McLaren Formula 1 youngster Lando Norris extended his points lead at the top of the FIA European Formula 3 standings on Saturday by taking a dominant victory at the Nürburgring.
Norris, 17, moved into the lead of the F3 championship at the last round at Spa, and continued his good form in qualifying by grabbing pole for the opening race of the weekend.
Norris went wire-to-wire in the wet, eventually taking the checkered flag 17.5 seconds clear of compatriot Jake Hughes, pulling out the gap in just 20 laps.
The result saw Norris add to his lead over German rival Maximilian Günther, who by finishing a lowly 13th slipped to 36 points behind the Carlin racer.
“There isn’t too much to say about my race. My start was good, I managed to keep Jake and Callum [Ilott] at bay. After that, I was able to pull clear from the rest of the field and build up an advantage,” Norris said.
“On lap eight, I had a hairy moment when I briefly went off the track and lost a few seconds. Otherwise, everything went well and my car was great, so I can’t complain.”
Hughes and Ilott took pole position for races two and three, set to take place on Sunday, with Norris due to line up third and second in the respective races.
Throughout motorsport, there are circuits and races that command high esteem and respect from drivers as a result of their significance and the magnitude of the challenge at hand.
If you asked drivers to name the events at the top of their career hit list, the same races are likely to come up time and time again. The Monaco Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans are probably the biggest three, making it only right that they should form racing’s Triple Crown, an honor only Graham Hill has won.
For juniors making their way up the motorsport ladder, winning such prestigious and historic races at an early point in their careers is unrealistic. However, they are able to check off another – and, arguably, even more testing – race before graduating to the upper echelons of motorsport: the Macau Grand Prix.
Taking place on the streets of Macau, a peninsula off mainland China and the most densely populated region in the world, drivers blast around the tight course that has it all: fast corners, slow corners, elevation changes, heat, humidity; you name it.
The race originated as a sportscar challenge back in the 1950s before growing into a single-seater event, eventually being run under Formula 3 rules from 1983. Ayrton Senna was the first winner of the Macau F3 event, the victory acting as an important step on his route to Formula 1. Legends may be made around the streets of Monaco and in the dark of Le Mans, but the first signs of greatness are sown at Macau.
Besides Senna, the likes of Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard, Ralf Schumacher, Takuma Sato, Lucas di Grassi, Mike Conway and Antonio Felix da Costa have all won at Macau, while in recent years, Max Verstappen, Jean-Eric Vergne, Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Nasr have also entered the race.
No driver has won the F3 race three years straight, but that could be set to change this weekend. Sweden’s Felix Rosenqvist has spent the majority of his career in F3, winning the FIA title in 2015 as well as taking a second Macau win that year. Despite moving into Formula E and spending time in Indy Lights in 2016, when the chance came about to return to Macau with Prema Powerteam, Rosenqvist couldn’t say no.
“Already from the beginning of the year I was quite clear that I was interested in doing it if the opportunity came,” Rosenqvist explains. “Then when Lance [Stroll] wasn’t doing it, I think I was first on the list to take the seat. I think also to go with Prema, I had such a good memory with them last year. It’s just one of the things you can’t say no to.”
Alongside the F3 event at Macau, the GT Cup for GT3 cars, the TCR International Series for touring cars and a motorcycle grand prix will run. Both the F3 and GT Cup events enjoy world cup status, a first for the former, while the latter features another driver chasing a ‘three-peat’: Maro Engel.
Engel raced in the F3 event back in 2006 before making the career shift to touring cars, and is a Mercedes factory driver, as well as racing for Venturi in Formula E. The German won the Nürburgring 24 back in May, and has won the previous two GT Cup races at Macau. Although he would not be the first driver to score a GT hat-trick at Macau, it would still be a huge achievement.
“Going there the aim is clearly to defend the titles. I think the pressure is no different than going there last two years where the aim was to try and win the race,” Engel says.
