One could describe Marcus Armstrong’s extraordinary performance at the final round of the FIA Formula 3 Championship held in Sochi, Russia, as ‘calculated’.
Heading into the round, it was very apparent that he knew what was required by him and his team. Fourth in the championship, he wasn’t going to win the title but it was his last opportunity to show how good he is, to finish on a high note and to increase his options for the 2020 season.
In those two races he recorded a win and and second place which catapulted him into second place overall.
It all started in Friday’s free practice when he set fastest time then went on to qualify third on the grid for Saturday’s first race.
It is reported that before that first race, Armstrong had predicted it would be one of the battles of the season, which it was. It was a race where the lead changed three times and was only determined on the final lap, a win to Armstrong.
From third, Armstrong took the lead and looked settle to control the race. This was not to be when Trident driver Niko Kari first got past second place Robert Shwartzman and then took the lead from Armstrong. In the tussle, Armstrong found himself having dropped back to fourth.
With the level of competition in the category, as a spectator, one would have thought that Armstrong’s race was done!
Not so. With five laps to go he first moved up into third and then took second from Kari who had relinquished the lead to Shwartzman.
The last lap was almost reminiscent of their clash in Austria earlier in the season when Armstrong went to pass Shwartzman on the last lap for the race lead, resulting in the latter winning and Armstrong falling back to a 19th place finish.
Yet Armstrong was not going to allow a repeat of Austria. This time he made a pass for the lead, and race win, that stuck. He not only stepped up to the top of the podium, but he did so emphatically. Finishing second, Shwartzman wasn’t phased as he had done enough to win the overall FIA F3 championship.
Starting seventh for the final race of the season, again it was a calculated Armstrong who knew that at stake was second overall in the championship.
With the fortunes (or misfortunes) of his rivals playing into his hands, Armstrong found himself in second and the opportunity to secure second overall. He either had to win or set fastest lap (with championship points awarded for fastest lap). Jüri Vips was already four seconds up the road in the lead so Armstrong chose to set the fastest lap which he did. Coupled with finishing the race in second he was able to claim second overall in the championship, just one point ahead of rival Jehan Daruvala.
The FIA F3 finale proved to be a pivotal round for Armstrong, one where he obviously calculated what was required throughout the weekend in order to determine his best outcome.
Not only is Armstrong quick, he appears to be very in tune with every aspect required to maximise his situation. Maybe he could be described as a calculated talent, and that this is his distinct advantage over his rivals.
We now look to see what options he may take for 2020. Let’s hope that it may include another tilt at the 2020 Castrol Toyota Racing Series at the beginning of the New Year.