Marcus Armstrong’s disappointing Tuscan Grand Prix weekend has ended with an 11th place finish as the Formula 2 rookie struggled to match the pace of his rivals on fresher tyres, falling outside the points-paying positions to cap off an up-and-down round.
It will be a completely different emotion on the other side of the ART team garage, however, as Armstrong’s teammate Christian Lundgaard dominated proceedings to win by over 14-seconds in a one-way affair of the final 23-lap sprint race.
A blinding launch by Lundgaard from the second row of the grid had him blast into an early lead by the time the field surged downhill into Turn 1. It was a similarly strong start by his ART stablemate Armstrong who moved himself up two places into seventh after the first lap.
Lundgaard appeared to be in a league of his own at the head of the field, lapping over a second faster than Artem Markelov in second. The Russian was the cork in the bottle of a lengthy train which had the rest of the top-10 covered by less than five seconds.
Markelov was finally demoted to third on lap five by Louis Deletraz into Turn 1 with Armstrong falling victim of a similar move just a handful of places behind as Luca Ghiotto got past the Kiwi. Yesterday’s feature race winner Nikita Mazepin would then execute the same manoeuvre on Armstrong one tour later as the ART driver slipped back to ninth.
Unfortunately, Armstrong was unable to unlock his earlier race pace and dropped another position to Jeehan Daruvala but held onto ninth on the road as Markelov flustered under pressure and was compelled to pit with damage to his front wing after a clumsy tangle with Mick Schumacher in the duel for third.
Armstrong was beginning to struggle with tyre life and was swiftly overtaken by Callum Ilott and Yuki Tsunoda in successive laps just as the two Hitech cars came together at Turn 1. Mazepin spotted a closing door up the inside of Ghiotto but his unsuspecting teammate would turn in onto Mazepin’s line. The pair collided and the Italian was eliminated on the spot.
The resulting Virtual Safety Car saw a flurry of cars come into the lane to ditch their ageing hard tyres for a set of the softer rubber.
It promoted Armstrong into eighth, but he immediately relinquished the position to Guanyu Zhou into Turn 1. The Kiwi looked weak on his defence and his heavily worn tyres did little to aid his pace as he slumped to 11th at the chequered flag.
Lundgaard, meanwhile, was entirely unchallenged upfront and he crossed the stripe with a hefty margin over the field to claim the maximum 17 points from the weekend and puts him firmly in contention for the championship with three rounds remaining.
The next round of the F2 season will be from the Sochi Autodrome on September 25-27 for the Russian Grand Prix.