“It would certainly be something special to make it three in a row. We’ll push hard and come as prepared as we can, but obviously our opponents are probably going to push as hard as they can too.
“I think just approach it with the same we approached it the past two years, try and get the best out of myself and out of the car, and the team, and then we’ll see where we are on Sunday afternoon. Certainly we feel confident going there.”
Despite standing on the brink of history, Rosenqvist also doesn’t feel under any pressure. Instead, he’s relishing the chance for another opportunity to tackle Macau.
“Obviously many people look at it like I have everything to lose. I think already winning twice is already something really rare, but as I said, that’s not really the focus for me,” says the Swede.
“It’s more about having fun. I actually don’t really feel any pressure at all to be honest. Even if I wouldn’t win, I would be just happy to be there. I think anyways I have the best chance to win and be with a team that won last year and I won last year as well.
“I don’t see any reason why I would not be up to speed in F3. Obviously everyone would expect me to win, so let’s see.”
Both Rosenqvist and Engel are rookies in Formula E this year, with the all-electric series’ calendar featuring nothing but street circuits, designed to bring racing to the world’s biggest cities. By cutting their teeth on Macau, making the transfer to Formula E’s comparatively tame layouts will become much, much easier.
“The experience of street tracks is going to help as Formula E is only on street tracks,” Engel says. “The format I have to say is not too dissimilar in GTs because you don’t get a lot of running time in Macau. You get two 30-minute sessions and then you need to be there, which is quite similar to what we have in Formula E. So I think it’s definitely good practice.
“But then obviously in GT3, it’s a different beast to a Formula E car. Both great cars but obviously completely different, so in that respect maybe Felix has a bit more to draw on, because I think Formula E is a lot closer to a Formula 3 car.”
Rosenqvist has proven himself to be a street course specialist throughout his career, as evidenced by his victories at St. Petersburg and Toronto in Indy Lights earlier this year. However, nothing can prepare him for what Macau offers.
“This year I gained experience with some new street circuits in America in St. Petersburg and Toronto, which was very challenging but in a very different way,” Rosenqvist says.
“It didn’t really require bravery, it was more technical in terms of being very bumpy. I think it’s a bit more similar to what you have here in Formula E. Macau itself, it’s not so bumpy, it just requires so much commitment and bravery. When you really go for that qualy lap, it’s like the walls close in and go by so quick.
“You need balls,” he adds with a smirk. “It’s also technical for sure but not in the same way as something like this.”
So where does Macau stack up against other tracks? Is it the toughest street course in the world?
“Yes,” is the immediate response from Engel.
By a long way?
“For myself anyway,” he replies. “I’ve raced quite a few. I’ve raced at Pau and in the V8s in Australia, but Macau is just something else.
“There is a reason why all the drivers say Macau is the ultimate challenge. It just combines so many factors into one track. It’s probably the longest street track by a long way, with lots of up and down variations, speed variants from Melco hairpin, which is probably the slowest corner in motorsport, to Mandarin corner which is one of the quickest in motorsports. There’s everything there.”
Despite neither the F3 or GT3 races forming part of a world championship, victory at Macau ranks highly in both the careers of Rosenqvist and Engel.
“Maybe winning the F3 title was more important, but from my point of view, Macau is the one I’m most proud of, especially winning two times,” Rosenqvist says. “I would really put that on top of my list.”
Engel concurs: “I think winning the Nurburgring 24 Hours this year was extremely special and the way in which we did it, but winning Macau is just indescribable.
“For me it’s definitely the highlight of my career. Being able to go and win it twice is very, very special.”
As the ultimate challenge in motorsport, Macau is a race that all the drivers want to win. Engel and Rosenqvist have enjoyed successful seasons thus far, but to cap 2016 off with a third victory around the famed streets would surely see both reach a new high in their racing careers.
Formula 1 has a rich history of ‘like father, like son’ stories. Whether it be Graham and Damon Hill, Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve, Mario and Michael Andretti, Keke and Nico Rosberg, Jan and Kevin Magnussen or – most recently – Jos and Max Verstappen, many a young racer has gone on to emulate his father by competing at the pinnacle of motorsport.
