Yuki Tsunoda, Hitech, Macau, Formula 3, 2019

The pre-event favourites and stand-out names as Formula 3 returns to Macau

Formula 3

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A highly-anticipated single-seater race is taking place on the streets of a city famed for gambling this weekend.

It is of course the Macau Grand Prix, which is being held for Formula 3 cars for the first time since 2019.

From Thursday to Sunday, the most famous roads in Macau will be closed to the public through what would usually be the working day as F3 cars and other categories take to them in competition.

From 1983 to 2019 the Macau Grand Prix was run for F3 drivers, attracting an entry from all over the world. But the Covid-19 pandemic caused major disruption and for the past three years forced the organisers to hold a Formula 4 competition instead.

But now F3 is back and drivers from the top tiers of open-wheel racing are heading to Macau in an attempt to win what for many years has been the biggest race in junior single-seaters. Here are the drivers likely to be in contention for victory and a few other notable names heading to this year’s race.

Pre-event tips

Richard Verschoor

Verschoor has stepped down from Formula 2 to defend his Macau Formula 3 crown

One of two drivers on the grid who have already won the Macau Grand Prix, and the FIA F3 World Cup prize that has accompanied recent editions of the race run for F3 cars, Verschoor also has the advantage of being one of only three drivers racing this weekend who has driven the Dallara F3 2019 around the Guia circuit before.

He may have not appeared in F3 since 2020, but he is driving for Trident – a team he knows well from Formula 2 last year – and more importantly the number one he carries on his car means his team is placed at the very end of the pit lane. That gives them a huge advantage in red flag-interrupted sessions because Verschoor will likely be the first driver back out on track each time and therefore less likely to have laps disrupted in the way that those further back in the pit lane could be exposed to.

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Dan Ticktum

Ticktum has raced in Formula E since his pair of Macau Grand Prix wins

A two-time winner of the event, but both in a previous-generation F3 car. His only experience of the current car came in the 2020 Macau Grand Prix, which he finished 13th in.

However Ticktum’s simulator work is renowned, and he has had several months to prepare since his Formula E campaign (which was predominantly on street circuits) finished in July, so he should have no issues adapting back to being in F3 in the real world if he has tasted it virtually recently.

However he may face a very tricky weekend for the same reason that Verschoor could have an easy one, since the Rodin Carlin team that Ticktum is driving for is based towards the start of the pit lane. That could prove problematic in qualifying if drivers ahead of him crash and he faces yellow flags that Verschoor doesn’t. If he finishes either the qualification or main race in the top five, it will be his best result since the 2021 F2 season finale.

Gabriele Mini

Prema are usually strong in Macau and Mini should be in the thick of the fight

The Alpine junior is with what is widely considered to be the best team, Prema, and was the driver to beat in the FIA F3 Championship’s visit to Monaco this year. He topped his qualifying group by a huge 0.874 seconds (by the comparison the top two in the other group were split by 0.003s), and he set the fastest lap as he converted pole into victory in the feature race.

Mini also won at the Hungaroring, another twisty track but a permanent venue rather than a street circuit, and he joins Prema ahead of a 2024 FIA F3 campaign with the team.

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Zane Maloney

Maloney was on fire in Formula 3 before his graduation to Formula 2

Maloney’s first street circuit experience came in the 2021 Formula Regional European Championship, as he finished second and first in the two races in Monaco. There were no street races in FIA F3 last year, so Maloney did his winning elsewhere and victory in the last three feature races of the season left him just five points short of becoming champion.

He has taken four podiums so far as an F2 rookie this year, and one of those was in Monaco. What makes him an even more likely victory threat is a relationship with Carlin that has helped him grow as he has gone up the single-seater ladder. He won the British Formula 4 title with them, took podiums in Euroformula and now F2. But like Ticktum he could be hampered by Carlin’s place in the pit lane.

Roman Stanek

Stanek took a pole, a win and three second places en route to fifth in the FIA F3 standings with Trident last year, and stayed with the team as he stepped up to F2. Seventh place in Monaco is his second-best result of the season so far, and there has been talks that budget concerns means he may not make it to the final round in Abu Dhabi.

So his place on the Macau grid not only shows that he does still have the cash to race, at least for this weekend if not the next one, and he will be going all out to get a big result and attracts sponsors for 2024. Stanek and Verschoor can work together to get the most out of Trident’s package, and the power of the tow from his team-mate may be enough to beat him in qualifying. And starting at the front tends to lead to finishing at the front too in Macau, if you avoid the barriers.

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Other names to note

Marcus Armstrong

Marcus Armstrong, Ganassi, IndyCar, 2023
Armstrong’s return to Formula 3 from IndyCar makes him a fascinating addition to the grid

Like Ticktum, Armstrong is a paid professional at the top of single-seaters and is stepping down two rungs to take on the rising stars of the junior ladder. The 23-year-old was IndyCar’s rookie of the year in 2023, despite a part-time campaign, and his average finishing position for the five street races was 9.2. Only slightly lower than his Macau average made up of two eighth places in 2018 and ‘19.

