Macau rookie Luke Browning delivered a performance that belied his 21 years by leading the FIA Formula 3 World Cup from start to finish
His victory followed a thrilling finale to the 70th Macau Grand Prix event and means the Briton joins an illustrious list of former winners, which includes Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard.
Dennis Hauger, the 2021 FIA Formula 3 Championship winner, finished second with Gabriele Minì in third place.
The fastest driver in qualifying, Browning started the FIA Formula 3 World Cup decider from pole position for the Hitech-Pulse Eight team by winning Saturday’s Qualification Race.
After making the perfect getaway from the 26-car grid, Browning remained unflustered by having to manage two Virtual Safety Car periods. He had built a lead of 2.240s when the race was red-flagged on lap nine after Paul Aron crashed heavily.
When the race eventually resumed behind the safety car following a lengthy track clean up and crash barrier repairs carried out by the team of volunteer officials, Hauger shot from third to draw alongside Browning out of Mandarin Oriental Bend. The Norwegian MP Motorsport driver was briefly half a car’s length in front of Browning before he had to cede position braking for Lisboa.
As Hauger slotted in ahead of Italian Minì, part of the three-strong SJM Theodore Prema Racing Team attack, Browning started the process of trying to build his lead with only a handful of laps left to run.
But when Nikola Tsolov crashed on the exit of Fisherman’s Bend, the safety car returned to the track for the remaining laps before the field was released ahead of a final charge to the chequered flag.
Browning’s winning margin was trimmed to a scant 0.347s as a result but the victory was a huge achievement for the Williams Driver Academy member and Formula 4 graduate.
“Words can’t describe this victory,” Browning said afterwards. “The standard here, these incredible drivers, I’m super grateful. Thank you to the organisation, to the FIA, to Formula 3. For a young guy driving fast cars it’s a dream come true.
“How many restarts, how many times? I was sweating. I had all four wheels locking next to Dennis. It was tight. But it’s arguably one of the biggest achievements of my career. Like most racing drivers, I’m lucky to be here. Every time I get into the car, I’m pinching myself.”
He added: “The Hitech car just felt so comfortable to push. Like in any motor sport you have to be in the right car. And I was in the right car.”
Hauger, a race winner in FIA Formula 2, was a late addition to the FIA Formula 3 World Cup entry but impressed with second place on his return to the category.
“We didn’t have the best qualifying, so we started on the back foot,” said Hauger. “Today we had a pretty good pace. We were up there fighting for the lead. I hoped to make that last step but, overall, we did a good job and we maximised everything this weekend."
“If I have the possibility to come back to Macau that’d be awesome. Let’s see where we are next year. I enjoyed the week to the max.”
Hauger, who started fifth, took third from Paul Aron in a fine slipstreaming move on the run to Lisboa on lap five before he snatched second late in the race.
Aron, however, lost a further place to Mari Boya on lap six when the Spaniard pulled off a repeat move. Aron was in a battle for fifth with Pepe Martí when he crashed heavily on the run through Paiol into T12, which resulted in the red-flag stoppage. Although his car suffered extensive damage, the Estonian was given the all-clear following medical checks, such is the strength of FIA Formula 3 cars.
Alex Dunne, who finished second in Saturday’s Qualification Race, his first Formula 3 start, crashed out on the opening lap when he understeered into the tyre barrier at Lisboa.
Dino Beganovic took third from team-mate Minì in a spectacular slipstream move on lap three. But the Swede carried too much speed into Lisboa and charged into the tyre barriers, which triggered the second Virtual Safety Car period.
Following the race, Minì, who was the youngest driver on the podium aged 18, said: “I was trying to learn the track step by step. I gave my 100 per cent, I think I touched the walls six or seven times.”
Boya made it two MP Motorsport cars in the top four in fourth place with Martì crossing the line in fifth position ahead of Richard Verschoor, the winner of the FIA World Cup when it last ran in 2019.
Isack Hadjar, Zane Maloney and Oliver Goethe were next to take the chequered flag as Laurens van Hoepen denied Sophia Flörsch the top 10 finish she had targeted before the race.
Charlie Wurz, who climbed up to sixth from 11th on the grid, retired after picking up damage in the aftermath of Aron’s crash. Sebastiàn Montoya was also unable to go the distance.