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What is the Macau Grand Prix and which F1 stars have won there?

Formula 3 is back at the Macau Grand Prix, which was a staple on its calendar and has acted as a springboard for drivers looking to reach Formula 1.

All F3 drivers

Formula 3 cars will make a grand return to Macau this weekend for the 70th running of the historic Macau Grand Prix, but what exactly is it? 

The Macau GP is a non-championship round of the F3 season, but F3 cars have not been since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The event is considered to be a stepping stone for higher motor racing categories, as it has been won by several world-famous drivers before they reached stardom. 

Preview: How Macau's long awaited return is shaping up to thrill

Racing is held on the streets of Macau, a city facing the South China Sea. 

To celebrate its 70th anniversary, organisers expanded this year’s event over two weekends. The opening weekend (11-12 November) had mainly domestic and Asian series in action - TCR Asia Challenge for example, while this coming weekend (16-19 November) are the international races. 

The F3 race is the highlight of the event. Even though points are not scored towards the FIA Formula 3 championship, which concluded at Monza in September, the Macau GP winner becomes the F3 World Cup champion - an honour last claimed by current Formula 2 driver Richard Verschoor. 

But it isn’t just for vehicles on four wheels. This is the only street race that has both cars and motorcycles competing over the weekend. Legends of two wheels across the Isle of Man TT, British Superbike championship and World Superbike championship have competed at Macau, including Carl Fogarty, who won the race in 1992. 

Then there are the grand touring cars as well. GT3-spec cars compete in the FIA GT World Cup, which is also back for the first time since 2019. Last year, when it held GT Cup status with a reduced international entry, Maro Engel added to his 2014 and 2015 victories in a Mercedes-AMG GT3. So it is an event for all disciplines of motor racing, and here is everything to know about the Macau GP.

Engel triumphed on the narrow street track in the Macau GT Cup race in 2022

Photo by: Macau GP

Engel triumphed on the narrow street track in the Macau GT Cup race in 2022

History of the Macau Grand Prix 

The Macau GP made its debut in 1954, but originally it was just an amateur race held for local motor enthusiasts. It was not until 12 years later that a professional team entered when Mauro Bianchi won for Alpine-Renault.  

His victory led to increased exposure of the event and the following year the motorcycle race was introduced. It was won by Hiroshi Hasegawa, but the event was clouded by tragedy. 

Arsenio Laurel, two-time winner of the grand prix in 1962-63, lost control of his Lotus 41 and hit the circuit’s sea wall to avoid hitting spectators. His car burst into flames upon impact and he died before marshals arrived at the scene. 

Laurel was the Macau GP’s first tragedy, demonstrating its dangers. The motorsport community was shaken, yet the event returned for another year. 

In 1968, John MacDonald became the first - and still only - driver to have won the event on both two and four wheels. In subsequent years as the event grew in popularity, so did the number of fatalities. Five competitors were killed during the 1970s, including a number of spectators in 1974 when Dieter Glemser’s spinning car ploughed into a largely unprotected crowd.  

However the event was not cancelled and 1983 saw the introduction of F3 cars following Formula Pacific’s demise. Initially, organisers had targeted F2 cars, but major circuit modifications to accommodate them would have been needed - cutting down trees, for example - and organisers were unwilling to do make the changes. 

F3 cars were instead adopted for the race, kickstarting a new era for the event with many future big-name drivers partaking. It quickly became a must-do race for young drivers with aspirations of reaching F1, heightening the event’s reputation even more. 

Senna won the first edition of the Macau GP held to F3 rules in 1983 aboard a WSR-run Ralt

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Senna won the first edition of the Macau GP held to F3 rules in 1983 aboard a WSR-run Ralt

However, fatalities continued to blight the event. In 2000, a brake failure on Frans Verschuur’s Renault Megane caused him to plunge into the tyre barrier before crashing into a parked car, truck and numerous spectators. One person was killed, while the driver escaped with back and leg injuries. 