Armstrong will be racing for MP Motorsport, a team that is new to him, which is a different strategy to what the other experienced drivers have gone for and unlikely to be a beneficial one since MP is at the back of the pit lane queue.

He has already proved he can win in this car, doing so three times in 2019, he won on Jeddah’s similarly high-speed street circuit in F2 two years ago. But the IndyCar-to-F3 adaptation is more difficult than what Ticktum is attempting from FE.

Charlie Wurz

The son of former Formula 1 driver Alex started 2023 in style by winning the Formula Regional Oceania title, but then struggled to even score in FREC. Stepping up to the F3-level Euroformula championship in September resulted in a win, four other podiums, a pole and three fastest laps, and he then did the post-season FIA F3 test to prepare for Macau.

He is part of a very inexperienced line-up at Jenzer Motorsport, whose three drivers have a combined total of four starts in the Dallara F3 2019 between them, but an advantageous position in pitlane and his quick adaptation elsewhere could put him towards the front.

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Dennis Hauger

After a disappointing Formula 2 season, Hauger was eager to tackle Macau

The 2021 FIA F3 champion has won in Monaco, Baku and Melbourne in F2, and is only on the grid due to a collarbone injury ruling Williams junior Franco Colapinto out of his seat at MP.

Hauger is a perfect replacement since as he raced for the team this year and will continue to do so in 2024. He was keen to have a go at Macau as he was denied the opportunity when he was last in F3 due to the pandemic. Although his future racing plans are already sorted, he only has two weekends left as a Red Bull junior and Macau is the perfect shop window to get himself on another F1 team’s books.

Laurens van Hoepen

The teenaged protege of FE champion and AlphaTauri F1 exile Nyck de Vries has plenty of Formula Regional experience, but has never raced in F3 before. He has been trying to make up for that with lots of testing, and like Wurz he starred in Formula Regional Oceania then absolutely floundered with ART Grand Prix in FREC. Yet he’s staying with the team for his F3 debut, mostly likely because the partnership will continue into 2024. Although de Vries never raced in Macau, he has extensive street circuit experience from F2 and F3 that no other driver aside from Ticktum and Armstrong – who would therefore not be looking for outside advice – can lean on.

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There is one space left to be taken on the grid for this year’s Macau Grand Prix. We’ll have a run down of the full entry once it’s been announced.

F1-bound Macau GP winners

Many future Formula 1 greats have raced at Macau, including Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, but only a handful of them have won it. There are a few less well-known names among the past Macau Grand Prix winners as well.

DriverMacau wins
Dieter Quester1970 (Formula Libre)
Vern Schuppan1974 & 1976 (Formula Pacific)
Riccardo Patrese1977 & 1978 (Formula Pacific)
Geoff Lees1979 & 1980 (Formula Pacific)
Roberto Moreno1982 (FPacific)
Ayrton Senna1983 (F3)
Mauricio Gugelmin1985 (F3)
Martin Donnelly1987 (F3)
David Brabham1989 (F3)
Michael Schumacher1990 (F3)
David Coulthard1991 (F3)
Ralf Schumacher1995 (F3)
Ralph Firman1996 (F3)
Takuma Sato2001 (F3)
Lucas di Grassi2005 (F3)

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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12 comments on “The pre-event favourites and stand-out names as Formula 3 returns to Macau”

  1. I can’t wait for this. I’ve been watching all kinds of Macau videos and clips for ever now but never actually watched the full race live.
    To me, this is one of the 3 greatest races in motorsport behind Indianapolis 500 and LeMans24.

    1. José Lopes da Silva
      14th November 2023, 22:52

      I’m very much in this line. Although I’m a “Monaco die hard”, I think Macau has a very special and high place in world motorsport and it’s a historical pity that its winners have been “missing” F1 in the last two decades – or that people like Leclerc and Verstappen have failed to win, even if they haven’t failed to impress there. It’s great that F3 is back.

      1. José Lopes da Silva
        14th November 2023, 22:56

        The 2004 event was a weird premonition of F1 Spain 2016, but with the violence

  2. Looking forward to this year’s Macau Grand Prix. And yeah, I guess there’s also the Vegas thing going on around the same time.

  3. To me Sophia Flörsch is also a stand-out name. Not the first time she races in Macau since her crash but still.

    1. Yes, when I hear “Macau”, I always think of her. That was brutal.

  4. TBC has a great future behind them. All those F1 entry lists and calendars, and they’ve finally made it to Macau.

  5. How do I watch from the US? I think last time I watched it FIA F3 was part of F1TV

    1. It is live on the FIA’s YouTube channel (haven’t seen any mentions of geoblocking, so I’m guessing it’s available everywhere).

  6. Ehm… I think you missed the Red Bull-backed, close-to-be-F3-runner-up Spanish driver Pepe Martí… he’s had a fantastic season and I guess he’ll be a podium contender.

  7. This year is more exciting than last year we didn’t enjoy the race coz of COVID watching live (actual) again on Sunday here in Macau

  8. Still without Andrea Kimi Antonelli (FRECA Champ, moving to F2), Oscar Piastri (F3 and F2 Champ, now in F1), Gabriel Bortoleto (F3 Champ), Victor Martins (F3 Champ, now in F2).

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