If you read Wikipedia, you’ll know there’s a race track down south in the Algarve region of #PrayForPortugal, AIA it’s called. Known to the world as “Portimao” and also as “Portimão” to locals. At this gem of a circuit they held a couple of race meetings last weekend, most notably the FIA Formula 3 European Championship (3 races!). Your fave Iberian Uncle found himself in the paddock and even had an opportunity to sit down for a quick chat with the Swedish F3 ace Felix Rosenqvist. I channeled my inner Larry King – no glasses though, plus I’m younger – and Felix expressed himself in a very practical, agile and articulate way, no kidding… For sure, you wanna read this, y’know. Special thanks to Peter Windsor and Motorsport Publication for their great help in organizing this interview.
Photos by iberianmph.com, all rights reserved.
iberianmph.com: Wikipedia says you were born on November 7th, true?
iberianmph.com: We share the same birthday date (it’s not a trick, I can show you my passport!).
FR: Oh, we have the same (b-day date) – good!
iberianmph.com: Actually, I think Ecclestone’s a Scorpio, Kimi’s almost there. Feels like need for speed for us (Scorpios)?
FR: I dunno, I don’t put too much thinking into astrology. It’s just really the worst time of the year in Sweden, at least you have your birthday to have some joy at that point.
iberianmph.com: Could you sum up the weekend so far for you (we spoke on Saturday after race 1 where Felix finished P3, but he would go on to win the next two races – pretty neat!)?
FR: It started off quite average, I think it’s one of the circuits that’s not allowing me to do my thing, use my driving style. So I have to work quite hard with my driving to be quick here, while most of the tracks seem to suite my natural driving and it was good to win (at those circuits). Here, at AIA, I have to change some stuff, but it’s also nice when you can show that you can work hard and have a good result as well and not only rely on talent. As I said, in the beginning of the weekend it was somewhat average, I was quick but I struggled to find consistency. Qualy 1 was a bit average really, I didn’t get the best out of the tyres, there was some traffic and some misjudgement on my side and the team side. It was good enough for P7 in the end, but quite a disappointing result because we had the speed to be up there.
iberianmph.com: But being on the podium in race 1 surely must feel good?
FR: Yeah! Then qualy 2 was a lot better, we did a lot work with my engineer to fix the car and myself and we had a really good run in the second qualifying and managed to get double pole – with some luck as well because Albon was disqualified. I guess you can say so far so good. In race 1 my target was to finish in the top 5, that already would’ve been a good result since my title rival, Giovinazzi, was behind me. At the start I got to P4 and I managed to pass Lance on lap 2, after that I was just cruising to take the points.
iberianmph.com: Looks like a fairly windy circuit, there’s a lot of wind, does it affect the handling of the car?
FR: A lot! Yesterday we had tailwind on the straight and now the wind is quite still. I think we were doing extra 20 kph on the straight because of that. It also changes the approach to all the corners, whether you’re encountering a tailwind or a headwind, it affects massively the car’s behaviour. Every time it feels like a different track.
iberianmph.com: Formula 3 car is also not a heavy one compared to GP2 or GP3, it’s a nimble little car?
FR: Exactly. It’s affected by the wind a lot because we have a lot of aero as well.
iberianmph.com: A quick question about the tyres: with F1, GP2, GP3, you got everyone talking about these funny tyres. What’s it like in F3 with Hankook rubber?
FR: The tyres we get are quite normal. It’s a tyre situation when you can carry a lot of minimum speed, whereas in F1 you have to stop the car a lot and rotate and then be straight on exit, you cannot combine throttle and turning/braking and turning. Our tyre, you can do pretty much whatever you want with it. At some tracks it does have a weird behaviour, it goes off very quickly and some tracks it lasts forever, like there’s no drop in the tyre performance at all, you can even register your fastest lap of the race on the last lap because you’re running with less fuel. The tyre is fairly consistent, I don’t think there are any tricks in this department, we can push quite hard.
iberianmph.com: Let’s talk engines. There are three different engine suppliers in F3: Mercedes, VW and NBE. Which one’s the best?
FR: I think all of them are more or less the same. Some tracks suite some engines better than the others. The Mercedes engine has more torque, whereas top end – the VW has more top end. In terms of horsepower, it’s the same. Some tracks favour certain engines more, but with the restrictor there’s not a lot you can do with the engines.
iberianmph.com: A special question coming from at DMerinoF1 – what do drivers mean when they say “it’s a technical track”?
FR: For example, at this track you have the big wind that’s making a big effect already. Then you have a lot of temperature changes from one session to the other. In the morning the track is very cold and in the afternoon it’s very hot, which can make the track one second slower and very different. You have a lot of bumps in the braking zones. Then you have the characteristics of the individual corners: when you push too hard in, you always lose time on exits. With most tracks, you can attack quite hard in and you lose a bit on exit but in the end it’ll be the same. Here, at AIA, you have to be nice and tidy everywhere, otherwise you’d lose time.
iberianmph.com: Basically, you need to study the track first, that’s the technical side?
FR: Yeah. To give you an example, my driving style is a bit more aggressive, I like to push a lot into the corner, it actually doesn’t favour me here because I tend to do more mistakes.
iberianmph.com: You’re also doing stuff with Rob Wilson?
FR: No, but I met him one time two years ago. We did a bit of driving, picked up some things but we don’t do anything right now. Yeah, he’s a cool guy.
iberianmph.com: In F3 we got a lot of up-and-coming young drivers. Do you guys all aim at Formula 1, is it still interesting for you in its current shape? What are your thoughts on F1? I’m curious because you represent this new generation.
FR: The fact that I’ve raced quite a lot of the guys who are in F1 now makes it interesting for me, it’s always nice to follow the people that you’ve been racing with, a couple of friends and stuff like that. Then the current formula itself, I don’t really like the fact that they have more power with less downforce and quiet engines, I think it’s a wrong direction in a way. Especially the sound, I don’t wand to be the grumpy guy, but I suppose F1’s been trying to follow the car manufacturers, like having more gears, turbo engines and all that. I mean in the end, for something like Le Mans it plays out really well, you can add that to racing and it makes a good show. In F1, it’s more about sprint races, I think no one’s excited that they have eight gears and silent engines combined with fuel saving. That’s not what people want from Formula 1, it should be the pinnacle of engineering and coming up with the quickest car possible, not saving tyres and stuff like that. It’s still exciting and you got the best drivers in the world, maybe they went a bit too far with the current regs; I still think it’s gonna be good in the end and they’ll find a solution.
iberianmph.com: Are you watching IndyCar or IndyLights at all, racing made in the USA?
FR: I follow IndyCar a bit because my manager, Stefan Johansson, he’s also managing Scott Dixon who, as you may know, just won the championship. I try to follow that a bit as well.
iberianmph.com: Is it good fun, IndyCar I mean?
FR: It’s a bit hard to understand American racing from here because it’s kind of different; I think they have a really good series, the cars are not too dissimilar to Formula 3 in the sense that they can race close, it’s nice.
iberianmph.com: Plans for next year? You’re probably concentrating on this campaign more than anything else?
FR: Yeah, I’m concentrating on the championship right now, I’m sure it’s gonna open up some doors for next year if it turns out well.