Felix Rosenqvist finished his first-ever race in Japan’s Super Formula championship in 11th place, missing out on points by just a matter of seconds in this weekend’s season-opener at Suzuka after battling at the front of the rookie pack.
Rosenqvist was restricted to 15th on the grid following a crash in Saturday’s qualifying session, but made progress in the early parts of Sunday’s 35-lap encounter despite a strategy call to pit at the end of lap one not proving as efficient as had been hoped.
The safety car was then deployed on lap 23 when Rosenqvist’s Team LeMans colleague Kazuya Oshima (JPN) spun out at Spoon Curve, setting up an exciting sprint to the chequered flag.
Now running in 11th place, Rosenqvist set about putting significant pressure on fellow series newcomer Pierre Gasly (FRA) in the closing stages, attempting a move around the outside of the reigning GP2 champion at the sweeping Turn 1 but eventually having to stay put.
Rosenqvist remained 11th throughout the rest of the race, stuck on Gasly’s tail as the duo came home first and second among the rookies, to finish less than four seconds adrift of Takuya Isawa (JPN) in the final points-paying position of eighth. Current World Endurance Championship leader Kazuki Nakajima (JPN) won the race from pole.
“We had a pretty tough start to the weekend, struggling in practice, but we kept working hard and I’m pleased to say the race was our strongest part,” says Felix Rosenqvist. “I went for a really early pit stop to try and get back out in clear air, which didn’t quite work out the way we’d hoped, but then the pace was relatively strong – at least good enough for the top ten. Having said that, we were not the quickest guys out there this weekend, and we definitely have some work to do.”
The Swede also highlights the importance of completing a full race distance on his debut, as he adapts to life in the quickest motor racing series in the world barring Formula 1.
“Super Formula is a special kind of championship and it was important to get an entire race under my belt today,” Rosenqvist concludes. “The cars are fantastic and very, very fast, and I’ve learned a lot this weekend. I’ve really enjoyed the entire experience with so many fans coming out to watch us race, and I’m already looking forward to the next one.”
The Super Formula season resumes at the Okayama track on 26-28 May. Before then, however, Rosenqvist’s busy 2017 schedule will see him take part in the Monaco and Paris Formula E races on May 13 and May 20 respectively.
RESULTS (top five)
Super Formula – Round 1
1: Kazuki Nakajima (JPN), 35 laps
2: Naoki Yamamoto (JPN), +5.086s
3: Yuji Kunimoto (JPN), +8.823s
4: Hiroaki Ishiura (JPN), +9.408s
5: André Lotterer (GER), +10.800s
11: Felix Rosenqvist (SWE), +22.115s
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (top five)
After 1/7 rounds
1: Kazuki Nakajima (JPN), 11 p.
2: Naoki Yamamoto (JPN), 8 p.
3: Yuji Kunimoto (JPN), 6 p.
4: Hiroaki Ishiura (JPN), 5 p.
5: André Lotterer (GER), 4 p.
11: Felix Rosenqvist (SWE), 0 p.