Felix Rosenqvist executed another memorable Super Formula drive to set up a late charge for victory in Sunday’s Autopolis round of the Japanese single-seater series, eventually taking a close second to score his third podium in a row and further reduce the gap to the championship lead.
Rosenqvist progressed through the Q1 segment of qualifying and looked on course to make the final cut to Q3 as well, but ran into traffic in the final sector on his fastest Q2 lap and was restricted to tenth on the grid for Sunday’s 54-lap race.
Once the lights went out, the Swede quickly made up ground on the opening tour and then made use of his by-now trademark strategy call to pit ahead of his rivals, remarkably making a set of soft Yokohama tyres work for nearly 50 laps after an early switch from mediums.
Coupled with efficient race pace, it allowed Rosenqvist to leapfrog the pack once others pitted, eventually slotting him into second place behind leader Pierre Gasly to stage a thrilling final 15 laps.
Proving equally matched on pace, the leading duo produced near-identical times in the closing stages, although Rosenqvist did manage to edge closer by the odd tenth or two per lap. As the chequered flag fell, the gap had come down from 4.5 to 1.5 seconds, but the reigning GP2 champion held firm with Rosenqvist duly taking a strong second to back up his recent podiums at Fuji and Motegi.
In third, Rosenqvist’s stablemate Kazuya Oshima ensured a double rostrum result for Team LeMans.
“I’m really, really pleased to be on the podium again, and this was one of the most on-the-edge races of my career,” says Felix Rosenqvist. “We applied an extreme strategy to run the soft tyres for almost the entire race, having seen in practice that it could be the quickest way to go – but we knew it would be on the limit. I had to take a lot of care of the tyres and find the right balance between pace and management, but in the end it worked out. I even think victory could have been possible if I hadn’t lost a bit too much time behind a backmarker who was yet to pit in the middle of the race. It’s a great team result today and I’m delighted to have actually pulled this one off – it was not easy.”
The Autopolis outcome means Rosenqvist retains third place in the overall Super Formula standings, having now reduced the gap to championship leader Hiroaki Ishiura – who finished Sunday’s race in fourth – to just six points.
Super Formula action is set to resume at Sportsland Sugo in two weeks’ time (September 23-24).
RESULTS (top five)
Super Formula | Rd. 5
1: Pierre Gasly (FRA), 54 laps
2: Felix Rosenqvist (SWE), +1.558s
3: Kazuya Oshima (JPN), +7.638s
4: Hiroaki Ishiura (JPN), +8.555s
5: Yuji Kunimoto (JPN), +9.009s
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (top five)
After 5/7 rounds
1: Hiroaki Ishiura (JPN), 30.5 p.
2: Pierre Gasly (FRA), 25 p.
3: Felix Rosenqvist (SWE), 24.5 p.
4: André Lotterer (GER), 20 p.
5: Kazuki Nakajima (JPN), 16 p.