One of F1’s future second-generation stars would be following his father’s footsteps in a slightly different fashion, though.
Adrian Newey has been one of the sport’s most influential figures as an aerodynamicist and engineer over the past 30 years, most recently masterminding Red Bull’s run of four straight drivers’ and constructors’ championships between 2010 and 2013.
Now, his son Harrison is aiming to make it to F1, currently racing in F3 as one of Britain’s young talents forging a path up the junior ladder.
Newey Jr., 18, followed the normal path for aspiring racers, plying his trade in go-karts before making the step up to single-seaters full-time in 2015. A successful campaign in the British BRDC F4 series that saw him finish second in the championship led to a move into the highly competitive FIA Formula 3 European Championship for 2016, a series that has produced many of F1’s recent newcomers including Verstappen, Esteban Ocon and Roberto Merhi, as well as other notable names including Raffaele Marciello, Felix Rosenqvist and current leader Lance Stroll.
Newey scored points on debut at Paul Ricard earlier in the year, and has a best finish of sixth place from Spa to his name so far in his maiden season in the series with Van Amersfoort Racing. The young Briton is back out on-track this weekend at Imola for the penultimate round of the season.
Between his busy schedule, we managed to catch up with Newey to discuss his season and career so far, his hopes for the future and the battle to become a racer in his own right, not just ‘Adrian Newey’s son’.
Harrison, looking back on your season so far and the step up to F3 from F4, how have you found it? Happy with how things have gone so far this season?
Harrison Newey: Yeah. We were reasonably well-prepared coming into the season with testing and everything and working with the team. I knew them from F4 last year so I’d settled in already. Then I think from the first round it kind of went very well, and then it kind of went downhill a bit, and then started to get better again. So it’s just been a bit of an up-down season so far. But I’ve been reasonably happy with how it’s gone. Would like for it to have gone slightly better in the middle of the season, but Spa was quite good. Nice to get back up there, so relatively happy again.
So is this season mainly about adjusting to F3 after stepping up from F4?
HN: Yes for sure. I think not only is it the car getting faster and stepping up there, but it’s a huge step up in the competitiveness and the drivers that you’re racing against.
Looking through the rest of the season, what hopes do you have? I’m guessing more points finishes, a top five, a podium if possible?
HN: I’d just like to get some solid points, solid top 10s, and be quite consistent with that to be honest.
Has the step up from F4 to F3 gone as you expected? We know the FIA has done a lot to re-rung the junior ladder and get young drivers on this path towards F1. Is it working for you? Have you noticed a natural progression and a comfortable step up?
HN: I’d say it was a very big step. I think that F4 to F3 is a very big step. I think that’s why a lot of people go and do Formula Renault 2.0, because it’s more of a sensible step to go to Renault and from Renault to F3, not only in the cars but also the competitiveness of the drivers because some of the people have done F3 for three years, and I’m only in my second season of racing overall. So if you go into your first season and do well in F4, which thankfully I did and finished my first championship in BRDC F4, then for me the logical option was to go to F3 because we’ve done very well here. We’re not going to do another year of F4 and I’ve never really wanted to do Renault, I was never that interested in doing Renault, so from that point of view, I thought I’ve got to do F3. But in some cases I think I was underprepared coming into the season, and it was a big step. But at the same time I think the big step meant that I’ve learned a huge amount and if you can get over the fact that the performance hasn’t been amazing but hasn’t been bad, then the amount I’ve learned has been huge compared to if I did Renault or another season of F4.
So do you think you’ll feel ready to fight for race wins, maybe even a championship next season?
HN: Yeah I think so. I think I’ll be fighting for podiums or race wins next year.
Will you be looking to remain in F3 next year or maybe make a move into GP3?
HN: No, I think I’ll remain in F3.
