Marcus makes a spirited charge at Paul Ricard
Following a prolonged break to the season, Marcus Armstrong was eager to get back out on track this weekend, as the FIA Formula 3 Championship raced back into action. Having made a positive start to the season last time out in Barcelona, the talented Kiwi made his debut appearance at the technical Circuit Paul Ricard track in France, with true fighting spirit throughout.
Showcasing his raw pace from the off, Marcus rapidly placed himself in the sharp end of the timings when Friday practice got underway, before perfecting his set-up for qualifying. In bright summer sunshine and over half of the grid separated by less than a second, qualifying proved to be a tense and frantic affair on Friday evening. Confident in the car beneath him, Marcus felt self assured by his lap times, but was narrowly pipped by his teammates. Posting a flying lap of 1:50.066s, Marcus netted himself a top 5 starting position, a strong place to push forward once lights went out.
"I felt like I did a decent job but the result isn't fantastic. The car felt good, but I need to understand how to get the most out of it. My last push lap wasn't perfect with some sliding and oversteering moments but was still quite ok. We are in a decent place to fight”
In the Firing Line
Firing off the grid on Saturday morning, the 29-car FIA Formula 3 grid set a roar through the French countryside, where Marcus proved to be the starring starter. Capitalising on his teammate ahead, he claimed places by the first corner, hot on the heels of the leaders. On Lap 4 he challenged Piquet for 3rd place, darting to the outside and comfortably making the pass down the Mistral straight. With a change for the lead ahead, Marcus knew opportunity was coming his way and focussed on challenging Hughes. Putting on the pressure, using DRS to his advantage, his time came and he rose to second place.
With teammate Shwartzman able to make up ground during their battle, he managed to slide by under DRS, which only served Marcus with more determination. With a tasty battle unfolding throughout the 20 lap race, the Ferrari protégé seized his opportunity with an inspired move to the outside of both Shwartzman and Hughes, bettering the pair in a thrilling dash. But with Hughes determined not to give the position up, he locked his wheels and speared into the side of Marcus’ Prema machine. Sent spinning across the run-off, his podium chances dashed, the resolute Kiwi put his head down and focussed on recovering as many points as possible by crossing the line in 6th.
Rocketing through the field
Resetting on Sunday, Marcus was well primed for a charge from 3rd on the reverse grid. But unfortunately heartbreak struck, as his car stalled and saw him stranded as the 29-car pack stormed by. Kicking it into action, the Kiwi immediately set about pushing his way forward and making the most of his Prema powered machinery. Picking off drivers, he was up to 25th before the end of the opening lap, but seeing the chaos ahead of him he wisely calmed his efforts and bided his time.
Before long, crowds were treated to a masterclass in overtaking from the young driver, claiming a position for himself as the laps ticked by. Entering Lap 10, he was running in 19th, this continued to scale a further 6 positions in as many laps. With the points paying positions in his sights, he picked off Drugovich, Hughes and Sargeant in a series of effortless moves.
Pushing to the very end, it was a storming performance that saw him claim fastest lap honours, on his way to a sensational 6th place finish.
Reflecting on his race:
"I did my normal procedure at the start, exactly the same, but for some reason, it stalled at the launch, we’re looking into why that could be. From there, I knew I had to push. I was quite conservative at the beginning, because it was a bit hectic. But we were really fast by the end and could fight my way through. Taking the fastest lap and 6th place from the back, I can't complain about that but it’s a shame, because it could have been an easy win.”
After an arduous but strong showing in France, Marcus sets his focus on fighting right back at the front when racing continues in just a few days time at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.