Marcus Armstrong celebrated his first race win of the Formula 2 season at the sprint race in Imola. Photo / Getty Images
In the murderous world of Formula 2, every opportunity must be seized.
For Kiwi Marcus Armstong, technical problems on board didn’t stop him from claiming his first win of the season at the weekend, winning the sprint race at Imola, Italy.
Sprint racing did not bode well for Armstrong in the early dates of the F2 calendar as he was forced out of the shorter format at both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. In Italy he had no such problems, although he was missing an important piece of equipment.
Armstrong entered the race with a non-working radio, meaning he had no input to the Hitech Grand Prix team during his race. Not only did he have to navigate the race without radio assistance, he also survived a safety car period – relying on monitors around the track to see what he needed to see and managed to take his first race win ahead of Jehan Daruvala to secure.
“The VSC (Virtual Safety Car) was really difficult, I had to watch in front of the TV when the safety car ended,” explained Armstrong after the race.
“That was really stressful. But luckily I got away with it. There was a TV when it turned green so perfect. The rest of the race went smoothly but I had a fast Jehan Daruvala behind me. It wasn’t that.” so easy.”
The win was his first since winning the inaugural sprint race in Saudi Arabia last December and his second of his Formula Two career.
But for the highs of the sprint race, the lows of the main race were just as important for the Kiwi contingent, with Armstrong finishing 16th while Carlin’s Liam Lawson retired first late in the race after a bad crash into the railing.
There was plenty of carnage early in the race and that benefited those starting on the super soft compound tyres, who were granted an early pit stop after eight laps when a full safety car was on the track.
Drivers cannot pit under a VSC but are allowed to pit under the full safety car and most of those with the super soft tires switched to the medium ones. Unfortunately for Lawson and Armstrong, they weren’t among them.
“I guess we need another safety car now, right?” Lawson asked his team over the radio, resigned to the disadvantage they were now at.
The strategy followed by both Kiwi riders – starting the race on the medium tires and pitting around the 20-lap mark – placed them towards the back of the field after their stops.
Unfortunately, there was no other safety car beforehand, but shortly afterwards one was on the track – no help for the Kiwis.
Armstrong continued to fight to finish 16th, while Lawson’s crash on lap 32 produced another safety car, allowing eventual winner Théo Pourchaire to take a couple of laps of honor – overtaking was not allowed while the safety car was on the track .
Luckily for Armstrong and Lawson, the rough main race didn’t affect their overall standings too much. After three events on the calendar, Armstrong sits seventh on the leaderboard with 30 points while Lawson is fourth with 35 points. Pourchaire leads with 52 points.