And then presuming that the FIA does get F2 sorted in the next two-to-three years, would you maybe look at that as being the natural progression, and then hopefully F1?
HN: Yeah I think I would do it. Obviously it depends on how I perform in the next couple of years and next year in F3, and then looking at where to go from there. But I think yeah, if the performances are good and F2 gets running well and the grid is strong, then it’s definitely an option.
Are superlicense points something that is already on your mind? The FIA changed the system a couple of years ago, but is it something you consider even at an early stage when picking which championship to race in?
HN: I don’t really think so to be honest, it hasn’t really come into it that much. I think the top three in the GP2 championship, you get enough points for a superlicense. At that stage if you’re outside of the top three in GP2, the chances of getting a Formula 1 drive anyway are so slim, so you don’t really have to be concerned about it. Then because of that it hasn’t really come into my mind. The chances are tiny if you win the championship.
So would a championship like Formula E be made attractive by the extra superlicense points on offer? It’s now equivalent in weighting to IndyCar and WEC.
HN: I don’t really think so. I don’t think it comes in that much. If you’ve gone down that route of doing Formula E and you win the championship, if you look at the age of most of the drivers, at that stage, I don’t think it’s going to make so much difference because the difference between a Formula E car and a Formula 1 car are unbelievable. A Formula E car is about as slow as an F4 car, so winning that championship doesn’t then boost you into Formula 1 I don’t think. It doesn’t make it more attractive. I think what’s attractive about Formula E is the new technology, they’re quite interesting cars to drive. That’s more the future. I think some people who are interested in the future are interested in driving in Formula E.
Is it something that might interest you down the line?
HN: Yeah it could do I think. If I got an interesting proposal, then obviously I’d be open to anything. At the moment I think Formula 1 is still my focus, so I’ll focus on that, but I wouldn’t discount Formula E.
You said how F1 is the focus and where you want to end up, but what other career goals do you have? Would doing sportscars and Le Mans something you want to do one day?
HN: Yeah Le Mans is something I would definitely like to do someday, for sure. No matter where I am, I think it’s such a good race. From my point of view it’s just one of those things that is part of racing.
Going back to working your way up the ladder: do you think there is any extra pressure now on young drivers after how Max Verstappen made this huge step up from F3 to F1?
HN: From my point of view, I don’t think there is. I think some people do view it as huge pressure that they’ve got to get to Formula 1 very young. I think he’s just obviously hugely talented and worked very hard at it. He’s been doing so much testing that although he jumped straight up, he was so well prepared compared to 99% of the other drivers. I think for me it’s not applied extra pressure, but I think some people do feel that it’s extra pressure.
Obviously your dad has played such a huge role in the past 30 years of Formula 1. What kind of influence has that had on you and getting involved in racing? I’m guessing you’ve grown up being surrounded by racing and in this world already.
HN: I was always in the world, and I think if you look at people watching football, they always want to be footballers when they’re younger. From my point of view it was always watching Formula 1. In my mind I always wanted to be a Formula 1 driver. And then it kind of went from there. My dad knew what to do with that, and if I really wanted to do it then he would help me. It came to a point where I really wanted to do it and he stepped forward and helped me. But beyond that, I don’t think it’s been too much of an influence because it’s very different. Although it’s in the same sport, it’s a very different discipline: he’s an engineer and an aerodynamicist, not a driver.
Was racing something your dad encouraged, or did he leave the decisions down to you?
HN: He’s always been supportive in whatever I’ve wanted to do, and I just said ‘I want to be a racing driver’. He’s never pushed me at all. It’s always been what I’ve wanted to do and not at all what he wanted to do.
How much has he been able to help you making the step up to single-seaters? He’s done a little bit of racing here and there alongside his technical work, so has he been able to give you any tips?
HN: He’s only helped in the state of I think looking in and saying ‘this looks like quite a good series’, but no different to how any other dad would have helped to be honest. In terms of driving, he doesn’t really put much in because although yeah he has done a bit of racing himself, for me to be able to do my thing, it’s not him – he just leaves me to it. If I’m good enough, then I’m good enough. If I’m not, I’m not. He’ll help me like any other dad would, but nothing extraordinary.
