This is it: the 2018 FIA F3 World Cup, the Macau Grand Prix, is here. Lining up in the famous Asian street race for a third time, Joel Eriksson arrives in the Chinese Special Administrative Region in pursuit of the win that eluded him last year, as he prepares to return to F3 racing for the first time since that very moment 12 months ago.
Set to reunite with his old friends at Team Motopark, which ran him to the FIA F3 European Championship runner-up slot in 2017, Eriksson is ready to take on the best of motorsport’s young up-and-coming talent in a straight fight on Macau’s infamous streets this week.
Having qualified on pole in 2017, the Swede was taken out from the lead in Sunday’s finale by a fellow rival, meaning there are unfinished business in the former Portuguese colony.
“Macau is the race of the year and I love the vibe that only this place has,” says Joel Eriksson upon arriving in the city. “It’s nice to be back. I’ve been waiting for this week for some time.”
This time around, however, Eriksson descends on Macau in a situation quite different to previous years. Having not raced in Formula 3 this season, instead being elevated to a BMW works drive in the DTM, the 20-year-old Swede will have his work cut out as he goes up against full-time F3 competitors from throughout the world.
“Things are a bit different this year, no doubt,” says Joel Eriksson. “I have hardly sat in the car since Macau last year while my rivals have raced in F3 all season, but I feel as prepared as I could be in these circumstances. After all, I put it on pole here last year and I have evolved a lot as a driver in the DTM since then. I do expect some rustiness in the opening practice session, but after that I hope to be up to speed. You need to build your confidence around here, step by step, and that’s what I’ll be looking for.”
The FIA F3 World Cup is staged on the 6.2 km Guia Circuit, an ultra-demanding street track located in the heart of downtown Macau. Lined with casinos and luxury hotels, the circuit features two distinctly different sections: one flat out sprint to set up long slipstreaming battles at the beginning of the lap, followed by a much narrower part in which the slightest mistake is immediately punished by the unforgiving barriers.
A total of 28 drivers from across 16 countries are entered for the 2018 FIA F3 World Cup. Among Eriksson’s main rivals for the spoils are 2017 Macau winner Dan Ticktum, also entered by Team Motopark, and reigning FIA F3 European champion Mick Schumacher.
On-track action in Macau will commence with practice and qualifying on Thursday and Friday, with the Qualification Race taking place on Saturday and the all-deciding finale on Sunday.
FIA F3 World Cup
All times local – GMT+08:00
Thursday 15 November
Free Practice 1: 09.55-10.35
Qualifying 1: 14.20-15.00
Friday 16 November
Free Practice 2: 11.30-12.10
Qualifying 2: 15.10-15.50
Saturday 17 November
Qualification Race (10 laps): 09.00
Sunday 18 November
Main Race (15 laps): 15.30
On-track action in Macau 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 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 is then used to set up the grid for Sunday’s all-important finale. The first driver to cross the line in the Qualification Race secures himself pole position, second place in the Qualification Race equals second place on the Sunday grid, 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 claiming the 2018 FIA F3 World Cup title.
The full FIA F3 World Cup entry list can be viewed here.
TV / LIVE STREAM
The Macau Grand Prix will be broadcast LIVE at www.joelerikssonracing.com.
ABOUT THE CIRCUIT
Lap length: 6.2 km
Lap record: 2m10.186s (S.Câmara, ’15)
Top speed: 285 km/h
Latest event: 2017
Most recent winner (2017): Dan Ticktum (GBR)
Melco Hairpin (pictured)
The tightest corner in motorsport, Melco Hairpin is arguably the most iconic feature of the Macau circuit. Its ultra-narrow nature means overtaking is prohibited, with constant yellow flags on the approach.
A place guaranteed to offer its fair share of drama. This 90-degree right-hander is effectively the first corner of the lap, sitting at the end of a long flat-out, slipstreaming dash from the start/finish line, and is the inevitable scene of many race-ending crashes and decisive overtaking moves.