After three years and three championship titles in Formula Renault, time has come for the next challenge in Felix Rosenqvist's career; German Formula 3 with Swedish outfit Performance Racing. With history of the series dating all the way back to 1948, some of the greatest drivers the sport has ever witnessed have proved their worth in the championship, which has seen the likes of Bernd Schneider, Jarno Trulli, Nick Heidfeld - and Michael Schumacher - rise to stardom. This is Felix's own view of the task in hand...
Mattias Persson: Felix, you had quite a few alternatives and options in different formulae ahead of this season. Why F3 and Performance Racing?
Felix Rosenqvist: We were very close to signing a deal with Formula 2, which we still believe to be a great championship and which we will follow closely for a possible commitment there in the future. The reason why we eventually went for F3 is because it allows the driver to develop much more as a result of all the delicate set-up options the car offers, and the teams have got less restrictions - which means the driver must be able to provide accurate feedback all the time. I think one of the most central parts of racing is being able to work as a team, and that's exactly what Formula 3 is all about. Time and again, it has been proven that successful F3 drivers can step into a Formula 1 car and do well. For me, it's the perfect choice right now. By committing to German F3, we went for a championship that looks set to become probably the most competitive F3 series in the world. Furthermore, we were very impressed with Performance Racing when I tested with them in Valencia in December. It's going to be fantastic working with them, and you can feel they really WANT to win!
Mattias Persson: What do you know about the German championship?
Felix Rosenqvist: As I said, it will be an extremely competitive season, not least with one of Europe's most successful teams, Motopark Academy, running five cars. I know the series has been a springboard for a lot of famous drivers, including Michael Schumacher, Nick Heidfeld and Jörg Müller.
Mattias Persson: You have only tested Formula 3 for a few days in Valencia. Did you get any understanding about what driving technique is required to be fast - and, if so, will you have to change anything?
Felix Rosenqvist: It's pretty different from Formula Renault. To be quick in F3, it's essential to be good on the brakes. There is also a lot more engine torque, especially in the Volkswagen engine we use, which provides for quite a change of approach. It's fun to learn something new, and I'm confident I will be able to crack the code to fast driving.
Mattias Persson: What is the biggest difference between Formula 3 and Formula Renault?
Felix Rosenqvist: The biggest difference is the much-more sophisticated aerodynamics on the car, which delivers huge amounts of downforce in proportion to engine output - you have to be very smooth in order not to scrub speed. The higher torque makes it possible to use comparatively high gears. In Formula Renault, there were very strict rules regarding what you could change on the car. F3, however, is more technically liberated - so it's not a disadvantage that the team has ten years of experience and numerous important contacts in the business.
Mattias Persson: Another Swede - Jimmy Eriksson - will also do German Formula 3, and we know others are working towards a drive in the championship. At the same time, a number of new drivers from different countries will join in 2010. What about the big interest?
Felix Rosenqvist: I think many drivers choose to do German F3 because it requires a significantly smaller budget than other Formula 3 championships. Take the F3 Euro Series for example; there will not be a big field this year, and still the costs are about three times as high. As soon as some drivers put their faith in a certain concept, others become interested because everyone wants to drive in a series which sports a large grid. This year, it seems like the German championship has become "the thing" in Formula 3.
Mattias Persson: Your Performance Racing team mate will be French-Israeli Alon Day, who - like yourself - steps up to F3 after a successful 2009. Your careers are actually quite resembling; you both debuted with and drove for the same team in China, and you are the two most recent Asian Formula Renault champions (in 2008 and 2009 respectively). Do you know Alon since before?
Felix Rosenqvist: When I tested Formula 3 in Valencia, I did one day with Spanish team Campos Meta (one of the new F1 teams for 2010), and as a coincidence Alon tested with the same team on the same day as I. He seems to be a great guy, and he is very quick despite his short career in single-seater racing. I think we will get along well and I hope we can learn a lot from each other.
Mattias Persson: Your former team boss from that time in Asia, Davide de Gobbi, is a respected name in Formula 3. Has he given you any advice?
Felix Rosenqvist: Davide is a friend of Bobby and Annica at Performance Racing since a few years, and he recommended them to me. He has a lot of experience in Formula 3, and won the F3 Euro Series with Ryan Briscoe as head of Prema Powerteam's F3 squad. It's great to get advice from him. We stay in regular contact.
Mattias Persson: Many people follow you and will cross their fingers this season. Have you set yourself any targets, or is it all just about watching and learning?
Felix Rosenqvist: It's really difficult to predict anything and to come up with firm targets. I haven't raced against most of the others, but it's a big grid with many experienced F3 drivers. I normally don't aim too high, but take every race as it comes and try to develop my driving and my relationship with the team all the time. Then, we'll see where we are. A podium should definitely be realistic, and after that, all you can do is go for the top.
Mattias Persson: Last season was Volkswagen's break-through year as a Formula 3 engine supplier, with a one-two victory at the famous Macau Grand Prix. How important is it that Performance Racing uses their engines?
Felix Rosenqvist: Performance Racing has a very good relationship with Volkswagen, which means loads. Then of course, many other teams will use VW power, which is probably the best option on the market at the moment.
Mattias Persson: A few weeks ago, you won the Rydell Special Award for the second consecutive year. Part of the prize this year, fittingly, is a Formula 3 test at Silverstone - with Performance Racing! A lucky twist of fate, but it must have felt like the perfect present?
Felix Rosenqvist: Absolutely! It couldn't have been better, and neither the team nor I knew that I was going to get it - so it really was a very happy coincidence! It's also an enormous honour that Rickard (Rydell, Rydell Special Award founder) believes in me enough to give me the award two years in a row when there are lots of talented young drivers to choose from. I'm really looking forward to the test, where Rickard will be present. There has been talk of an article about it.
Mattias Persson: This isn't only a step that demands an adjusted driving style and more advanced technical skills - Formula 3 is also physically tougher than Formula Renault. How hard do you work out?
Felix Rosenqvist: That's right, it's much higher strains because g-force levels are much more extreme. At the moment, I'm working hard on cardiovascular training as I feel that's an area I need to improve. Good physical fitness will help me keep my concentration, which will be vital now as there are so many things to think about during the races; communicating with the team via radio, for example, which wasn't allowed in Formula Renault.