... and revives rivalry between Senna and Nakajima
Those wanting a guide to Formula One stars of the future could do worse than check out this weekends Macau Grand Prix, which brings together some of the worlds finest Formula Three talent.
Among those on the entry list for the prestigious event at the challenging Guia street circuit are Brazilian Lucas di Grassi, Polands Robert Kubica and German Sebastian Vettel, all of whom have established Formula One connections.
As a member of Renaults driver development programme, Di Grassi, third in last years event, already has some Formula One experience, having made his test debut with the team earlier this year at Jerez. Renault are also scheduled to give Kubica, winner of this years World Series by Renault championship, his first Formula One outing in early December. He finished second in Macau last season and will be hoping to go one better this year ahead of his Barcelona test.
For Vettel, the 2004 Formula BMW champion, Sunday will mark his first Macau Grand Prix appearance. He has spent the 2005 season competing in the Formula 3 Euro series. In September, aged just 18, he made his Formula One test debut with Williams at Jerez in Spain.
The race will also feature some familiar Formula One names. Satoru Nakajima and Ayrton Senna were once Lotus team mates. This weekend, Kazuki and Bruno, their son and nephew respectively, will revive their rivalry. The former finished 13th here last season, while the latter makes his Macau F3 debut this year, having competed in the supporting Asian Formula Renault Challenge in 2004.
The annual Macau event, now in its 52nd year, hosted its first F3 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, gathering the best drivers from the worlds premier F3 competitions.
Michael Schumacher took victory in 1990, but only after losing the first of the races 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 Schumachers 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 former BAR team mate, Takuma Sato, won in 2001.
Notably, the 2004 Macau Grand Prix line-up featured two young drivers who, a year on, have safely secured their Formula One futures - Germany's Nico Rosberg will race for Williams next season alongside Mark Webber, while American Scott Speed has a seat with Red Bulls Squadra Toro Rosso team.