Marcus demonstrates fighting spirit in thrilling F2 season opener
Bahrain played host to the opening round of the 2021 FIA Formula 2 season, with Marcus Armstrong keen to begin his second season in the category on a high point. Bad luck robbed Marcus of the results he deserved in the reverse-grid sprint races, but he rounded off the weekend with a victory challenge and a top-five finish.
Severe tyre degradation, searing heat, a sand-strewn track as well as the mixture of day and night races are all characteristics of the F2’s season-opener at the Bahrain International Circuit.
A promising start
On Friday, Marcus began his first competitive session with the French F2 outfit DAMS by setting the fourth-fastest time in the sole, 45-minute practice session. This backed up his strong pre-season testing pace and confirmed that he’ll be among the championship’s frontrunners this year. Unfortunately, he was denied the chance to replicate that pace in qualifying and ended up 13th in the session.
An unfortunate pair of reverse-grid races
In the first of two sprint races, the Ferrari Driver Academy protégé was preparing to fight his way back inside the top 10 but his race came to a close on lap three when a mechanical issue brought his car to a halt. With the top 10 finishers in race one reversed to make the grid for grid two, Marcus was unable to benefit from the championship’s new format and instead he had to start race two from the back of the grid.
Marcus hauled himself from the rear of the 22-car field and moved all the way up to sixth place in just 13 laps, that then became fifth place just two laps later. Unfortunately Marcus’ progress was hurt by the timing of a safety car period. While he was able to pull off a stunning double overtake into Turn 4 to move into second place once green flag racing got underway, he was powerless to defend from drivers who were able to use the safety car period to pit for fresh rubber. He finished just outside the points in 10th place.
A reward for a hard-fought weekend
In Sunday’s feature race Marcus had a blistering start from his 13th grid spot and made his way into the top 8 after just a few laps, he was once again able to deploy his tyre-conservation skills as he picked up more positions over the next 10 laps. Once a mid-race safety car was deployed Marcus took his opportunity to pit and came out in the race lead. Although with only one lap under the safety car to warm his tyres, when the track went green he jostled for the lead in a multi-driver fight but ultimately lost out to his rivals due to their tyre advantage. Marcus used all of his fighting spirit to defy the odds as he crossed the line in fifth-place – a well-earned reward for a challenging weekend.
Reflecting on the weekend Marcus said:
"We’ve had good pace all weekend but sadly the engine issue in Race 1 meant we weren’t able to show it in the final results on Saturday. Sunday was much better and brilliant considering we started down in P13. I didn’t have long to get the tyres up to temperature under the safety car, but we got some good points and showed we’re going to be strong contenders this year."
Marcus will return to action in Monaco when FIA F2 returns on May 21st.