This weekend sees four Ferrari Driver Academy students tackle one of the highlights of the international motor racing calendar, the Macau Grand Prix. The former Portuguese protectorate is just an hour away from Hong Kong by hydrofoil and its capital is home to a street race that was first run in 1954. Today, the event features races for single-seaters, touring cars and motorcycles, all racing over the same weekend, making it the most important race weekend in Asia.
Legendary track. Since 1983, the main attraction has been the Formula 3 race and, over the years, many young drivers who have gone on to race at the very highest level, have taken part in this event held on what is considered one of the most demanding race tracks in the world. Drivers first tackle the very narrow streets in the upper part of the city, a continuous run of corners covered in little more than a minute. Then comes a two kilometre long straight leading to the famous Lisboa corner. The long straight dominates car set-up, so that drivers have to tackle the twisty parts with downforce levels that owe more to Monza than to Monaco. It is one of the features that make this race a real test for youngsters who aim to move up the motorsport ladder.
Hall of Fame. The winner’s trophy here bears the names of great champions like Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher. There are plenty of drivers who have not won Macau but still made their mark, either by setting a fantastic pole lap or charging through the field. For rookies to do well here is unusual, but both Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc finished on the podium on their first visit to Macau. In fact, of the current 20 F1 drivers, 16 of them have raced here.
New car. This year’s race sees an important change for the Macau Grand Prix, as it will mark the debut of the new FIA Formula 3 series, which has replaced GP3, with the new cars being much more powerful than the older Formula 3 cars that contested this event up until last year. It will add further interest and a new challenge, even for drivers who have raced in Macau before.
Callum and Enzo. They include Callum Ilott, who prior to competing in the final round of the Formula 2 series, in Abu Dhabi in just over two weeks time, has decided to get back behind the wheel of a Formula 3 car to compete in the Macau Grand Prix. Callum has already done well at the 6.2 kilometre Da Guia circuit in qualifying and in 2017, he also won the qualifying race. He’s naturally hoping to go one better and do it in the final. Ilott will be driving for the Charouz team, alongside Enzo Fittipaldi, the Brazilian making his Formula 3 and Macau debuts.
Shwartzman and Armstrong. For the young Brazilian, who has recently completed his season in Formula Regional, there will be a steep learning curve, but he will not be put under any undue pressure as he gets to grips with these demanding cars on what is an unforgiving track for rookies. The track and car should hold no particular surprises for Robert Shwartzman and Marcus Armstrong, who finished first and second in this year’s FIA Formula 3 championship and for whom this will be their last race in this category. Last year, Marcus finished eighth here ahead of Robert and for the second consecutive year they are racing with the Prema team.
Qualification Race. Meanwhile the grid has been decided for the qualification race by combining the results from both qualifying sessions. The qualifying race takes place on Saturday afternoon over 10 laps and the result then decides the grid for the 15 lap final, which is the last race of the busy weekend, on Sunday afternoon.