Wittmann carries Germany hopes
The Schumachers - Michael and Ralf - have been here, done it and then gone on to conquer the world of Formula One racing. Today, another German, Marco Wittmann, will attempt to follow in their footsteps by winning the showpiece Formula Three event at the 58th Macau Grand Prix.
'I can't look too far ahead [to Formula One]. I will have to see where my future takes me, but yes, for sure, winning in Macau will be a huge boost to my career. It is important to win here,' said Wittmann after storming to pole position in the qualification race yesterday.
Wittmann led in every lap and that means the 21-year-old from Furth, Germany, will start in the coveted pole position for the race. If everything goes to plan, like it did yesterday, Wittmann will hope to get off to a blazing start, be the first to get to Lisboa Corner, and then dictate the race from then on.
Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, widely regarded as one of the best Formula One drivers, cut his teeth in Macau in 1990. His younger brother Ralf, who also went on to race in F1, earned his Macau spurs in 1995. Current F1 champion Sebastian Vettel also raced in Macau in 2006, finishing third.
Wittmann will be hoping to add his name to the illustrious list. With such a famous national racing pedigree to live up to, no wonder he downplayed a perceived role that he could become the next big thing from Germany.
'It will be difficult to follow in their footsteps. Things have changed a lot in motorsports, you have to bring a lot of money into Formula One. I can't tell you now what my future will be, but as for my immediate goal, it is to win this race,' Wittmann said.
Formula Three, and especially the Macau event, is widely known around the world as an important step towards Formula One. To foster F3 racing, the world governing body this year launched a new international series - the FIA F3 International Trophy - which is essentially a world championship. This is seen as an attempt to help young drivers plot the best course to Formula One.
The F3 Trophy winner is determined by awarding points across five events and eight races around the world with Macau playing a huge role, as both the qualification race as well as the main race today counting towards F3 Trophy points.
It was no wonder then that Wittmann was beaming as he emerged from the cockpit of his car and began hugging and trading high-fives with his Signature Team crew.
'I'm really happy about the victory today. But the most important thing is tomorrow and our focus will be on that.
'It is a great feeling to stand on the podium but we have to do this again tomorrow,' said Wittmann, who held off a spirited challenge from Brazilian Felipe Nasr who finished second.
Nasr, driving for Carlin, briefly took the lead from the outset when he nosed in front of Wittmann on the run to Lisboa but the German was able to retake the front spot as they turned into the corner.
In his second visit to Macau - he finished fourth last year - Wittmann has been a quick learner and said the key for a successful race was to negotiate the first corner - Lisboa - safely.
Wittmann took pains to make sure nothing untoward happened. as he began the race from pole yesterday.
'The important thing is to make a good start because you never know if you can be in the lead coming out of Lisboa. I was and the key was I pushed hard after that and had a gap of about two seconds over Felipe,' Wittmann said.
'It worked like a dream for me today. But I have to remain focused. I will try to do same thing I did today, but one thing is for certain, everyone will be more aggressive tomorrow. In the end, that's the race that really counts.'
Nasr finished in second place ahead of Spain's Roberto Merhi, who had moved up from eighth after being handed a seven-place penalty for being involved in an accident on the first day of practice.
'My goal was to finish in the top three in this race. It sets me up nicely for tomorrow,' said Merhi, sounding a warning that he was hungry for a win. Finn Valtteri Bottas was in fourth place ahead of Carlos Huertas of Colombia and Daniel Juncadella from Spain.