three wins and seven further podiums from 16 races. The Russian will want a Macau win as the cherry on top, and ninth on his debut last year shows he’s a favourite for the win before he moves upwards next year.

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Shwartzman was a worthy champion this year, and looks destined for F1 at this stage. As a Ferrari Academy driver, could he be the one to replace Sebastien Vettel soon? Photo: FIA European F3.

#6 Hitech Grand Prix Dallara F3 2019: Juri Vips

Juri Vips was the only significant challenger to the Prema juggernaut this year, contending for the title right up to the penultimate round. The Red Bull junior led his Hitech team this year,scoring almost double the points of his next closest team mate.

Vips caught attention with blinding speed a rookie last year, but returned this year a more consistent driver. He was Shwartzman’s closest challenger until a barren run of two point scores from the final five races curtailed his season. He looks the next promising Red Bull prospect to get a chance in F1.

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Juri Vips was blindingly quick this year, and looks certain to progress through the ranks with Red Bull going forward. Photo: FIA European F3.

#7 Hitech Grand Prix Dallara F3 2019: Max Fewtrell 

Max Fewtrell acquitted himself well in the highly competitive FIA F3 series, stepping up as Formula Renault Eurocup champion. He fought all season with team mate Christian Lundgaard for top honours within their ART Grand Prix team.

Ironically, both him and Lundgaard are Renault junior drivers and they fought for the Formula Renault Eurocup title last season. There was a lot of promise to build on for next year, with two podiums and 10th in the standings impressive for a debut campaign. He will want to build experience at Macau towards a title challenge next year.

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Max Fewtrell beat Christian Lundgaard to the Renault Eurocup title last season, but the Dane beat him to best rookie honours in FIA F3 this year. Both will enter 2020 as title contenders. Photo: Joe Portlock/FIA European F3.

#8 Hitech Grand Prix Dallara F3 2019: Yuki Tsunoda

Yuki Tsunoda was one of the unheralded stars of the 2019 FIA F3 season. The reigning Japanese F4 champion made his debut in Europe and led an unfancied Jenzer team.

His lack of experience explains his inconsistent campaign, but he showed flashes of real potential. Most impressive was his string of three consecutive podiums late in the year, culminating in his first victory at Monza. He joins Hitech for Macau and may surprise with his pace.

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Yuki Tsunoda showed promise in 2019, and with both Red Bull and Honda backing him expect him to be a contender for the title next season. Photo: FIA European F3.

#9 ART Grand Prix Dallara F3 2019: Christian Lundgaard

Christian Lundgaard showed himself as the top rookie of the 2019 season, with a podium in the opening race a statement from the young Dane. A win later in the year in Hungary cemented himself as a prospect to watch, before his season petered out in the final races.

Sixth as a rookie is very impressive and he remains with ART Grand Prix for Macau. With Renault F1 backing he has shown enough to be worthy of contention for victory. Setting fastest times on two of the three post-season F3 test days shows he’s one to look out for next year.

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Lundgaard is another to have shown massive potential in his rookie campaign, and post-season testing is showing he should feel confident for 2020. Photo: FIA European F3.

#10 ART Grand Prix Dallara F3 2019: Ferdinand Habsburg 

Ferdinand Habsburg returns to FIA F3 for Macau, after a very difficult debut DTM campaign for Aston Martin. He returns after spending the last two years in F3, and is most well known for his dramatic collision with Sergio Sette Camara on the final corner of the 2017 Macau Grand Prix.

This year may be tougher as he will have to learn the new Dallara F319 very quickly if he wants to contend for victory. After a difficult year he will no doubt enjoy such a challenging circuit with a good result the icing on top for the Austrian.

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Ferdinand Habsburg crawls across the line after colliding on the final corner fighting for the Macau GP win in 2017. Photo: Motorsport.com.

#11 ART Grand Prix Dallara F3 2019: Sebastian Fernandez 

Sebastian Fernandez struggled in his sophomore FIA F3 campaign, but a move to the more fancied ART Grand Prix team will boost his chances for Macau. Racing for Campos this year his best finish was 12th on the opening weekend, as he struggled with the new Dallara F319.

His results in two seasons of FIA F3 and his lack of experience at Macau don’t suggest he will challenge for the win, but the move to ART could means he ends the year on a high with a top ten finish.

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Sebastian Fernandez has struggled in two seasons of FIA F3, but could his Macau form improve with ART Grand Prix? Photo: Motorsport.com.

#12 Trident Motorsport Dallara F3 2019: Oliver Caldwell 

Caldwell steps up to FIA F3 for Macau after a year in the feeder Formula Regional European Championship. The series is new this year and uses a similar F3 chassis and Caldwell will be using Macau as an extended test for a potential step up to FIA F3 in 2020.

Caldwell has impressed with fifth in the series. He raced for Prema all year but switches to Trident for Macau. The team helped Pedro Piquet to fifth so they have some good pedigree however with a rookie driver and unfancied team a top ten would prove a good result.

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Olli Caldwell took this win at Imola in a good debut campaign at the F3 level. This Macau berth is a likely precursor to a full FIA F3 campaign in 2020. Photo: ACI Sport.

This wraps up part one of my preview for the upcoming Macau Grand Prix. Stay tuned for part two and three, and if you have any comments on this preview or the race itself feel free to comment below or find me on Twitter @JWjournalism. Finally, a massive thank you to everyone who read this article I really appreciate it!

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