As Felix Rosenqvist packed his bags and got on the plane to England for his first-ever race on the motorsport-mad island, he would have been forgiven for not knowing what to expect. A new car, a new country and a new concept made it a journey into the unknown for the 17-year-old, who joined the Formula Palmer Audi finale for a one-off appearance in the competitive single seater series.
However, as practice commenced on the ultra-quick Snetterton circuit, it soon became clear that the Swede was on the very pace of the championship front-runners. Then, when the chequered flag fell at the end of the third and final race of the weekend, Rosenqvist had won twice on his FPA debut – and, to underline his performance, had established a new track record.
Following the October event, www.felixracing.se met with the man behind the successful Formula Palmer Audi concept; ex-Formula 1 driver and current MotorSport Vision Chief Executive, Jonathan Palmer. A man of many things, Palmer also promotes the FIA Formula Two Championship which returned to the international motor racing scene in 2009 and has previously worked as a TV pundit for F1 broadcasting in the UK. What did the former Williams, RAM, Zakspeed and Tyrrell Grand Prix driver have to say about Felix Rosenqvist’s dream weekend at Snetterton, the prospects for the future and the state of motorsport in general? We got the answers...
Mattias Persson: Jonathan, you’ve raced in F1, you know the Grand Prix paddock inside out and have become famous for setting up your own very successful MotorSport Vision company. What makes the 2009 motorsport season stand out?
Jonathan Palmer: The launch and operation by MSV of the FIA Formula Two championship in 2009 has been very exciting and will make a big impact on the motorsport scene, providing drivers with an affordable way to reach F1.
Mattias Persson: That Formula Palmer Audi finale was as close as it gets, with four drivers in contention for the title ahead of the weekend at Snetterton. Felix joined the championship in the middle of that battle - what do you think of his debut?
Jonathan Palmer: Felix made probably the most sensational debut we have ever seen in FPA. He is a big talent, nice guy and will, I’m sure, go far.
Mattias Persson: At the F2 season-finale in Barcelona, Formula Palmer Audi regular Tristan Vautier scored a podium on his debut. How competitive is FPA as a championship?
Jonathan Palmer: FPA has been extremely competitive in 2009 with the introduction of many European drivers, as Tristan Vautier’s amazing podium on his F2 debut at Barcelona showed.
Mattias Persson: Snetterton is a traditional British circuit. Would you classify it as a difficult or easy place to make your debut?
Jonathan Palmer: Although fairly simple in layout, Snetterton is quite demanding with a broad mix of very fast corners and tricky chicanes, together with high speed heavy braking.
Mattias Persson: Felix is still very young. How far can you see his talent taking him in 4-5 years?
Jonathan Palmer: Felix should clearly do F2 next year and has every chance of reaching F1 and being the next Ronnie Peterson.
Mattias Persson: This year, you revitalised the classic Formula Two championship at a fraction of the cost of any other series on the same step of the motor racing ladder. How do you think it has gone?
Jonathan Palmer: 2009 has been very successful with a full grid of 25 cars. In 2010, F2 will be better still with a faster car, more races and even better quality and reliability. It is the perfect formula in today’s tough economic climate when sponsors must get maximum value and cannot afford to waste money.
Mattias Persson: How does MotorSport Vision tackle the added pressure of the current world financial climate?
Jonathan Palmer: We just carry on doing our best with focus on cost effective, high quality products and accept the reduction in profitability that the tough climate dictates.
Mattias Persson: A lot has been made of the importance to take the F2 champion, who this year was Andy Soucek, into Formula 1. Do you see that as the ultimate test to prove the strength of the concept?
Jonathan Palmer: Ultimately F2 champions do need to move into F1, but it may take some time as F1 drives are not always available.
Mattias Persson: You have a close connection to WilliamsF1 who build the Formula Two JPH1 car, and you even drove for them in 1983. What have your relationship meant for the development of F2?
Jonathan Palmer: From my days as Williams F1’s first test driver and my F1 debut with them Patrick Head has been a close friend. It has been a huge advantage and great privilege having an F1 team of Williams’ achievements and capability designing our F2 car.
Mattias Persson: Any changes to be made in FPA or F2 ahead of 2010?
Jonathan Palmer: Yes many, see www.formulatwo.com!
Mattias Persson: You’ve been running with a full grid of cars in Formula Two this year and there are said to be signals of even higher driver interest for the future. Do you plan on expanding in 2010?
Jonathan Palmer: We are planning to run the same amount of 25 cars in 2010.
Mattias Persson: Finally, how would you like seeing Felix racing in F2 next year? Do you think he could do well – and why?
Jonathan Palmer: I think Felix could be the sensation of F2, winning the championship. But then again it will be very tough, and there are many others who are talented and determined. One thing is for sure; F2 will provide Felix with the best opportunity to learn, gain experience and prove his ability with his results. All in a high profile FIA championship at uniquely low cost.