Last week, despite the late autumn heat, Felix Rosenqvist appeared to be the coolest man in Zandvoort.
With only two rounds of Formula 3’s primary series still remaining, the Swede is laying pressure on rival Raffaele Marciello for the title, but what is his mindset as the series goes to Vallelunga?
Despite a few droplets of sweat on his forehead, Felix Rosenqvist looks like a relatively unflustered young man.
His sand coloured hair, lightly damp and pulling slightly to one side of his forehead, does not betray the fact that he had just completed twenty-one laps around the historic Zandvoort circuit, taking his second victory of the weekend in the process.
Meanwhile Rosenqvist’s archrival in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship, Raffaele Marciello, has left the Dutch coastal circuit with a 5th, 16th and a non-finish. Following the trio of races, the 21-year-old Rosenqvist has clawed 63 points out of Marciello’s lead title battle.
No wonder Rosenqvist can afford himself a light smile. “I haven’t really let it sink it yet,” the Swede says, before taking a long breath. “Tomorrow I am going to wake up quite a happy man.”
There is an odd post-race calmness and modesty about Rosenqvist; a quiet charm that has evolved from a desire for success and frenzied attack behind the wheel. When he speaks, his speech is often considered, thoughtful and delivered with slight Swedish-English drawl – there are few buzzwords or media management speak and that is very refreshing.
On track, there is no doubt the Mücke racer knows how to push; although he does so without the jagged ferocity of Marciello and a few others in the series.
If nothing else, it creates a pallet of tones that is contradictory and interesting and as the championship draws to a close, pressures are clearly rising, yet Rosenqvist is keen not to get too far ahead of himself. “It’s been a different week from most others; it’s been colder; the tyres have been graining a bit, which never really happened this season, so the drivers had to adapt to something slightly different and maybe some didn’t cope with that,” he notes dryly.
The gap – prior to Zandvoort was as large as 72.5 points – now stands at just 9.5, while 150 points remain up for grabs; however there is one sting in the tail for Rosenqvist and his Mücke Motorsport team.
The penultimate round takes place at Vallelunga, some 40 km north of Rome and it happens to be Prema Powerteam’s primary test track – something that caused some grumbling amongst the teams earlier this year.
It is also a track on which Rosenqvist has never raced, yet in his typically laid back style, he brushes of concerns that Prema Powerteam’s quartet of runners will run away with the weekend.
Prior to weekend, the Swede was loosely planning his preparation for the upcoming round. “I’m not sure what going to happen in the days before then. Obviously I can do some simulator work at home; download the track and play some computer games, so I will start with that, just to know how the track goes.”
There is one saving grace for the non-Prema Powerteam competitors though – an eight-hour test session on Friday and while some of the drivers from the Italian team were not overly delighted at the prospect of their rivals gaining track time, series organisers felt it the fairest way to resolve the inequality of track knowledge.
Rosenqvist agrees: “Eight hours should be enough. I’m not too worried really, but I’m going to try and get some data from someone, or maybe the team was there before – just to get an idea of how quick the corners are, as well as the gears and so on,” before adding, “I know ‘Lello’ [Marciello] will be good in Vallelunga – I’m not expecting anything else, so I will do my normal thing.”
Despite his positive outlook, Rosenqvist is well aware that taking a further 75 points from Vallelunga may be difficult to say the least; however he has hopes that his Mücke team can make strides come Friday. “Sometimes it’s also quite good to come to a track with a clear mind. If you test a lot at a track, you can get used to certain lines, but with Superstars are out with a different rubber, then you have to do different lines.”
In his usual measured tone, Rosenqvist elaborates further: “It makes you think outside of the box, because if you test at a track a lot, it is quite easy to get stuck into old lines, so I think that is a positive side. And then maybe we are really quick…”
Rosenqvist knows full well that the weekend ahead will be tough, but that doesn’t mean he can’t plan ahead. “Vallelunga will be the hardest part of the season to get through, but I think we should be OK. [My aim is] to keep or reduce the gap; take a realistic approach.”
And with that, he departs to wash off the victory champagne. It’s almost sensible.