Despite his efforts and hunger for success, Marcus Armstrong suffered an unrewarding weekend in the third round of FIA F2. Moving to Hungary, the Kiwi was keen to continue his run of podium successes, but with on-track tangles and battles against tyre degradation cut his efforts short.
Following back-to-back rounds at Red Bull Ring, the F2 paddock moved to Hungary for the final stop in it’s first triple header. Just a short distance from Budapest sits the 4.3km track, offering sharp turns and long straights, often renown as a tricky place for overtaking. Having enjoyed success at the track before, Marcus was ready for action.
As qualifying on Friday afternoon offered up another rain-washed session, any chances for a rapid, clean lap were dampened. As the time ticked down, the field battled tooth and nail to try and hook a lap together, unfortunately a late red flag cut the final flying laps short and Marcus settled to start P7 in the opening race, with confidence in the opportunities that lay ahead.
“We were unlucky with the red flag, but the pace was really good. We can fight from where we are starting tomorrow.”
Tangles and Torment
As the pack roared into Turn 1, Marcus found himself right in the rear wing of a slow starting car ahead, unfortunately causing him to fall to P10 as the pack made their way through the first opening lap. Finding room he immediately challenged his rivals, before an early safety car halted any progress.
Ready to take the fight at the restart, a coming together further up the road, saw his ART teammate suffer a puncture to run off the road. Making his way back onto the track right in the path of Marcus’ charger, Marcus was forced to take evasive action with narrowly catching the car of Markelov. With Markelov sent skating into the barriers and his own car suffering damage, he peeled into the pits bringing a premature end to his race.
Rocketing through the pack
Taking to the track for the sprint race on Sunday morning, Marcus had a mountain to climb from 19th on the grid, but as always the 18-year old driver was more than ready to challenge his opponents and charge through the field. Out of position and with other hungry opponents beside him, Marcus rocketed off the line when the lights went out to P14. With five places gained already he afforded himself a real opportunity to fight forward.
Picking off Samaia with ease, he further claimed P12 from Ticktum by Lap 5, before putting his head down to catch his next rival further up the road. By the halfway point, he had the clear advantage on Mashushita and Gelael ahead. Timing his attack to perfection, Marcus swept through the tricky turn on the outside, with full confidence and commitment to thread his line ahead of both drivers and claim P10 for himself.
With tyre degradation really coming into play for the first time this season, despite no mandatory pit stops in the sprint race, many of the grid made the decision to peel into the pits for fresh new rubber. Holding his position and trying his chances, Marcus held off as long as possible to elevate himself to P7. Convinced by the speed advantage the fresher tyres posed, Marcus dove into the pits, remerging in his original place of P12. However with few drivers leaving pit stops until later, he was able to gain positions to be back challenging for P9. Finding fresh air, he kept his foot in, running as high as P8 in the closing stages. But with Zhou the last of the field to pit, his fresher tyres meant Marcus narrowly missed out on the final points paying position in the final lap of the race.
A valiant effort from P19 on the grid saw Marcus rise ten places to cross the line in P9, but with points only awarded to the first 8, it was a disappointing end to a solid race for the Kiwi racer.
With one week’s break to refresh, Marcus looks to fight back, when racing gets back underway at Silverstone in 2 weeks time.