Felix Rosenqvist presented himself to the American motorsport audience by converting pole position into victory on his very first weekend of Indy Lights competition in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The 24-year-old Swede – embarking on his new American adventure after winning the 2015 FIA F3 European Championship – controlled the second and final of this weekend’s two races on the narrow street track, leading for the full duration and setting the fastest lap on his way to victory.
Competing for Indiana-based Belardi Auto Racing, Rosenqvist is the first Swedish driver in history to win an Indy Lights race.
”It’s really cool to win on my first weekend of racing here in the US,” says Felix Rosenqvist. ”It’s a big achievement and I would like to thank the guys for giving me a perfect car today. A great way to start the season, but I’ve always enjoyed street circuits and I’m aware that there will be venues less suited for me this year. The Indy Lights calendar is very diverse, and we need to keep on working hard if we are to maintain the kind of level we’ve had here in St. Petersburg.”
Rosenqvist, a two-time Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix winner, got off to a flying start between the walls in western Florida, topping both of Friday’s two practice sessions before carrying his form into qualifying and grabbing second and first place respectively on the grids for the weekend’s two races.
In Saturday’s season-opener, however, he was forced to make do with seventh at the chequered flag, after his engine was inadvertently switched into rain mode before the start – reducing power by approximately 30 per cent.
“It was our mistake and it cost us some valuable points,” Rosenqvist admits. “There is an engine map designed to improve driveability and reduce wheel spin in the wet, but in the dry you obviously want as much power as possible. It meant I was a sitting duck on the straights, and that I couldn’t capitalise on starting on the front row. Given the circumstances, I was actually quite pleased to bring home some points in that race, and particularly happy to make up for it in the second one.”
In Sunday’s Race 2, Rosenqvist then blazed away to score a flag-to-flag victory, bagging the maximum 32 points on offer.
Next up on the Indy Lights schedule is a visit to the Phoenix International Raceway, the first of three ovals on the 2016 calendar, on April 1-2.
“We spent one day testing at Phoenix before the season, and that was hugely important,” Rosenqvist concludes. “It was my first time on an oval, and it’s such a different way of driving to what I’m used to. You need a lot of experience to understand that kind of racing, and since I’m lacking that, I will have to approach those events a little bit more cautiously. That’s not to say we can’t be running at the front, but it’s more of an uncertainty for me than the regular tracks.”
Felix Rosenqvist leaves the St. Petersburg curtain-raiser sitting third in the overall Indy Lights standings, as top rookie, just two points adrift of early championship leader Félix Serrallés – incidentally one of Rosenqvist’s former F3 rivals.
Indy Lights | St. Petersburg (Florida, USA)
1: Felix Rosenqvist (SWE)
2: Kyle Kaiser (USA)
3: Zach Veach (USA)
4: Félix Serrallés (PRI)
5: André Negrão (BRA)
1: Félix Serrallés (PRI)
2: Scott Hargrove (CAN)
3: Kyle Kaiser (USA)
4: Santiago Urrutia (URU)
5: RC Enerson (USA)
7: Felix Rosenqvist (SWE)