Circuit length: 6.200 km Opened: 1954 F3 lap record: 2m10.732s (Edoardo Mortara, 2009) Circuit map: click here Geographic position: click here
Ever since Ayrton Senna emerged victorious from the first edition back in 1983, the Formula 3 Macau Grand Prix has held an unrivalled position on the international junior single-seater calendar. Tradition, prestige and the immense difficulty of the Asian street venue have combined to make it the undisputed highlight of the F3 season - the greatest driving challenge, and the ultimate end-of-year encounter. The 2013 running of the event sports 28 drivers from across 18 different countries, setting the stage for a true world finale featuring an elite group of F3, GP2, GP3 and World Series by Renault winners - and one of them, for the fourth year in succession, is Sweden's Felix Rosenqvist.
Coming off the back of an emphatic FIA Formula 3 European Championship campaign, which included ten wins en route to second place overall behind Ferrari-backed Italian Raffaele Marciello, Felix heads to Macau as one of the inevitable pre-event favourites - a status reinforced by his previous record on the streets of the Chinese gambling enclave. Second place in last year's edition made him the first Swede in over ten years to stroll onto the Macau podium, but also marked a certain degree of frustration at having lost out on victory by the tiniest of margins. With 2012 winner António Félix da Costa returning in defence of his title, however, Felix will be looking for retaliation, as the Mücke Motorsport man again goes all out in his quest for further success in the planet's most esteemed F3 race.
The Guia Circuit, as the track is officially known, has been referred to as the greatest challenge on the globe by several drivers on the current Formula 1 grid. The unique layout of the venue has played a significant part 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 everyday 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, necessitating 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 suspension 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 unusual off-camber angles.
JOIN FELIX FOR A LAP AROUND THE GUIA STREET CIRCUIT (FILMED IN 2012):
The Macau Grand Prix is normally a pleasant affair, with temperatures of around 20-30 degrees Celsius and relatively stable weather. The up-coming weekend, however, does bring about a slight prospect of rain, with forecasts predicting an increased risk of precipitation in time for Saturday's Qualification Race. The likelihood, however, remains comparatively small at 30 %, with the rest of the four-day event set to feature predominantly bright skies and a dry track.
"The Macau Grand Prix is a very special event - the most prestigious and challenging race on the calendar. The Guia street circuit is simply amazing; it requires immense concentration, precision and confidence, and I'm really looking forward to getting back there. We were very competitive in Macau last year and came frustratingly close to victory, and I head into this weekend with the clear ambition of fighting for that win once again. Having said that, however, I know just how tiny the margins actually are - even the slightest mistake can literally ruin everything you've worked for. Macau is very much about being in the right place at the right time - and you're partially in the hands of luck - but considering our performances in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship this season, I think we've got every reason to be optimistic about our chances. I'm more than ready, eager to get out on track, and I will give it everything I've got."
All times local (GMT+08:00)
Thursday 14 November Free Practice 1: 10.55-11.40 Qualifying 1: 14.40-15.10
Friday 15 November Free Practice 2: 11.00-11.45 Qualifying 2: 14.45-15.15
Saturday 16 November Qualification Race (10 laps): 14.00
Sunday 17 November Star River ‧ Windsor Arch 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 bearing but to decide the starting order for the main race, which is then run over 15 laps with the winner taking honours in the 2013 Star River ‧ Windsor Arch Formula 3 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 hub of information 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. Tweets will also be forthcoming through Felix's own Twitter account (@FRosenqvist).