Length: 6.200 km Opened: 1954 F3 lap record: 2m10.732s (Edoardo Mortara, 2009) Circuit map: click here Geographic position: click here
Out of all races on the international young-gun motor racing stage, there is one that holds particular importance, and one that has enjoyed unrivalled status on the calendar for a quarter of a century; the annual Formula 3 world finale in Macau. For the third consecutive year, Felix Rosenqvist is one of the drivers on the grid as the 2012 edition of the F3 equivalent to the Monaco Grand Prix shoots into attention - and the build-up could certainly have been worse following a victorious end to the regular campaign in Europe.
For the good part of a week in November of each year, 30 of the most promising single-seater talents on the globe gather in the Chinese gambling metropolis outside Hong Kong for one final Battle Royale. Over the years, Macau has become synonymous with the pure DNA of motorsport, and it's not by chance that 16 out of the 24 drivers on the 2012 Formula 1 grid have participated in the famous street race at least once in their career. No other event offers the same unique challenges anywhere in the world; this is where the stars of tomorrow go head-to-head, today.
Felix Rosenqvist enters the Macau Grand Prix on the back of a strong conclusion to the Formula 3 Euro Series and FIA European F3 Championship season, which saw him claim four victories - two of which from pole position at the Hockenheim finale last month - to outscore all of his rivals over the second half of the campaign. Still, despite his recent form in a championship which is considered to be the most competitive of any F3 series - and from which six out of the last nine Macau Grand Prix winners have come - Felix is well aware that this is something different; a race in which anything genuinely can happen. It might sound like a cliché - but nothing could be more wrong. This, to put it simple, is Macau...
The Guia Circuit, as the track is officially known, has been referred to as the greatest challenge in the world by several drivers on the current Formula 1 grid. The unique layout of the venue has played a significant role in establishing the mystique surrounding the Macau Grand Prix, with success here dependent on a mixture of sublime skill, an ability to read on-track situations - and luck. The lap is made up entirely of normal roads in the city centre, and begins with a flat-out section featuring two ultra-fast kinks and two long straights where speeds in excess of 280 km/h can be attained. The first "real" corner - the 90-degree Lisboa Bend - marks an ideal overtaking opportunity, but is also a classic multi-car pile-up spot on the opening lap and a place guaranteed to generate drama throughout the weekend.
After Lisboa, the track sweeps uphill into a highly technical mountain section. This part of the lap consists of a sequence of fast and flowing "S" bends, which are all taken at high speed just centimetres from the walls. While there are large chunks of time to be found here, the risks are similarly high, as drivers edge ever-closer - and sometimes beyond - the limits in their pursuit of the perfect line. There is no room for mistakes, and the unforgiving Armco barriers that line the circuit are more than ready to punish even the tiniest loss of concentration.
The final part of the mountain section features a series of slower turns, and - of course - the famous Melco hairpin. With a track width of just seven meters, Melco is the tightest corner in the world, sporting constant yellow flags and a complete ban on overtaking due to the sheer lack of space at the site. In order to enable F3 cars to even negotiate the Melco hairpin, the geometry of the chassis is partly reconstructed specifically for the Macau Grand Prix.
The lap then concludes with two analogous right-handers - Fishermen's and R Bend - before the drivers head out onto the start/finish straight to begin another tour. From a set-up perspective, the variety of the Guia Circuit provides teams and engineers with a major challenge, as they seek the optimum trade-off between top speed in the first sector and aerodynamic grip around the remaining parts of the lap. The fact that the event is run on regular city streets adds even more difficulty to the cause, in the shape of slippery painted traffic lines and off-camber angles etc.
JOIN FELIX FOR A LAP AROUND THE GUIA STREET CIRCUIT:
The Macau weather is usually stable and comfortable, with temperatures in the region of 20-25 degrees Celsius and little risk of rain. Last year's event, however, was struck by a series of downpours - and forecasts do speak of a slight possibility of a repeat for the up-coming edition. The day most likely to be hit with precipitation is Friday, but the rest of the weekend looks set to take place in dry and pleasant conditions.
"There are a thousand things to say about why the Macau Grand Prix is such a great race and a true favourite of mine, but right now, I am just massively looking forward to getting out on track. Our pace was strong last year considering it was the team's first-ever visit to Macau, but the weekend was obviously marred by the penalty that put me at the back of the grid. I love the Guia street circuit; it is the most technical and demanding venue I have ever raced at, and the layout has everything. The mountain section is particularly challenging, but I feel well-prepared - and this time, we have the benefit of last year's data. Macau is always Macau, however, and even though we go into this race in a strong frame of mind following our four victories in the concluding part of the F3 Euro Series season, there is one vital element we simply can't control; luck. Macau is a lot about being in the right place at the right time, but I have a good feeling and we will simply do our best and enjoy it every minute of the way."
All times local (GMT+08:00)
Thursday 15 November Free Practice 1: 10.55-11.40 Qualifying 1: 14.40-15.10
Friday 16 November Free Practice 2: 11.00-11.45 Qualifying 2: 14.35-15.05
Saturday 17 November Qualification Race (10 laps): 14.00
Sunday 18 November SJM Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix (15 laps): 15.30
How it works
The Macau Grand Prix is a fully-standalone event, and not part of any regular championship. As the world's most prestigious race on the junior motor racing scene, the list of previous winners includes the likes of Ayrton Senna, David Coulthard, Michael and Ralf Schumacher - and Sweden's Rickard Rydell.
On-track action traditionally gets underway with free practice and qualifying on the Thursday, with Friday activities then mirroring those of the previous day; with another practice session followed by a second qualifying showdown. Each driver's best lap time from either of the two qualifying sessions then provides him with his position on the grid for Saturday's Qualification Race. The driver who posts the fastest lap time in qualifying - regardless of whether he does so in the Thursday or Friday session - thus starts from pole position on the Saturday.
The outcome of the Qualification Race - in itself a unique feature exclusive to the Macau Grand Prix - is then used to set up the grid for Sunday's all-important finale. The Qualification Race is run in exactly the same way as any other motor race, with the first driver to cross the line securing himself pole position for the finale. Second place in the Qualification Race equals second place on the Sunday grid, third equals third, etc. The Qualification Race results have no other function but to decide the starting order for the main race, which is then run over 15 laps with the winner taking honours in the 2012 Macau Grand Prix.
As always, www.felixracing.se will be fully updated throughout the weekend, with reports from each of the sessions that take place. The website is the central information hub for everything that goes on both on and off the track, and will also feature other relevant news, pictures and videos.
The interaction with fans and followers will principally involve Felix Racing's official Facebook Fan Page (link below), where supporters can discuss all the goings-on and post potential questions to Felix.