Has having a dad so involved in racing helped in terms of getting sponsors and backers on board?
HN: It has its disadvantages and its advantages. I think straight away it puts a target on your back as people know your name straight away, which is not always a good thing. But yeah, in other areas having someone who is well-known and having a name that is well-known can help with sponsors. But it’s one of those things, it’s got advantages and disadvantages.
With the target on your back, is there then a battle to prove to people that you’re not just Adrian Newey’s son, you’re a racer in your own right?
HN: Yeah that’s exactly it. Straight away, people say, even the commentary still says ‘Harri Newey, son of F1 designer Adrian Newey’ or whatever. Trying to break away from just being his son and be your own person is definitely hard, and it’s something I definitely want to do.
Track limits have been a huge, huge talking point in F3 for the past couple of years. What’s your view on track limits and their policing this year?
HN: I just think the root of the problem has come from the FIA to be honest. Now they’re just being very strict on a problem that they’ve created and I think that’s a bit ridiculous, personally. They’ve put in all these safe tarmac run-off areas, and they say don’t run off track limits. I don’t understand. They had astro which worked quite well, and then they took that away and put these big curbs in that were breaking suspensions all over the place like at the Red Bull Ring. That’s obviously not working, but they insist that’s going to work despite the fact we said when we had a DTM round that this wasn’t working. The fact they put those curbs over a car-width over so you can run off with four wheels and not touch the curbs, and then you get to them and clip them and you break your suspension, it hasn’t actually helped anything because you can still go past track limits even with them there. What’s the point of them being there? The width of an F1 car and F3 car is the same, and the width between the white line and the big sausage curbs is over the width of an F3 car and F1 car. We constantly see people going over white lines, but there is no indicator. Going over a white line when you’re sitting as low as you are in a single-seater, you can’t see that well. You can’t see the bottom of the wheel. You can only see 20-30 metres in front of the wheel. So to then be able to judge whether you’re over the white line or not while still being on the edge of what the car can do and using all the track is hard. They could have sections of grass, stop people from running over, just a little bit that’s not quite a car’s width. At the end of the curb, they could fill it in with grass, and then have the tarmac afterwards. No-one’s going to use the grass because it’s clearly going to be slower. The problem with the astroturf is that there was an element of ‘oh it can be quicker’. The grass, it’s definitely not going to be quicker, and no-one’s going to run over it. I think they have got ways they could cover themselves but they’re just not using their options properly, and I think they’ve kind of shot themselves in the foot to be honest.
HN: No it doesn’t. At the end of the day, us in F3, we’re junior drivers who are trying to learn. We’re all still learning and we’re learning where to push the limit. To then set an example of ‘actually you can’t even make a mistake’, we all know you can make a mistake, get a bit of oversteer and get off the track slightly. They put these tarmacked areas in so you don’t lose time, and then you saw it all the time where people drop wheels off on the grass where they didn’t have these tarmacked areas when I was karting. They would come back on but had lost time, clearly. We’ve now got tarmacked areas, we make a mistake and we get punished with a time penalty or a drive-through. Now a drive-through is so severe for just a small mistake when before you’d just run off, two wheels on the grass, come back on and lose a bit of time but not that much. Even if you backed off at the Red Bull Ring. They were saying it was a zero-tolerance argument. They weren’t looking if you backed off or not, it was a clear-cut ‘did you go off or didn’t you?’ Sometimes you did go off, but you didn’t actually gain time. So it’s unfair to then punish because you haven’t gained time, and it’s also saying to young drivers that you can’t push and you’ve got to drive under the limit. You can’t learn at that speed. I think the way they’re handling it is just ridiculous.
How have you found working with a team like Van Amersfoort? They’ve got a really good track record in recent years of getting drivers up the junior ladder and have drivers in contention for the championship. Has it been good working with them?
