It’s been something of a whirlwind 12 months for Felix Rosenqvist. After six years in Formula 3 – his planned graduation from the championship repeatedly prevented by budget constraints – the Swede could be forgiven for thinking that his big break was never going to come.
But after winning the FIA F3 European championship and adding a second consecutive victory on the streets of Macau last year, Mercedes – who had long subsidised his engines in F3 – could ignore his prowess no longer and offered the Swede the role of DTM reserve driver and a race drive at Jerome Policand’s AKKA-ASP team, alongside fellow hotshoe Tristan Vautier. Rosenqvist didn’t waste any time making a splash at Misano, setting the race’s fastest lap and working his way into third place before the car cruelly ran out of fuel with two laps to go.
The experience hasn’t dented his enthusiasm one iota however, and on his first visit to the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, the 24-year-old is looking to carry on where he left off.
“It was always a bit of a dream to drive the long circuit, I’ve done the short one but it’s like a completely different track,” says Rosenqvist. “You need to build up to it – it can be quite cruel if you do a mistake, but I love it already after three laps!
“I was very surprised about the whole GT thing – for sure I was excited about it, but when I first jumped in the car it really put a smile on my face and after racing it was even more. There’s just so much going on in the races, so many different things for example compared to F3 where you normally run around in a train. Here you’re racing someone all the time, maybe someone who hasn’t done a stop and you’re on different tyres, you have to be awake all the time.
“I feel I’m very strong in the GT in terms of racing; something I more or less discovered this year is I’m actually really good when it comes to these situations that I’ve never been put in before. I really like it, you’re always smiling when you’re driving!”
Rosenqvist won’t have long to recover after this weekend as he embarks on a busy Month of May, alternating between Europe and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he is competing in the second-tier Indy Lights championship for Team Pelfrey.
“I go from here straight to Indianapolis where I have a test day maybe on the Tuesday or Wednesday, we have a race on the road course, then I go to the Red Bull Ring for the DTM as Mercedes reserve driver. And then I go straight from there again to Indianapolis for the oval race, so it’s going to be a busy month ahead.
“Everyone is talking about Indianapolis– here everyone talks about Macau and Monaco, but there they talk about it about three times more!” he grins. “Everything revolves around that race and I think it’s the same thing as going to Macau for the first time, you can’t really understand what all the fuss is about but then when you go there you quickly realise what it’s about. Obviously the track is very quick, even in the Indy Lights we do 300 plus kilometres per hour, so in terms of speed it’s going to be the quickest I’ve done, I’m looking forward to that.”
Although his single-seater is a wholly different beast to the Mercedes-AMG GT3, the Swede believes that driving almost every weekend will be more a help than a hindrance, although he admits that finding some downtime can be difficult.
“It wouldn’t look good if I was driving an Audi R8 but Indy Lights is not really connected with a manufacturer and Mercedes were happy for me to do it as long as I felt I could cope with the jetlag and everything, it’s quite okay,” he says.
“I think it’s good for you because it teaches you to adapt quickly. If you’re only driving F3 and you jump into something new then for sure it will take a session before you’re really confident, but now I feel like every time I jump into something new I adapt much quicker. Even if its different cars and different tracks, there’s always something you can apply to the other thing, for example in the ovals you really learn how to be quick in the high speed corners so when you come to Paddock Hill Bend there’s something you remember from that.
“There’s a lot of living out of a suitcase but when I get to be at home for one or two days I feel recharged and ready to go. Now in Sweden I live in Malmö next to the airport in Copenhagen, I can just jump on the train and I’m there in 15 minutes whereas before I always had to do around 3 hours of driving, so that helps a lot. I feel good with it, I’m on top of things so far!”