Felix Rosenqvist performed a non-pit stop strategy to take a top five finish in this weekend’s Super Formula race at Sportsland Sugo, leaving him just five points off the championship lead in the Japanese single-seater series going into next month’s finale.
Rosenqvist headed into the penultimate round of the campaign on the back of three consecutive podium finishes, but was restricted to 12th place on the grid for Sunday’s 68-lap race after running into traffic in the Q2 segment of qualifying.
Once the lights went out, an incident-free start to the race saw the Team LeMans Swede initially pass Koudai Tsukakoshi for 11th, before gradually climbing up the order to sixth as others pitted.
On a weekend when pit stops were not compulsory, however, Rosenqvist opted for the difficult task of completing the entirety of the race without refuelling, maintaining track position as a result but being unable to leapfrog the leading quartet of drivers after their pit stops having lost valuable time behind ex-F1 star Kamui Kobayashi (who mirrored Rosenqvist’s zero stop strategy).
Kobayashi eventually ran out of fuel on the final lap, allowing Rosenqvist to breeze through into fifth to complete a solid recovery and finish 11 seconds in arrears of race winner Yuhi Sekiguchi.
“This was another very strong race for us, and again we were right on the limit in terms of strategy,” says Felix Rosenqvist. “I believe we could have won this race if I hadn’t lost so much time behind Kobayashi; we needed to be a maximum 28 seconds behind the leaders when they pitted, which I think I would have managed in clear air, but now we lost out by a couple of seconds.
“We were in a pretty difficult position following qualifying and had to pull something special out of the bag, which we did – big thanks to the team for believing in the strategy and being brave enough to go for it. It’s a bit bittersweet at the moment, knowing that something great was on the cards, but it’s good points for the championship and I’ve enjoyed driving the Sugo track for the first time this weekend.”
The outcome of Sunday’s race sees Rosenqvist remain in third place in the Super Formula standings, edging to within just five points of championship leader Hiroaki Ishiura with only next month’s Suzuka finale to go. Reigning GP2 champion Pierre Gasly sits second, 4.5 points up on Rosenqvist, setting up a dramatic title showdown.
“I wasn’t expecting to be fighting for the title in my first year of Super Formula, especially not after a difficult first round, but now that we’re in contention I find it highly exciting,” Rosenqvist concludes. “I will give it my absolute all at Suzuka and five points is certainly not an insurmountable gap. Whichever way it goes, it’s been a good season and I’m really enjoying racing in Japan.”
The Super Formula finale takes place on October 20-22.
RESULTS (top five)
Super Formula | Rd. 6
1: Yuhi Sekiguchi (JPN), 68 laps
2: Pierre Gasly (FRA), +0.243s
3: Kazuki Nakajima (JPN), +1.174s
4: Yuji Kunimoto (JPN), +6.754s
5: Felix Rosenqvist (SWE), +11.472s
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (top five)
After 6/7 rounds
1: Hiroaki Ishiura (JPN), 33.5 p.
2: Pierre Gasly (FRA), 33 p.
3: Felix Rosenqvist (SWE), 28.5 p.
4: Yuhi Sekiguchi (JPN), 25 p.
5: Kazuki Nakajima (JPN), 22 p.