A steady Formula 2 feature race in Bahrain has seen Marcus Armstrong hold onto seventh place at the chequered flag, his best result since the Red Bull Ring in July.
After a strong qualifying lap left him starting on the second row, Armstrong ran as high as second in the opening half of the race as the Kiwi opted to execute the alternative tyre strategy.
This had him start on the more durable hard tyres before making a late switch to the medium compound.
Unfortunately, the heavy tyre wear of the medium tyres meant Armstrong was eventually shuffled back to seventh despite re-joining the race from his sole pitstop in fourth.
Victory went to Felipe Drugovich who was forced to pass second place getter Callum Ilott twice en route to the chequered flag.
First, the MP Motorsport driver gets the better of the starts from the front row to blast past polesitter Ilott into Turn 1.
The Brazilian was then able to extend his opening stint three laps longer than Ilott who was entangled in an on-track duel with Armstrong and Schumacher on harder tyres.
However, Drugovich ran wide on his out-lap, gifting the provisional lead back to Ilott. He would then retake the position with 13 laps in hand as his fresher tyre life endured he never lost touch with his rival.
“I didn’t expect pace like this,” said Drugovich. “I knew we had a chance to be on the podium but not this way.
“Everything came from taking the lead at the first corner, and I could manage the tyres.
“After the stops I had newer tyres than Callum and I could pass him.”
Jehan Daruvala claimed his best result of the season by beating championship leader Mick Schumacher for the last step on the rostrum.
Schumacher ran an almost identical strategy to Armstrong. Still, the Prema driver proved to have the superior advantage once on the faster mediums.
Re-joining in sixth, Schumacher made light work of teammate Robert Shwartzman and Armstrong to sit fourth, pushing Daruvala hard for the podium.
But some wise racecraft by the ex-New Zealand Grand Prix winner kept the margin fluctuating no lower than one second, and soon it appeared that Schumacher had used the best of his tyre life.
Armstrong experienced similar tyre-life dramas, and his pace steadily began to slip away from him. Losing spots to Nikita Mazepin and then Yuki Tsunoda on the final lap rounded out a turbulent last stint for the Kiwi.
The silver lining to falling behind Tsunoda for Armstrong is he will now start tonight’s reverse top-eight race from the front row. He will be joined by former Toyota Racing Series teammate Shwartzman who slithered back to eighth.
The final F2 race of the weekend is scheduled to start from 11 pm NZT tonight and will be streamed live on Spark Sport.