In adding a Super Formula programme to his Formula E commitments, Felix Rosenqvist is set for another busy season of racing and globetrotting in 2017. Joining the well-established Team LeMans squad in one of the world’s most extreme championships, the Swede sets out on an exciting adventure in Japan, with preparations already well underway ahead of next week’s opening two-day test at Suzuka.
In this Q&A, Rosenqvist shares his thoughts on his first few days of work in the land of the rising sun, and on what to expect for the year ahead…
You’ve been on site in Japan for a few days now. What’s your first impression of the team and Super Formula so far?
FR: The first thing that struck me was the warm reception I received over here. The team has been extremely helpful, trying to integrate me as smoothly as possible, and the same goes for everyone I’ve met. You can tell there’s a massive passion about motor racing here, and while the Japanese and European ways of working are quite different, the objectives are very much the same. There’s a competitive spirit here that really fills the air, and it’s inspiring to be surrounded by that. To come into that environment and slot into the fastest car outside of Formula 1 is just great.
You did a lot of racing last year, and this season will be much the same with a dual programme featuring two high-profile single-seater championships. You really seem convinced about the benefits of a busy schedule?
FR: Absolutely convinced. Just being away from driving over these last few winter months did make me feel a bit rusty. It’s become a priority for me to exercise my sport as often as I can. It’s like everything else; you need to practice, and the more you practice the better you get. Driving is what keeps me alert and adaptable, and in itself it’s also the best way to prepare for the next race. It makes a lot of sense to me.
Why did you choose Super Formula as the complement to your Formula E duties, beside the fact there are no calendar clashes?
FR: First of all, single-seaters are what’s closest to my heart, although I love all forms of racing. That, combined with the extreme performance of the Super Formula cars and the fact that Japan is unknown territory for me, made it tick all the boxes!
Formula E and Super Formula are two very different championships. In Formula E, you race predominantly on narrow street tracks, while in Super Formula you’re flat out on more traditional circuits, with enormous cornering speeds similar to those attained in F1. How will that affect you from a physical point of view?
FR: Yes, they really are two very different series – basically the opposites of each other. The Formula E car has quite heavy steering because it weighs a lot, and also because there is no power steering. In Super Formula, however, you do have power steering, but instead we need to cope with braking and cornering forces of up to 4G. That puts the body under significant stress. It will definitely require more from a physical standpoint. I’m already working on that and I will need to increase my training routine.
You’re yet to turn a lap in the Super Formula car, but can you say anything about how it will potentially suit your driving style?
FR: I get the impression that it’s quite close to Formula 3 in terms of driving, especially with the power/downforce ratio being pretty similar. I’ve been told that the Yokohama tyres we’ll run on are a bit tricky to understand, so I’m guessing the key will be to adapt to them.
Have you done any form of simulator running?
There are turbo engines in Super Formula, and you got some experience of that last year in Indy Lights. Could that knowledge be of any use?
FR: When it comes to turbos, what you want to minimise is the amount of turbo lag. I don’t know how much of that there is in Super Formula, but it was massive in Indy Lights and I consequently suspect it won’t be as big of a deal here.
At this very early stage, what do you see as your main challenge in all of this?
FR: I think it could be a bit of a “hit or miss” situation, coming over here as a European. Not everyone adapts to the environment, the long-haul travel and the working methodology – especially with the language barrier and so on. I’m sure there will be challenges, but so far it’s all been very positive and I personally think it’s a pleasure to work with new and interesting people and cultures.
Super Formula has gained momentum in recent years, with several European top names entering the championship. Last year saw Stoffel Vandoorne take part, for example, while this season you’ll be up against the likes of reigning GP2 champion Pierre Gasly. Why is it such an appealing series, right now?
FR: I think it’s the combination of extreme performance, tough competition and strong support from the Japanese motor industry. After all, these are the most brutal cars you can drive outside F1, so it’s only natural for people to want to race them.
Testing gets underway on Monday next week at Suzuka. What will you be looking to achieve by then?
FR: That will be a very important test. Very important. I’ll be aiming to get a lot of laps in, staying out of trouble and learning about the car, track and tyres in general. I’m not going to take it too steadily, though. I want to get up to speed quickly to make sure we can spend as much time as possible sorting out the car and working on the set-up.
Anything else you’re particularly looking forward to in this adventure, beside the racing?
FR: The food! I’ve been a fan of Japanese cuisine since a while back, so I’m eager to explore it more in-depth. It’s hard not to enjoy Japan overall – it really is a wonderful country.