HN: Yeah, they’ve been really good to work with to be honest, a really good team. They’re obviously set up slightly different this year and have advanced everything forwards, but at the end of the day it’s still the same team that it was when Verstappen and [Charles] Leclerc drove for them. They’ve been really good to work with. The engineers have been really good, the car has been very good. Just as a whole team, it’s been excellent.
Are you looking at doing Macau later in the year?
HN: I’m not sure whether we’re going to do Macau or not at the moment.
How do you find having a life outside of racing? You’re 18 years old, you’ve got your racing commitments but you’ll want to have parts of life typical of any teenager I guess. How do you strike a balance between them?
HN: Obviously you have to make a sacrifice if racing’s what you want to do. I’m still at school, go to school as much as I can, pretty much every day of the week apart from when I’m racing. All that’s still a normal life. I’ve got friends who I see outside of school, but I’m either at school or racing most of the time. ‘Normal weekends’ don’t happen quite often but I’m not bothered by that. Focusing on racing for me is much more fun and much more important.
Where do you see yourself in say 10 years’ time? Where do you want to be?
HN: I’d like to be in Formula 1. That’s a tough question and 10 years’ time is a long way down the line, but I’ve never thought that far ahead too much.
The first race of three this weekend for the FIA Formula 3 European Championship at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria witnessed a horrible three-car crash, although fortunately, the aftermath could have been worse.
The accident involved Peter Zhi Cong Li (China, Carlin), Ryan Tveter (America, Carlin) and Pedro Piquet (Brazil, Van Amersfoort Racing).
Li was the one who went airborne, after going over the back of Tveter.
Per a later team update, Li was undergoing treatment for multiple broken bones in his heel and diagnosed with four fractured vertebrae. The broken bones will require surgery while the vertebrae will not.
Here’s the official update from the FIA F3 Europe website:
A serious incident has occurred during Race 1 of Round 4 of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship, involving car number 18 Zhi Cong Li (CHN), number 3 Ryan Tveter (USA) and number 5 Pedro Piquet (BRA).
Following on-track evaluation, Zhi Cong Li and Ryan Tveter were transferred to the circuit’s medical centre. One driver was initially unconscious, but both drivers were conscious on arrival at the medical centre.
Zhi Cong Li has subsequently been taken to hospital via helicopter due to possible head and back injuries.
Ryan Tveter was taken to hospital by ambulance for further examination.
Carlin has now issued its own medical update past 10:15 a.m. ET:
Following transfer to a local hospital, Carlin drivers Peter Zhi Cong Li and Ryan Tveter have received further medical assessment after a serous incident during Race 1 of Round 4 of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship in Spielberg today.
Having been taken to hospital by ambulance, Ryan has been discharged with heavy bruising to his knee.
Following initial assessment at the medical centre, Peter was transferred to a University hospital by helicopter. Peter is undergoing treatment for multiple broken bones in his heel, which will require surgery in the near future. Peter has also been diagnosed with four fractured vertebrae which do not require surgery. While suffering with other bruising and small injuries, Peter is alert and speaking with team personnel.
Callum Ilott was leading Lance Stroll when the accident happened, and was declared the winner.
According to Autosport, Harrison Newey, the son of Red Bull Formula 1’s Adrian Newey, has grabbed himself a seat in Formula 3 after a finishing runner-up in the 2015 BRDC Formula 4 Championship and competing in German F4.
Harrison Newey, 17, will compete for Van Amersfoort Racing in just his second full season of racing.
“I know Frits [van Amersfoort] and the team well now after competing with them in Germany last year and also doing my first tests in an F3 car,” Newey said. “VAR will be the ideal grounding for me to further my racing ambitions and to acquire all the attributes to gain as much experience as possible with a new car and mostly new tracks.”
The Englishman has spent his winter racing in the MRF Challenge, which is based in India. Newey placed eighth in the point standings.