'Best race in the world': Macau Grand Prix champion Felix Rosenqvist can't wait to defend title
Last year's winner returns with a different attitude after landing the blue riband race
Ice-cool Swede Felix Rosenqvist will be taking it easy when he defends his Macau Grand Prix title, saying he has nothing left to prove after scaling the summit last year.
In 2014, the Swede had something to prove having tried and failed to win the blue riband race on four previous occasions, but he finally nailed the one race he had dreamed of winning.
Aiming to emulate Italy's Edoardo Mortara's back-to-back Macau wins in 2009 and 2010, Rosenqvist is this year coming off a brilliant season having won the FIA F3 European Championship.
"Last year, I had a lot of pressure on me. I had a tough season in Europe [finishing eighth overall in the 2014 European Championship] and I needed to prove myself in Macau," said Rosenqvist, who will race with Italian team Prema Powerhouse in Macau on November 22.
For the third year, Prema Powerhouse is aligned with the Theodore Racing name established by Macau Grand Prix "godfather" Teddy Yip and revived by his son, Teddy Yip Jnr, in 2013.
"This time around it's very different. I arrive without any pressure at all and I know what I'm capable of.
"Winning in Macau requires a massive amount of luck and you have this at the back of your mind all weekend, so if somebody else puts me out of the race, I won't grieve about it, I will just try to do my best," said the recently turned 24-year-old.
Lady luck smiled on Rosenqvist last year when he emerged unscathed from a carnage-strewn first lap before going on to take the chequered flag.
He had finished second in 2012 and was a victim of an unlucky crash in 2013 on the opening lap.
But it's been a smooth ride for Rosenqvist since those frustrating years. He is now the only driver to have won the Macau Grand Prix, Masters of Formula Three (twice) and European F3 Championship.
"For sure my extended F3 career has helped me achieve all those wins. It's three of the most difficult achievements [in Formula Three], and you certainly need to be at your top [form] to deliver the goods.
"I'm very proud of my achievements, but I'm looking forward to continuing the trend in higher categories in the future," said the Swede, who aspires to race in Formula One in future.
Last year's victory came at his fifth attempt at the race, and victory was sweet for the Swede.
"I believe it's the best race in the world, and it was particularly sweet as I had been fighting at the front of the grid for three consecutive years. I had the opportunity to compete in the race every year since I began racing in Formula Three. I would be the last one to say 'don't do it'!"
"It was a very tough weekend mentally, as I also had a very intense battle with my teammate Lucas Auer. I was so focused during the whole weekend, Lucas and I didn't even speak to each other during the week, even though we are good friends. So it was quite special.
"I had a pretty perfect weekend last year, winning both races from pole position, but for sure I will try to be even quicker this year as that's the only thing you can do.
"I was very strong last year on the street circuits, and I had a good car, which was suitable for the track. It's hard to say whether I will be in a better car this time [he raced for Mucke last year]. Prema has won the race twice before, so their car should be very good. I guess we will find out," he said.
Competition is expected to be red-hot for this year's 62nd edition of the race, with several new faces set to make their mark on the storied circuit.
Monaco's Charles Leclerc, who finished fourth overall in this year's European Championship, will be aiming for the podium, together with Kiwi Nick Cassidy, who won the Japanese Formula Three championship.
Mercedes DTM racer Dani Juncadella will be chasing a second Macau success after winning in 2012. The 24-year-old Spaniard, who was a Formula One reserve driver for Force India in 2014, will return with Fortec Motorsports.
"I think Charles Leclerc was very special in Pau [France at the European Championship], he could probably be as strong as Max [Verstappen] was last year [in Macau where he had the fastest lap and was seventh until he clipped a wall in qualifying ending his hopes of competing]. I think even [Prema Powerhouse teammate] Jake Dennis could be good in his rookie year, plus Britain's Alexander Sims [of ThreeBond with T-Sport]," said the Swede.