1978 was a absolutely devastating year for Swedish motor racing with both Ronnie Peterson and Gunnar Nilsson losing their lives, Peterson through the after effects of a terrible first lap accident at Monza, while Nilsson lost his battle with testicular cancer. The following years Swedish Grand Prix at Anderstorp was cancelled due to the interest in motor racing diminishing after the loss of its two star drivers. Since that tragic year, only two Swedish drivers have raced in Formula 1, Slim Borgudd, who raced 15 times for ATS and Tyrrell in 1981-1982, and Stefan Johansson, who raced between 1980 and 1991, racing for numerous teams including both Ferrari and McLaren.
However there are signs that a renaissance of Swedish motor racing is on the horizon. Marcus Ericsson has been racing at or near the front of the GP2 Series for a couple of years now and has been signed to make his Formula 1 debut for the Caterham F1 team in 2014. Jimmy Eriksson has confirmed his 2014 plans with a second season in the GP3 series, moving from Status Grand Prix to Russian Time, who will be making their debut in the series this year. A third young Swede is John Bryant-Meisner, who raced in German Formula Three in 2013 and looks to graduate to the FIA European Formula 3 Championship in 2014.
But for me, the brightest talent right now coming from Sweden seems to be Felix Rosenqvist, who was runner up in the 2013 European Formula 3 Championship behind Ferrari Academy Driver Raffaele Marciello.
22-year-old Rosenqvist made his single-seater debut back in 2007, racing in the Asian Formula Renault Challenge, aged 15. Driving for March 3 Racing, he won one race in Shanghai and finished on the podium an additional five times en-route to fourth in the championship.
For 2008, he raced in the Formula Asia 2.0 Series, again with March 3 Racing, but dominated the series, winning ten races and claiming the title ahead of Frenchman Matthias Beche by 71 points. He also made a one-off appearance in the Asian Formula Renault Challenge, and won both races in Shanghai.
A return to his native Sweden in 2009 saw Rosenqvist win the Formula Renault 2.0 Sweden series driving for BS Motorsport, winning six races on the way to the title. He also won the Formula Renault 2.0 North European Zone title for the same team, defeating fellow Swede Daniel Roos by a single point. He also made a one-off appearance in Formula Palmer Audi, winning two of the three races that made up the final weekend of the season in Snetterton.
A move to the German Formula 3 championship in 2010 followed, and two race wins, both in Assen on different weekends, saw Rosenqvist finish fifth in the championship driving for Performance Racing. He also made his debut around the streets of Macau, finishing ninth in the main race.
Rosenqvist finished fifth again in 2011, this time in the Formula 3 Euro Series driving for Mücke Motorsport. He won one race at Hockenheim, and grabbed an additional nine podium places. In 2012, he continued with Mücke Motorsport in the Euro Series, improving to fourth in the final standings with four wins – one each in Zandvoort and Valencia, and two at Hockenheim. He also participated in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship, being classified third behind Daniel Juncadella and Raffaele Marciello. And in his second time in Macau, he finished an impressive second behind Antonio Felix da Costa.
Rosenqvist continued in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship for 2013, again with Mücke Motorsport. He was the only driver to keep Marciello honest all year, and only finished 42.5 points behind the Ferrari-backed driver in the championship. The Swede won on eleven occasions, including two rare trebles, winning all three races in Austria and the Netherlands. He finished over 100 points clear of third-placed Alex Lynn. Unfortunately his third visit to Macau ended up with him crashing out.
So what next for Felix Rosenqvist? Over the years, he has clearly shown that he can be a race-winning driver, and as 2013 shows, he can be a championship-challenging driver. Marciello has advanced to the GP2 series for 2014, while Alex Lynn has moved to the GP3 series. Surely the Swede has the opportunity to move to one or other of those series for this year.
I feel he can be a force to be reckoned with over the upcoming few years, and could follow Marcus Ericsson and the legends of Ronnie Peterson and Gunnar Nilsson into Formula 1.