Pole, podium and last lap heartbreak for Marcus
Straight back into the seat for Round 3 at the Red Bull Ring, Marcus Armstrong’s talent shone, proving pace and tenacity from start-to-finish, the Kiwi driver battled to add another podium to his tally.
Set high in the Styrian Mountains, the 4.318km track serves up a series of fast corners and undulation changes. With DRS opening up overtaking opportunities, it certainly offered a tricky challenge for the field of drivers.
Ruling the Ring
Taking his early speed through to qualifying, Marcus set some thrilling lap times on Friday evening, on track for pole position, Marcus was setting purple sectors until his lap was halted by a red flag.
Despite the late red flag interrupting his session, he soon refocused his efforts and set a storming final run to cement pole position for Saturday’s race. With triumphant cheers and praise to the team on the radio, Marcus proved his dominance ahead of the 30-strong grid.
“I’m really really happy to get the first pole of the season, especially because it’s been way too long since I’ve been on pole in Europe. The car was really good and I felt absolutely comfortable.”
Pushing for a Podium
Lining up with a clean view up the steep incline to Turn 1, Marcus readied himself for the fight. Putting the power down immediately, the Kiwi driver span his wheels and roared off the line, but narrowly had to relent the lead to Fewtrell who had inched ahead.
In a frantic start, he pushed to claim back his position by Turn 2. Pulling a gap to the pack, held off any advancements from behind and easily lead the field through the opening laps. But once DRS was enabled, he found himself powerless to those behind who had the increased speed.
Settling into P3, Marcus focussed on running his race and biding his time. But as the race ran on, it became evident that overtaking was becoming increasingly difficult. With teammate Deruvala on his tail, the pair diced throughout the remaining laps, with Marcus coming out on top to claim his place on the podium. Despite some disappointment, he scored a trophy for his efforts and renewed experience heading into Sunday.
“It wasn't as easy as I would have liked. I expected the race to be a lot more eventful because there's three DRS zones leading on to each other, so I was expecting to come on strong at the end and come back. It's a little bit disappointing not to have done so, but it's one of those things. I come from the F3 of last season and this is completely different. It's all a learning curve and I suppose now I know for next time”
Sunday morning served tasty challenge as Marcus lined up 6th on the grid. Rapidly showcasing his supreme pace, Marcus took 3rd place and bettered his teammate Shwartzman. With a huge amount of speed, Marcus steamed round the outside of the leading pair to inch into the lead, but with racing wisdom chose to back out of it.
With such frantic action in the opening laps, it only increased once DRS was enabled, whilst the top three forced themselves off the road, Marcus was right in the fight and a 4-car battle for the lead ensued.
Claiming P3 for his own, he further advanced to 2nd by Lap 7. Eyes firmly on the lead, Marcus closed the gap to leader Shwartzman who had climbed under the benefit of DRS. Posting a series of fastest laps, the battle was firmly on between the Ferrari Driver Academy pair, Marcus keeping the gap no further than 0.6s.
With one final lap under racing conditions, it was a frantic furore to the flag, with DRS Marcus had the clear advantage over his teammate. Nosing his way ahead into Turn 1, he wisely backed off and allowed the battle to reset.
With one swoop around the outside of his teammate, Marcus took the lead, until heartbreak struck. As Shwartzman clipped his rear tyre, the formidable Kiwi was forced into the run off with a puncture. A post-race penalty assigned to Shwartzman offered little comfort as unfortunately Marcus struggled over the line out of the points paying positions.
Ever the racer, Marcus is already looking ahead to making amends in the next round:
“Obviously I’m disappointed with what happened on the last lap, I didn’t do anything unusual. But the car was good, the pace was good, let’s crack on to Silverstone!”
The FIA Formula 3 Championship returns on 12th-14th July at a firm driver favourite - Silverstone, where Marcus will be back fighting at the front.