Marcus continues FIA F3 Championship Lead at Halfway Point
Back behind the wheel in FIA Formula 3, Marcus Armstrong tackled the mighty Spa-Francorchamps this weekend. Adding another podium to his tally, the Kiwi driver remains the only driver to have appeared on the rostrum at all rounds, his run of consistency playing part to his championship lead at the halfway point.
Supporting the ’Blancpain 24 Hours of Spa’ event saw a change to the regular format, with qualifying taking place on Thursday afternoon, before the races on Friday and Saturday. With a shortened schedule, it offered little opportunity to get to grips with the track, this didn’t deter Marcus as he set about punching in some blistering laps in a bid for pole position. In a thrilling first session, the Kiwi missed out by a whisker, just 0.010s shy of the top grid position for Race 1. With his pace showing no signs of slowing, he further sealed a second row start for race two and equalled his front row start for Saturday’s race, offering a prime chance to shoot for victory.
Under scorching temperatures on Friday afternoon, Marcus readied himself to capitalise on his starting position. Off the line, he immediately seized the lead from pole sitter Daruvala, as the pack stormed into the tight right-hander. Defending the advances of Palou, Marcus picked the perfect line to maintain his advantage as he launched through Eau Rouge-Raidillon for the first time. With the tightly knit field barely inches from each other and the slipstream offering a significant benefit along the lengthy Kemmel Straight, the Ferrari Driver Academy driver was under pressure from Palou once more. Biding his time, as Palou slipped ahead, Marcus tucked in behind to gain any slipstream and claim back the position. But as he challenged once more, Daruvala was quick to force the Kiwi wide, before an over defensive move from Hingeley further sent him off the track. With a safety car appearance offering a small breathing space, Marcus focussed on making up positions from P3 once racing resumed. However, luck soon provided a cruel blow, with a puncture cutting his race short.
Master of recovery
Resetting for the second race on Friday afternoon, Marcus lined up alongside his Prema teammates for a four-way battle. Going wheel-to-wheel into turn 1, Schumacher and fellow FDA member Zhou collided, forcing Marcus behind to take the escape road to avoid any further incident, agonisingly dropping him down the order. But with the bit between his teeth, Marcus showed no signs of giving up, eager to claim back positions. With a steady, collected drive from running as low as P13 on lap 1, the 17-year-old recovered to cross the line in 6th place, adding more valuable points to his campaign.
Seven podiums strong
With a tricky Friday behind him, the resolute young driver focussed on running a strong race in the final outing at the Belgian track on Saturday morning. Becoming renown for his stellar starts in the FIA Formula 3 series, Marcus found himself with a storming advantage off the line. Right on the tail of poleman Schumacher, Marcus took the slipstream for his own, pulling alongside and taking the lead along the Kemmel Straight. Holding off Shvartzman, he set about pulling a gap on his teammates and managing the race from the front. Despite running an inch perfect race, the benefit of the slipstream fell in his rivals favour, as he found himself under pressure as the race entered into the second half. With stronger pace, Schumacher and Shvartzman found their way through, whilst Marcus held his position, ready to pounce should the pair falter ahead. Earning a strong points position, Marcus pushed on to cross the line in third and earn his 7th podium of the season, more than any other competitor.
Speaking at the halfway point of the season, championship leader, Marcus looks ahead to really pushing further in the title fight:
“The battle with Mick (Schumacher) and Robert (Shvartzman) was really intense. Although it’s not the result I wanted this weekend, it’s good to take points and keep hold of the championship lead. Moving forward it’s time to knuckle down even more in the second half of the championship. Some chances didn’t go our way in the first half and we should be leading by a bigger margin. The pace is there, the team are doing a brilliant job, I’m looking forward to pushing forward in the second half.”
Marcus Armstrong now leads the FIA F3 championship, for the third consecutive round, with 154 points having taken at least one podium at each of the five race meetings. The FIA F3 title fight heats up, when the grid of young racers return in just a few weeks time at Silverstone (GB) on the 18th-19th August.