Armstrong experiences highs and lows at the Temple of Speed
Fri 13, Sep, 2019

Just one week on from the tragic events at Spa, the FIA Formula 3 grid were back on track to tackle a firm favourite on the calendar - Monza. In front of the dedicated Tifosi and the Ferrari family, Marcus was keen to impress. In a chaotic weekend, which was fraught with incidents and penalties, the Kiwi racer certainly showed his prowess, with some strong fights through the field.

Troublesome Traffic

The Italian temple of speed’s thrilling high-speed straights and gruelling long right-hand turns, always offer an exciting race, but with rain soaking the track, the weekend started off on a dampener. As qualifying began on Friday evening, the track had improved but still provided greasy conditions after rain throughout the day.

Marcus was soon showing his pace, but the 30 car field certainly created a challenging and messy session, with traffic really proving a problem. Slowing down with many others to prepare for his final run, Marcus was making good progress when his lap got underway, but in the final stages came across a mass of cars moving dangerously slowly. With the FIA calling time on qualifying with a red flag, the entire grid were called to the stewards to investigate.

“I think it was a bit of a messy session, but then again I think that it could have been a lot worse in many ways. The car was very strong, I think that everyone had more potential, me included. Tomorrow's going to be a big race, exciting for the fans as well, but it's surprising that the entire day has been a little bit messy and I haven't actually done many laps at all, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow.”

Despite qualifying 2nd on the grid for Saturday's race, the FIA awarded penalties throughout the field for the problems encountered in the qualifying session. Marcus was deemed to be at fault along with 16 other drivers, which dropped him to start from 7th.

Monza Masterclass

With progress to be made and a confidence in his ability, the first race of the weekend gave the Ferrari Driver Academy star a real chance to shine in front of the team’s home crowd. Immediately getting the power down as the lights went out Marcus was hungry for success, with an inspired move round the sweeping curve of Parabolica, he managed to climb as high as third on the road by the end of Lap 1.

Hooked into the back of the leading pair, as they tussled, Marcus was held up which awarded Verschoor the chance to slingshot to the lead. Sliding his way by Zendeli and Lundgaard, it wasn’t long before Marcus easily found his way by Verschoor to lead the race.

Managing the race and holding a gap, he proved his pace by posting fastest lap in Lap 6. But an unfortunate safety car period erased any margin he had over his teammate Shwartzman, who had further proved the pace of the Prema powered machinery, by raising to 2nd.

With a mighty battle between them, Marcus held his place at the restart, but as the race ran on, he came under pressure as his teammate had the slipstream and DRS advantage. With Shwartzman sealing a pass on the start and finish straight, Marcus wisely focussed on saving his tyres to allow the race to come back at him, this gamble looked as though it would pay off. However a late safety car following a frightening incident, in which Alex Peroni was launched into the air, cut an end to Marcus’ chances.

Taking to the podium, with his two Prema teammates, team player Marcus praised the dominance of the Italian outfit and thanked them for their support and hard work.

“It was an exciting race. The first lap I don't know where I finished, maybe third, so that was pretty exciting and everything sort of went to plan.

A lot of people have come over from Grisignano to watch the race this morning. It was cool to see everyone under the podium, also to have Guillaume on the podium with us was special. As I said on the radio, I'm very grateful to be a part of such a fantastic, well-organised team”

Unfortunately, the highs of Saturday’s race were dashed as post race analysis showed that Marcus had narrowly failed to meet the minimum speed delta on the safety car period, which earned him a hefty 20 second penalty, pushing him down to 21st place.

Positive progress

Despite starting from the back end of the grid, Marcus was ready to fight forward on Sunday morning. But with wet tyres and a dizzying spray kicked up by the field Marcus found himself sandwiched between 2 cars, he was hit by Beckmann who spun the Kiwi driver round at the opening turn. Escaping any major damage, Marcus put his head down and set about a herculean task of fighting from the very back of the pack. In signature style, he managed to make the conditions work for him and soon raised through to 20th, from here he set a series of fastest laps, on his way to cross the line in a commendable 14th place.

Fighting back in a challenging and luckless weekend for the 18-year-old racing driver, Marcus still managed to showcase his strong on-track talents, whilst helping the team to seal the Constructors’ Championship Title, with one event left to run.

Moving to the season finale in Sochi on the 27-29th September, Marcus looks to end his season on a high.