Felix Rosenqvist capped off his hectic 2016 racing season with a heart-stopping drive to second place in the Macau Grand Prix, Formula 3′s blue-riband World Cup event, on Sunday.
Rosenqvist – who won the previous two editions of the prestigious Chinese street race in 2014 and 2015 – headed back to Macau looking for a record-breaking third victory, and got his title defence off to the best possible start by topping Thursday’s opening free practice session on his return to the F3 category.
A number of ill-timed red-flag stoppages prevented Rosenqvist from posting a representative time in qualifying, however, leaving the SJM Theodore Racing by Prema man down in eighth on the grid for Saturday’s Qualification Race.
Once there, he made up two positions to seal P6, placing him on the third row of the grid at the start of Sunday’s all-important finale – where drama would ensue.
Getting away well off the line, Rosenqvist shot immediately into fourth as the field approached Mandarin. He then overtook Japanese F3 champion Kenta Yamashita to snatch third with a determined move at Lisboa, and, after picking off Brazil’s Sérgio Sette Câmara to take second, found himself just a matter of seconds in arrears of race leader António Félix da Costa with two laps to go.
Rosenqvist set chase, posting the fastest lap of the race as he stormed through the twisty mountain section, but ultimately ran out of laps to catch the Portuguese and duly finished second.
It is Rosenqvist’s fourth podium in Macau after previous rostrums in 2012 (again second to Félix da Costa), 2014 and 2015.
”It’s been a very special weekend here in Macau, as always,” says Felix Rosenqvist. “It started out well with the fastest time in practice, but then things were just going against us in qualifying and we were really unlucky with the timing of the red flags. The Qualification Race was also pretty tough, but we managed to make up a few positions and knew we had nothing to lose going into the main one. We made some changes to the car and took a bit of risk in that, but it paid off and the balance was great. The race itself was so intense; I knew I had to make quick progress, and in the end it was enough for second place. It’s great to have made the podium once again here in Macau, even though I came here aiming for victory.”
The Macau Grand Prix marked Rosenqvist’s final race of a busy 2016 campaign, in which the Swede has featured in America’s Indy Lights series, the DTM, European GT racing and the all-electric single-seater championship Formula E. He has also completed a successful maiden test in the Verizon IndyCar Series, America’s equivalency of Formula 1.
“This season has been incredible,” Rosenqvist concludes. “I have been driving so many great cars, learned a lot, and loved every second of it. That said, I need some rest now and I’m looking forward to just chilling out for a short while. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped me this season, and those who follow my career with such passion. It really is great to see, and I hope I’ve been able to repay some of that support with a bit of entertainment.”
Among Felix Rosenqvist’s major 2016 moments – alongside this weekend’s Macau result – are three Indy Lights wins, a point-scoring DTM debut, victory in the Blancpain GT Series finale, second place in the 24 Hours of Spa and one pole position, fastest lap and podium from two weekends of racing in Formula E.
RESULTS (top five)
FIA F3 World Cup / Macau Grand Prix
1: António Félix da Costa (POR), 15 laps
2: Felix Rosenqvist (SWE), +1.603s
3: S.Sette Câmara (BRA), +3.194s
4: Kenta Yamashita (JPN), +3.862s
5: Callum Ilott (GBR), +4.348s