Safety improvements inevitably followed. That proved fortunate for Sophia Floersch, who sustained a spinal fracture after a horrifying accident in 2018. After clouting Jehan Daruvala, who slowed for incorrectly waved yellow flags on the approach to the tight Lisboa right-hander, Floersch's damaged car spun into the barrier then was catapulted into the air upon striking a sausage kerb. She clipped the top of Sho Tsuboi’s car before going through the catch-fencing beyond the apex. 

Sausage kerbs had been introduced the year before to manage track limits, but appeared to have been a key factor in preventing Floersch T-boning Tsuboi’s car. Several years prior, organisers had also increased the height of the fencing she hit, which proved crucial in absorbing the crash’s energy, while barriers at Lisboa were subsequently moved inwards - changes endorsed by Floersch

The prestigious race continued at a domestic level in the subsequent years because of COVID-19. From 2020 to 2022, Chinese F4 cars competed in the Macau GP while the bike race was not held. But the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in China has paved the way for F3 to return, and a three-year deal was signed with the FIA was agreed earlier this year.

F1 drivers to have won the Macau Grand Prix 

The Macau GP has been won by 15 drivers to have started an F1 grand prix, two of which became world champions.  

Ayrton Senna took the chequered flag in the inaugural F3 Macau GP in 1983, while a 21-year-old Michael Schumacher took a controversial win in 1990. He arrived as the German F3 champion while his future F1 rival Mika Hakkinen was the British champion. 

The two were a cut apart that weekend, and Hakkinen beat Schumacher by 2.7 seconds in the first race. This meant he just needed to finish within 2.7 seconds of the German in the second leg, as the winner was determined by combining the total time from both races. 

Hakkinen and Schumacher famously clashed at Macau in 1990 as the latter took victory

Photo by: Sutton Images

Hakkinen and Schumacher famously clashed at Macau in 1990 as the latter took victory

In the second race, the Finn tried to play it safe behind Schumacher, but was much quicker and attempted a pass on the final lap. But when Schumacher moved across, the West Surrey Ralt struck Schumacher’s rear and spun into the barriers. That left Schumacher's WTS Reynard to claim the victory, despite crossing the line without a rear wing. It is seen as an incident that fuelled their heated rivalry throughout the 1990s.  

Archive: When Schumacher and Hakkinen battled in Macau

Senna’s victory, meanwhile, was much less contentious. He dominated the first race from pole to take victory by six seconds, before doubling up in the second running. Schumacher and Senna each won the race only once on their way up the ranks, with Vern Schuppan, Ricciardo Patrese and Geoff Lees the only drivers to reach F1 after multiple Macau GP wins. MacDonald holds the record for the most Macau GP wins, with four.

Several active F1 drivers have competed in the race, but without winning it. Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris competed in 2014, 2015 and 2017 respectively, while the three-time F1 champion is the only one of the trio to not have stood on the podium.

F1 Drivers to have won the Macau Grand Prix Years
Dieter Quester 1970
Vern Schuppan 1974, 1976
Riccardo Patrese 1977-78
Geoff Lees 1979-80
Roberto Moreno 1982
Ayrton Senna 1983
Mauricio Gugelmin 1985
Martin Donnelly 1987
David Brabham 1989
Michael Schumacher 1990
David Coulthard 1991
Ralf Schumacher 1995
Ralph Firman 1996
Takuma Sato 2001
Lucas di Grassi 2005

Macau Grand Prix Circuit

The Macau GP is held on the Guia Circuit, which is renowned for being one of the world’s toughest tracks. With its long straights, tight corners, bumpy asphalt and uncompromising barriers, Guia has all the typical characteristics of a street circuit.  

This of course means overtaking opportunities are limited. The best opportunity is at Lisboa Bend.

The Lisboa right-hander is one of the best overtaking spots on the track. Robert Kubica leads Lucas di Grassi in 2005

Photo by: Mark Capilitan

The Lisboa right-hander is one of the best overtaking spots on the track. Robert Kubica leads Lucas di Grassi in 2005

But although overtaking opportunities are limited, it is regarded as a true test for drivers. With over 30 metres between its highest and lowest point, the layout has been left largely unmodified since 1957. 

