Whether they appear in the pages of a magazine, on the web or even on television screens, there are places in the world that simply exude romance.
Those destinations whose style, culture and history draw one in with a charm and exuberance oft missing from cities draped in modernisation, with a personality is more than likely shaped by functionality as opposed to class.
Some people look better in a tuxedo, while others find comfort in a stale brown suit.
Situated on the south-eastern tip of China, Macau is probably a tuxedo, albeit one with a touch of creased, hard-edged class. Colonised by Portuguese traders in the early 16th Century, Macau was the first and last European colony in China (becoming independent of European power in 1999), but still stands as one of only two special administrative regions in the country, along with Hong Kong.
Yet for the third weekend of every November, the region once again finds itself colonised, but by some of the world’s finest young racing drivers as opposed to fish traders.
Until Sunday, Macau will be under the thumb of participants from multiple Formula 3 and equivalent categories, as thirty young racers aim to take one of the most prestigious crowns in motorsport.
A curious blend of long straights, swift kinks and ultra tight bends, make Macau one the toughest challenges of the Formula 3 season, both in terms of racing and in finding an optimum set up.
Add into the mix how narrow and bumpy the course is, along with its intensive elevation changes and you have a circuit more akin to a hill-climb course, rather than a racing circuit.
Inaugurated in 1954, several famous names have taken the spoils at Macau; including the late Ayrton Senna, who triumphed in the first Formula 3 running in 1983.
Michael Schumacher, David Brabham and David Coulthard are also on the winner’s list, while current IndyCar competitors Takuma Sato and Mike Conway have also taken the race in the last decade. Ricardo Patrese won the Grand Prix twice in Formula Pacific machinery before the category moved to the current Formula 3 model.
Last year Edoardo Mortara became the first two-time winner since Patrese, somewhat reviving his career in the process.
The Grand Prix also represents the final round of the inaugural FIA Formula 3 International Trophy, a championship dominated by Formula 3 Euroseries champion, Roberto Mehri.
Mehri is very much a favourite of mine, especially following his rather dominant performances in both the F3 Euroseries and the International Trophy – a pair of titles he claimed some time ago.
Yet it was Mehri’s Signature Racing rival Marco Wittmann who claimed the pole position honours with a best of 2:12.790.
Mehri, however, fell 0.064 seconds short of this target, but was later penalised for colliding with Felix Rosenqvist during the first qualifying session.
Several other penalties rendered the original post-qualifying order somewhat meaningless, as nine drivers were demoted after the session – a pair of whom received two penalties.
Before qualifying, I would have given the race to Mehri, but with the Spaniard now dropped to 8th place, he will have a hard time climbing from there. Also watch out for Antonio Felix da Costa, who has now been promoted to the front row.
GP3 veterans, Valtteri Bottas and Alexander Sims will be threatening on the second row of the grid, as will newly crowned British Formula 3 Champion, Felipe Nasr, who lines up 5th.
Nasr’s Carlin teammate Carlos Huertas secured 6th place once the grid sorted itself out. Huertas pipped Japanese Formula 3 Champion Yuhi Sekiguchi by just over one-tenth of a second.
Sekiguchi has proved to be one of the weekend’s revelations thus far, having only been confirmed as a replacement for the injured Michael Ho on Wednesday.
As an aside, Mehri was one of nine drivers hit with a penalty. Such were the numbers of penalties handed out (mainly for collision, ignoring yellow flags and for crossing the pitlane exit line), Daniel Juncadella – who qualified 14th – received a 3-place grid penalty and will start 11th…
The Qualifying Race for the 58th Macau Grand Prix starts at 6am in the UK, but if you manage to find a feed, count yourself lucky – highlights of the event are not due to be shown for another five weeks, which for such a famous race is absolutely shocking.
Bi-lingual commentary for the race is being broadcast live from the Macau Grand Prix homepage and if you can find moving pictures too, then it’s best to celebrate like it’s 1999.
Sunday’s Feature Race kicks off at 7.30am, with the same lack of broadcast notes.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Marco Wittmann Signature-VW 2m12.790 2. Antonio Felix da Costa Hitech-VW 2m13.115 + 0.325s 3. Valtteri Bottas Double R-Merc 2m13.192 + 0.402s 4. Alexander Sims TOM'S-Toyota 2m13.407 + 0.617s 5. Felipe Nasr Carlin-VW 2m13.429 + 0.639s 6. Carlos Huertas Carlin-VW 2m13.704 + 0.914s 7. Yuhi Sekiguchi Mucke-Merc 2m13.850 + 1.060s 8. Roberto Merhi Prema-Merc 2m12.854 + 0.064s *** 9. Laurens Vanthoor Signature-VW 2m13.973 + 1.183s * 10. Kimiya Sato Motopark-VW 2m14.246 + 1.456s 11. Daniel Juncadella Prema-Merc 2m14.064 + 1.274s * 12. Marko Asmer Double R-Merc 2m14.011 + 1.221s * 13. Carlos Munoz Signature-VW 2m14.020 + 1.230s * 14. Pietro Fantin Hitech-VW 2m14.415 + 1.625s 15. Jazeman Jaafar Carlin-VW 2m14.477 + 1.687s 16. Daniel Abt Signature-VW 2m14.513 + 1.723s 17. Hannes van Asseldonk Hitech-VW 2m14.591 + 1.801s 18. Richie Stanaway Van Amersfoort-VW 2m14.625 + 1.835s 19. Carlos Sainz Jr Signature-VW 2m14.511 + 1.721s * 20. William Buller Fortec-Merc 2m14.649 + 1.859s 21. Hideki Yamauchi Toda-Honda 2m14.863 + 2.073s 22. Hywel Lloyd Sino Vision-Merc 2m15.022 + 2.232s 23. Lucas Foresti Fortec-Merc 2m15.061 + 2.271s 24. Richard Bradley TOM'S-Toyota 2m15.855 + 3.065s 25. Adderly Fong Sino Vision-Merc 2m16.666 + 3.876s 26. Hironobu Yasuda Three Bond-Nissan 2m22.302 + 9.512s ** 27. Jimmy Eriksson Motopark-VW 2m55.360s + 42.570s 28. Mitch Evans Double R-Merc (no time) 29. Kevin Magnussen Carlin-VW 2m13.518 + 0.728s **** 30. Felix Rosenqvist Mucke-Merc 2m13.528 + 0.738s **** Penalties: * 3-place grid penalty (crossing pitlane exit line) ** 6-place grid penalty (crossing pitlane exit line twice) *** 7-place grid penalty (collision) **** Sent to back of grid (ignoring yellow flags)