Many eyebrows were raised when Swedish driver Felix Rosenqvist agreed a deal with Mücke Motorsportto remain in the European Formula 3 Championship for another year. Last year the twenty-two year-old finished runner-up in the championship to 2014 GP2 Series graduate Raffaele Marciello, while Macau Grand Prix winner and third placed Alex Lynn also moved on to race in the GP3 Series.
While admitting returning to the series wasn’t an easy decision to make, he felt it was the best option for him, as was continuing on with Mucke Motorsport.
“The FIA Formula 3 European Championship is probably the toughest junior category in terms of bringing a package of driver, car and engineering together, so it’s always a big challenge to go into a season,” said Rosenqvist to The Checkered Flag. “Last year we struggled a bit in the beginning but came back very strong, and I also felt that I delivered 100% in every race, unfortunately some small things cost us the championship but it was a very successful year.
“To do Formula 3 again was not an easy decision itself, but if I was going to do it, it was going to be with Mücke Motorsport as we have a special relationship. For me it was the only realistic option for this year.For sure to win the championship [is the aim]! It’s obviously nothing you can expect from yourself, but at least to prove that I’m the strongest driver in the field. It hasn’t changed yet.”
Looking at the drivers he has raced with over the last few years, he feels happy that he has raced wheel to wheel with some that are proving themselves in other series.
“It’s part of racing. It happens all the time that less (or more) merited drivers progress to higher categories while you have to stay another year. I don’t really care about it, what matters in the end is that you have what it takes – not which championship you are driving in. But it’s also motivating to see drivers that you were banging wheels with doing well in series like WSR, GP2 and F1.
Rosenqvist feels he has developed well as a driver in recent years, and believes his own ability allows him to compete and beat the best drivers on the grid given the right but knows he has to eliminate the mistakes from his driving.
“I think in terms of speed I showed many years ago that I can beat anyone if I get the right tools. The rest is all about learning from mistakes and improving things such as race craft, tyre management and working together with the team to improve the car. I think you can always improve those things, but raw speed is something that you have, and something you normally prove in your first year already.
“What we learned was that consistency is more important than to be quick one time and slow the next, the championship is long and you normally underestimate consistency.”
The season began at the Silverstone circuit in the United Kingdom but it was a disappointing weekend for the whole team, with Rosenqvist struggling to a best finish of seventh in race three. Round two at the German circuit of Hockenheim was only slightly better, and while Rosenqvist’s Austrian team-mate Lucas Auer was winning race one, the best result of the weekend for the Swede was a fifth position in the same race.
“It was very disappointing after all the hard work we’ve put in during the winter to see that we started the season like that. We did a really good improvement for Hockenheim where my team-mate was on pole, but that weekend for me was very unsuccessful due to some mechanical failures and some own mistakes.
“It’s always very frustrating to be fighting for a 10th place when you know you’re on top of your category, but that’s when you have to be strong and just continue, those points will be very valuable when you look back over the year.”
Round three was held at the legendary Pau street circuit in France, but initially the Swede’s luck didn’t look set to change, as he suffered a mechanical issue in qualifying that saw him start race one from twenty-second position, and in the race could only move up to fourteenth. As the weekend went on however, things improved noticeable, despite ending up in the barriers during race two in a collision with Esteban Ocon while challenging for the race lead. He retaliated by mastering the circuit in race three for his first victory of the season.
“For the first race, a mechanical failure set me up in qualifying so I had to start from last. I managed to overtake a lot of cars on a circuit where it’s almost impossible – probably one of my strongest races. The second race I was going for the lead but got squeezed into the wall by Ocon in a quite strange way… In the last race I could finally prove my pace around Pau and win so that was finally a good feeling.”
At the Hungaroring last time out, Rosenqvist took his second podium of the season with third position in race one, and added a fourth place in race two, but a drive-through penalty for exceeding track limits took him out of a strong third in race three.
After the first four rounds and twelve races of the year, Rosenqvist finds himself trailing championship leader Ocon by a mammoth 156 points, but the Swede acknowledges the season is long and anything can happen if luck falls his way. He praised Ocon for his maturity, and also singled out Max Verstappen as a potential future star.
“Last year we saw that everything is possible, but now the gap is very big and we have to have a flawless rest of the season and some luck to be able to close the gap,” said Rosenqvist. “Ocon is very mature and “un-rookie-like”, it’s very impressive to have such cool and control in that age and in his first year. Verstappen is the one who impresses me the most as he comes straight from karting, he will for sure be a star one day.”
The series moves onto another legendary circuit next – Spa-Francorchamps in Belgiuum, something Rosenqvist is looking forward to as he begins to try and claw back some of the points deficit at the front of the championship.
“The track is for sure very different to Hockenheim, Pau and Hungaroring so it’s a bit of a question mark I have to say. It’s a cool track and the weather is always tricky there, so you just have to take the weekend as it comes! For sure it’s important to have a good balance in fast corners as most corners are in 4th-5th gear.”
Rosenqvist has also competed in two Formula Acceleration 1 events in 2014, taking the Team Sweden car to a podium finish in Portimao for the opening event of the year, and then returning to the series at Monza and taking two dominant victories, including a race two win despite suffering a spin. He commented about how different the FA1 car is to the Formula 3 car.
“The car is completely different to F3, probably as far away as you can go! Low grip and high power, so it’s really about braking late, rotating the car and then stomping on the throttle to get out of the corner – whilst F3 requires a more fine-tuned and technical driving style. I’ve done four races now and I won the last two in Monza last weekend, so it’s been all good!”
In-between races, Rosenqvist heads home and helps with his family business, but appreciates that he can focus on his motor racing whenever he needs to. He admits that the taking his mind off racing for a while helps keep his feet on the ground.
“Normally I’m home in Värnamo and taking care of industrial facilities which is owned by my family and a friend of mine,” said Rosenqvist. “It’s a nice way of getting away from the racing, but still I can leave it at any time and focus on the racing when I have to. I think if you think about racing every day, you become crazy!”
Looking ahead to 2015 and beyond, Rosenqvist feels this year will be his last in Formula 3, but he believes it will not be his performances on track that will be the determining factor where he will race next year.
“Results-wise I wouldn’t say  it’s super important, as I’ve proven a lot in the past. It’s an important year in the way that I have to find a way for the future and make sure I can take a step away from F3 next year. So I would say the off-track work is much harder than any year in 2014.”