Richard Verschoor stunned the world of junior Formula on his Macau Grand Prix debut, with a flawless drive from fourth to first, to win the 2019 FIA F3 World Cup. The MP Motorsport racer furiously fended off Hitech Grand Prix’s Jüri Vips, who had been relentless in his pursuit of the Dutchman.
It was a magnificent weekend for rookies, as Carlin Buzz Racing’s Logan Sargeant completed the podium in third, after a storming overtake of ART Grand Prix’s Christian Lundgaard, who was forced to settle for fourth on his first appearance at the Guia Circuit.
Alessio Lorandi ran from seventh to fifth on his first race at Macau since 2015, ahead of Briton Callum Ilott. Liam Lawson came out on top of an enthralling all-Kiwi battle for seventh, keeping Marcus Armstrong at bay. David Beckmann ran ninth, as Frederik Vesti snuck his way into P10.
FIA F3 World Cup favourite, and F3 Champion, Robert Shwartzman was forced into an early exit from the race after a heart-wrenching retirement on the opening lap, following a wheel-to-wheel battle with Lundgaard.
As it happened
On a bright afternoon at Macau, Vips was able to storm ahead at the start, as Shwartzman became locked in combat with Lundgaard, who had fired down the side of him when the lights went out. Verschoor sat patiently behind them off the line, before spotting his opportunity and bombing down the right of the battling duo at the straight and into P2.
The enthralling fight between the Russian and the Dane continued heading into Lisboa, but as the track tightened, the pair ran out of room and Lundgaard accidently snagged the right of the PREMA man’s front wing. The Russian attempted to solider on, but his damaged front wing had caught the right tyre and handed him a puncture, which forced him into retirement.
There was plenty of change behind them, as a poor start from Ilott dropped him to eighth, behind Sargeant and Lorandi.
A crash from Ferdinand Habsburg brought out a yellow flag, as the Austrian bounced off the right curb and struck the wall on the opposite side. The Safety Car was brought out and he clambered out of his ART machine safely.
The subsequent restart changed the course of the race: Verschoor crept up behind Vips when action resumed and fired down the side of him heading into Lisboa. The Dutchman landed his braking point perfectly and gave the Estonian no chance to react.
The battles continued on behind them, as Sargeant surged past Lorandi for fourth and Lawson launched ahead of Keyvan Andres for eighth. In the battle for third, Sargeant sent his Carlin machine down the side of Lundgaard going into Lisboa to claim third and take up his place in the rear-view mirror of Vips.
There was disappointment for Sophia Flörsch on her return to the circuit, as she pulled over at Mandarin and was forced to retire. The resulting Virtual Safety Car would bring another brief pause to proceedings.
All eyes were on Verschoor when they got back underway, who needed to hold his nerve to keep Vips at bay at the restart. The Dutchman’s defence was steely and ensured Vips remained behind.
The cat and mouse chase continued around the streets, as Verschoor slipped, and skidded ever so slightly, in a tighter section of the track, which allowed Vips to gain ground in his pursuit. The Estonian attempted an overtake heading into Lisboa, but the Dutchman braked at the perfect time, as the Estonian jinked to avoid the wall in his determination to brake as late as possible.
Vips set the fastest lap of the race on their next tour of the track and got within DRS range of the MP Motorsport man, but he could still not find a way past him, once again attempting a move down the straight, but running out of room into Lisboa.
There were mistakes from both men on the penultimate lap of Macau, as Verschoor locked up and Vips suffered oversteer at Fishermans. Again, Vips opened up DRS down the straight, but the Dutchman defended doggedly and ensured he remained ahead.
The rookie triumphantly fired over the finishing line in first place to claim a debut win for both himself and his MP Motorsport team at Macau. In doing so, he became the first rookie winner of the event since Keisuke Kunimoto, more than a decade ago.
A very disappointed Vips ran second, ahead of Sargeant, Lundgaard and Lorandi. Ilott, Lawson, Armstrong, Beckmann and Vesti completed the top ten.
Key quote – Richard Verschoor (MP Motorsport)
“This feels amazing! I am so thankful and grateful at the moment that I cannot really describe my feelings. It was a really, really tough race, a lot of pressure from behind and a lot of thinking going on during driving.
“I am just happy to get it done and win the 66th race here.”
Verschoor’s historic victory at the stand-alone event brings 2019 to a close. Everyone will be back on level terms in 2020, when the second F3 season opens at Sakhir, Bahrain, on March 20-22.