Friday favourite: Augusto Farfus explains the magic of Macau

Like back then, there are 24 turns with a twisty middle sector comprising 13 corners. Drivers then have to weigh on the anchors for the downhill 180-degree Melco Hairpin, the circuit’s narrowest point at just seven metres, which makes it a designated no-overtaking zone.

Two 90-degree right-handers take drivers to the finish line, which Ferdinand Habsburg crossed on three wheels in 2017 after an attempted move on Sergio Sette Camara at R-Bend ended with both in the wall and let Dan Ticktum snatch the victory.  

Juri Vips currently holds the lap record for F3 cars after setting a 2m06.317s time in 2019, which is slower than all but one (Pepe Marti at Spa-Francorchamps) of the pole times from the 2023 FIA F3 championship. 

Who is competing in the 2023 Macau Grand Prix?

Team Number Driver Current Series
Trident Motorsport 1 Richard Verschoor Formula 2
Trident Motorsport 2 Roman Stanek Formula 2
Trident Motorsport 3 Ugo Ugochukwu Italian F4
Jenzer Motorsport 5 Max Esterson GB3
Jenzer Motorsport 6 Charlie Wurz Euroformula pen
Jenzer Motorsport 7 Matias Zagazeta Formula Regional European Championship
Prema Racing 8 Dino Beganovic Formula 3
Prema Racing 9 Gabriele Mini Formula 3
Prema Racing 10 Paul Aron Formula 3
Hitech Grand Prix 11 Luke Browning Formula 3
Hitech Grand Prix 12 Isack Hadjar Formula 2
Hitech Grand Prix 14 Alex Dunne GB3 
Campos Racing 15 Pep Marti Formula 3
Campos Racing 16 Sebastian Montoya Formula 3
Campos Racing 17 Oliver Goethe Formula 3
Van Amersfoort Racing 18 Noel Leon Euroformula Open
Van Amersfoort Racing 19 Sophia Floersch Formula 3
Van Amersfoort Racing 20 Tommy Smith Formula 3
ART Grand Prix 21 Laurens van Hoepen Formula Regional European Championship
ART Grand Prix 22 Christian Mansell Formula 3
ART Grand Prix 23 Nikola Tsolov Formula 3
Carlin Motorsport 24 Zane Maloney Formula 2
Carlin Motorsport 25 Dan Ticktum Formula E
Carlin Motorsport 26 TBA TBA
MP Motorsport 27 Dennis Hauger Formula 2
MP Motorsport 28 Mari Boya Formula 3
MP Motorsport 29 Marcus Armstrong IndyCar

2023 Macau Grand Prix schedule 

Thursday 16th November 
Macau GP Free Practice 1: 9am local time, 1am GMT 
Macau GP Qualifying 1: 3:15pm local time, 7:15am GMT 

Friday 17th November  
Macau GP Free Practice 2: 9:30am local time, 1:30am GMT 
Macau GP Qualifying 2: 3:05pm local time, 7:05am GMT 

Saturday 18th November 
Macau GP Qualification Race: 3:50pm local time, 7:50am GMT 

Sunday 19th November 
Macau GP F3 World Cup: 3:30pm local time, 7:30am GMT  

F2 racer Verschoor is seeking two Macau F3 wins in a row having triumphed in 2019

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

F2 racer Verschoor is seeking two Macau F3 wins in a row having triumphed in 2019

How to watch the 2023 Macau Grand Prix 

Action for F3 begins on Thursday, with the first practice and qualifying sessions of the weekend. The second part of both sessions take place the following day, which sets up the two races across Saturday and Sunday.

The grid for Saturday's Qualification Race is decided by the combined qualifying results from Thursday and Friday. A 10-lap bout will determine the starting order for the main event. Sunday features the hotly anticipated 15-lap Macau GP where drivers will battle to be the latest name edged into Macau history. 

It will all be available via Motorsport TV, who also live-streamed Macau’s opening weekend. The stream is available from 7:25am GMT on Sunday, and can be accessed here

But it is not just F3 racing around Guia Circuit this weekend. Between all of the F3 action will be other races to keep the audience entertained, including the FIA GT World Cup. That will also be shown live via Motorsport TV, beginning at 4am GMT.

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