With a win and a second place, Kiwi race driver Marcus Armstrong has vaulted past two key rivals and finished the inaugural FIA Formula 3 Championship second overall.
Armstrong came to the Russian resort town determined to complete his first season in the new championship on a high note. He served notice of his intention by setting fastest time in free practice on Friday, then qualified P3 for Saturday’s first race and turned that into victory after a race-long battle with his team-mate, championship leader Robert Shwartzman; and rivals Juri Vips and Nico Kari.
Afterward, an ecstatic Armstrong said his first feature race win was hard won on the low grip 5.8 km Formula One circuit at the Sochi ski resort in Russia.
“I’m really happy. The start was pretty good again just like Monza even though the track was not in ideal conditions. I took a risk with the clutch mapping which paid off because the grip was very low. I pushed a bit too hard trying to fight with Nico Kari but in the end, I was all out for the win,” he said.
Armstrong’s win on Saturday locked in a three-car Prema ‘redwash’ in the season points table, with Shwartzman now holding an unassailable championship lead on 202 points, Jehan Daruvala second in 157 and Armstrong third on 144.
Then on the Sunday, Armstrong carved through from eighth on the grid in the partial reverse-grid race to chase down and overtake all but Vips, finishing second and stepping up the points table to second for the season behind Shwartzman.
“I think that this year we’ve had a huge amount of potential. It’s not disappointing to finish second in the championship, but I just think that we a lot of potential this year, especially in terms of performance. Unfortunately, on paper it didn’t look that way, certainly up until this weekend, but we have shown some of that potential. The car has been quick all season and I’ve had two very strong teammates that have pushed me really hard, and for that I’m thankful. Also Jüri has always been there or thereabouts. This year’s F3 has been very competitive. The level is really high and there’s a lot of really strong drivers. For the team, it’s our first season in F3, it’s closer to GP3, so there wasn’t really any certainty as to how this year would go in terms of the team’s performance. They’ve done an extremely good job and I thank them for that.”
Armstrong has led more laps than any other driver on the grid this season and the Prema trio handed their team a resounding victory in the teams’ championship, winning that title with two rounds to spare.