Back-to-back titles: Fabulous Felix blazes to glory again in Macau Grand prix
Super Swede Rosenqvist keeps Leclerc at bay and becomes only second man in history to win back-to-back F3 titles on unforgiving Guia circuit
Swedish superman Felix Rosenqvist showed nerves of steel yesterday as he saw off a series of challenges to capture his second straight Macau Grand Prix.
"It gets better every time," was the 24-year-old's flyer's immediate reaction to the feat.
After a year that has also seen Rosenqvist race away with the FIA Formula Three European Championship, you might be thinking life couldn't seem any better for the SJM Theodore Racing by Prema Powerteam racer. And you just might be right.
"I've had a fantastic year and to now win again in Macau is just incredible really," he said.
Rosenqvist started the race on pole and quickly engaged in a personal battle with 18-year-old Monaco-born phenomenon Charles Leclerc over the 6.2km Guia circuit.
The Van Amersfoort Racing driver pounced on the lead near the Lisboa bend before the Swede pushed his Dallara-Mercedes to snatch it back again passing the Reservoir.
Leclerc, driving a Dallara-Volkswagen, then pulled the same manoeuvre by the Lisboa on lap two to grab the lead, but the race was then stopped after Gustavo Menezes, Ryan Tveter, Yu Kanamara and Mitsunori Takaboshi made a mess of themselves and the track near Fisherman's Wharf.
At the restart - after the debris was cleared and fans found time to draw breath again - Rosenqvist was first to act, was past his rival by the Mandarin bend and was then able to hold on to take the chequered flag, 1.168 seconds in front of Leclerc, who had at one stage dropped to third, but had been eating into the Swede's lead as the 15-lap race wore on.
Filling out the podium was Alex Sims driving the Double R Racing's Dallara-Mercedes.
"This race is so difficult to win," said Rosenqvist.
"Even if you have everything going right behind you, you still have to put it on the track and also you need to have luck.
"All those things need to come together. At the beginning I felt really strong. Even when Charles took the lead I was confident I could get it back and pull away. If I made one mistake, he'd be right there, so it was a really tough race."
Rosenqvist's victory capped a big day for Mercedes, who had earlier seen their Germany driver Maro Engel's capture the other feature race of the day, the FIA GT World Cup.
It also marked the first time a driver has gone back-to-back in the big one since Italy's Edoardo Mortara in 2009 and 2010.
"It always takes some time to melt things down and to have a think about it but then for sure we'll celebrate," Rosenqvist said.
For his part Leclerc showed the Macau faithful flashes of the talent that has seen him earmarked for a big future in the sport.
The European F3 rookie of the year admitted he found it hard to deal with the sheer speed Rosenqvist had found all week.
"I'm always quite disappointed when I'm not first," he said. "We were quite fast at the beginning, but Felix was just really fast. I got close, but not close enough.
"You have to look at the positives and I have come here for the first time and finished second. I have to be happy with that."
Spare a quick thought for Antonio Giovinazzi of the Carlin team, relegated by officials to 10th on the grid after finishing first in qualifying.
He paid the penalty for an incident that ruled 2011 winner Daniel Juncadella out of Sunday's race, but powered his way through the field to finish fourth and right up Sims' tailgate.