Pau-dium on F3 Debut for Marcus Armstrong
Making his season debut, Marcus Armstrong took to the streets of Pau for a thrilling opening round of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship this weekend. Deep in the heart of the Pyrenees, the picturesque French town Pau roared to life with the sound of Formula 3 cars.
Boasting 15 sharp twists and tight turns, the 2.769 km ribbon of track allows minimal room for error, as it carves through the streets steeped in racing history. Providing an intense challenge to the field of young drivers, the reigning ADAC F4 Champion rose to make a promising start to his 2018 campaign.
Points and Potential
On his first visit to a street circuit, Marcus was eager to take to the Circuit de Pau-Ville on Friday morning for the first of two practice sessions. In bright sunshine, the Kiwi driver put in a consistent performance to finish in the top ten in both sessions. Moving into qualifying, he weaved his way to set himself 9th on the grid for the first race of the weekend. Impressed by the pace and the nature of the track, Marcus felt he was improving with every lap, so was keen to prove himself in the races ahead.
“The track is so cool, it’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a race-car. There is so much potential in the car, I know there’s more to come in the races.”
The season kicked off with Race 1 on Saturday morning, eager to make up ground, Marcus called upon his fine tuned racing skill to accelerate himself to 5th place. In typical Pau fashion, the race was littered with incidents and safety car appearances, but the Prema driver kept his cool to achieve a solid debut as second best rookie. Putting a healthy haul of points in the bag, he focused on putting all he’d learnt into practice in Race 2.
Powering to a Pau-dium
With the weather taking a turn on Sunday, there was a fresh new challenge in mastering the slippery track. Not one to let a little rain dampen his spirits, Marcus geared up for the second race on Sunday morning. Launching from the line, he quickly fought his way through from 6th on the grid, to 4th as the field powered into Turn 1. Making perfect lines, the Kiwi driver managed to keep the position throughout the opening laps, giving just enough room to the barriers in a style similar to that of a veteran of street tracks. As the race neutralised under safety car, Marcus was quick to get away at the restart, holding off any challenge from behind as the race continued. Then as Scherer dared a move on the leader into the hairpin, the three tangled and lost time, offering Marcus a chance to be hot on the heels of third place. Making an ill-judged line, Scherer found himself in the barrier. Narrowly avoiding being collected by the Swissman as he tried to re-enter the circuit, Marcus pushed on to cross the line in third and take his maiden podium in the FIA Formula 3 Championship.
On Sunday afternoon, packed grandstands braved the deluge of rain as the talented grid lined up for the prestigious GP de Pau. Boosted by debut podium earlier in the day, Marcus was pumped to get back on track. As the historic race got underway, the FDA protege launched off the line with gusto, avoiding the stalled car of Palou, he nestled himself on the outside making great strides for a move into Turn 1. But soon found himself squeezed into the barrier, clattering along the kerb, he held his nerve to return to the track and put the power down to minimise any time lost. With conditions worsening, visibility became treacherous, when with damage to his car from earlier, Marcus aquaplaned and slid into the barrier on the straight, sadly bring his race to an end. The race itself was then red flagged just a few laps later, the reduced distance meaning only half points were awarded to the remaining racers.
Speaking on his debut:
"I’m happy to take home a trophy in my debut, it’s a great start to the year. It was an up and down weekend as a whole, but I’m really happy with my Pau debut, for my first street track and first F3 race. Whilst the last race didn’t go my way, the half points means I didn’t lose out too much."
With a promising start to his F3 campaign, Marcus looks ahead to chasing more trophies in Budapest when the championship returns on 2-3 June.
“We’re in a great position for Budapest and I can’t wait to get back out there.”