Marcus battles through the pressure at Silverstone
As the FIA Formula 3 entered the second half of the championship this weekend, Marcus Armstrong was back turning wheels at the historic Silverstone circuit, for what proved to be tough outing for the Kiwi star.
Set in the heart of British countryside, the 5.901km circuit boasts a series of complex corners and thrilling high-speed sections, which has long heralded it as a firm favourite for drivers and fans alike. Taking to the track for the first time on Friday morning, the 18-year-old driver carved his way through the famous tapestry of corners, across the two practice sessions. With less than a second covering the top 14 drivers, as always Marcus proved his pace early on, nestling himself at the sharp end of the pack ahead of qualifying.
With many of the venues for the FIA F3 calendar offering fresh challenges, the Kiwi driver continued to showcase his rapid adaptability, exploring every inch of track to his advantage. Throughout the three incredibly tight qualifying sessions, the field fought it out with minimal margins. Ending the day just two tenths or less off the pole sitter in every session the Ferrari Academy Driver put himself firmly within the fight for points.
Handling the Pressure
Under overcast skies, the grid formed for the opening race of the weekend on Saturday morning. Starting from P5, Marcus brought the fight to the first corner, but wisely relented to the frantic action, holding off challenge from behind. With his work cut out for him, the talented and composed driver immediately set about putting pressure upon his rivals. Hounding the tail of Alex Palou, he relentlessly searched for a way by. Making an inspired move through Copse, the crowds were treated to a display of Marcus’ racing prowess, as he swept past the Spaniard to claim the position for his own. Proving to be a punishing track for tyre degradation, torment began to unfold for the Prema team as the race ran on, with teammates Schumacher, Aron and Zhou all suffering punctures and rear tyre failures. Managing a slow puncture himself, Marcus battled on the edge of his tyre life, the issue halting any efforts to progress further. Knowing the value of adding points to his campaign, Marcus crossed the line in 6th, turning his attention to fighting back in the remaining races.
Trusting the pace of his car, Marcus immediately put the power down, setting off from P7 as Race 2 got underway. With championship rival Dan Ticktum taking the overall points lead, the Ferrari Driver Academy racer was quick to rise to the challenge and minimise the gap. Gaining ground, Marcus fought his way through the pack to run in P5 as the pack completed the first lap of the challenging circuit. In an unfortunate blow, it soon became clear Marcus was suffering from a similar fate to that of the earlier race. Battling against another slow puncture, he wisely gave the perfect amount to hold his position, but the tyre ultimately held back his advances on the car ahead. Taking the flag in 5th, a good points finish proved to be a strong result against tricky conditions.
Speaking of his battle, Marcus reflected on a tough beginning:
I had good pace in both races and the car was strong. Unfortunately the slow puncture in both races which held back my ability to push and get the maximum out of the car. I was relieved to see the chequered flag, because the tyre felt right on the edge towards the end. We managed to take some points which is what matters.
An agonising twist in the tale
Determined as ever and eager to recover from an arduous start to the weekend, Marcus stormed off the line in Race 3. With the pace and skills on his side, he made a strong effort to pass into turn one, lining up alongside teammate Schumacher. But caught in the thick of the battling pack, Marcus found himself pinched with no room, forcing him to clatter over the kerb. Despite his efforts, the damage brought his race to an end before it had really begun.
Putting such a tough outing behind him, Marcus remains confident that he can bring the fight back to the front as the FIA Formula 3 Championship moves to Misano. With previous experience and success at the Italian track, where he scored his maiden Italian F4 podium in 2017, Marcus looks to build upon the pace and performance when the championship returns next weekend 25-26th August.
Marcus Armstrong stands in 2nd place in the championship standings with 172 points.