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Macau plays host to Formula One hopefuls 17 Nov 2004

Nelson Piquet Jnr (BRA) Piquet Sports puts some stickers on his car. 51st Macau Grand Prix Preparations, Guia Circuit, Macau, China, 17-21 November 2004. World © Capilitan/Sutton

Those wanting a guide to Formula One stars of the future could do worse than check out this weekend’s Macau Grand Prix, which brings together some of the world’s finest Formula Three talent.

Among those on the entry list for the prestigious event are three sons of ex-Formula One world champions. Nico Rosberg, son of flying Finn Keke, and Nelson Piquet Jr will be competing for Opel Team Rosberg and Piquet Sports respectively, while Christian Jones, son of Alan, will start for TME racing.

Rosberg and Piquet have tested for Williams in the past, but there are several other men on the Macau grid who are no strangers to Formula One power. Japanese driver Katsuyuki Hiranaka and Frenchman Franck Perera have both tested for Toyota as members of the team’s Driver Academy, while Ho Pin Tung is another man with Williams experience.

They will be joined by a host of other Formula One hopefuls, all of whom know that a strong performance around the famous Guia street circuit can only impress team bosses. They include British drivers Adam Carroll and James Rossiter, who finished second and third behind Piquet in this year’s British Formula Three championship, and 2004 F3 Euroseries winner Jamie Green.

The annual Macau event, now in its 51st year, hosted its first Formula Three race in 1983, when the winner was a young Ayrton Senna. Since then it has become recognised as something as a proving ground for up-and-coming motorsport talent, bringing together the best drivers from the world’s premier F3 competitions.

Michael Schumacher took victory in 1990, but only after losing the first of the race’s two heats to future Formula One adversary Mika Hakkinen, and then controversially colliding with the Finn in the second. Second place went to future Ferrari and Toyota star Mika Salo, while Schumacher’s future team mate Eddie Irvine was third.

David Coulthard was victorious the following year, while the 1992 race saw Jacques Villeneuve finish third. In 1995 all three podium spots were again filled by future Grand Prix stars, with Ralf Schumacher winning from Jarno Trulli and Pedro de la Rosa.

One-time Jordan driver Ralph Firman crossed the line first in 1996, seeing off the likes of Trulli, who came home third, Nick Heidfeld and Juan Pablo Montoya. Jenson Button was runner-up in 1999, while his BAR team mate, Takuma Sato, won in 2001.

And for anyone who thinks they have spotted the next Senna this weekend, they might well have – literally. Ayrton’s nephew Bruno is also on the Macau bill, competing in the supporting Asian Formula Renault Challenge.

Interestingly, he will up against American Scott Speed, one of the brightest stars in Red Bull’s Junior team, and a man already being linked by the media to a possible future drive with the Red Bull Racing Formula One team.