Marcus Armstrong has rounded out a strong return to form in Formula 2, finishing fourth in the reverse-grid sprint race at Bahrain overnight.
The Kiwi started from the front row courtesy of his seventh-place result in the weekend’s earlier feature race but dropped behind a fast-starting Yuki Tsunoda on the run into Turn 1.
The Red Bull junior then looked to defend the place from Armstrong by cutting in front of the ART’s front wing. However, the two made light contact and Tsunoda punctured his right rear tyre.
Polesitter and eventual race winner Robert Shwartzman led all 23 Laps with Armstrong left to duke it out with the rest of the field for a hopeful return to the rostrum.
An early race safety car to retrieve the stricken Theo Pourchaire bunched the pack up once again, and a handful of drivers used the opportunity to pit.
Shwartzman controlled the restart with Armstrong in tow. However, the race was quickly neutralised behind the virtual safety car after title contender Callum Ilott lost control entering the double right-hander Turn 8.
Unable to pull himself up in time, Ilott clattered into the rear of Jehan Daruvala and spent the Carlin into a spin before stalling.
Ilott was sentenced a drive-through penalty for his fault in the incident, and he ultimately finished a lowly 16th.
Off the restart, Hitech GP driver Nikita Mazepin pressured Armstrong into a mistake entering Turn One. With Armstrong left high and wide, Mazepin cheekily snuck past to claim second.
Pedro Piquet then followed suit one lap later, getting past Armstrong into Turn 4 and demoting the Kiwi off the podium.
Louis Deletraz was one of the few drivers who pounced on the early safety car to make a strategy change and don a set of fresh tyres.
The gamble paid off, and Deletraz set the fastest lap of the race as he scythed his way through the mid-pack before catching and passing Armstrong for fourth on the penultimate tour.
En route to capturing his first F2 podium, Piquet’s race would cruelly be cut short when a mechanical gremlin forced him to stop with a little over one lap remaining.
The drama elevated Deletraz to third and Armstrong re-inherited P4 where he stayed until the chequered flag.
The steady haul of points means Armstrong climbs two spots in the driver’s championship to sit 12th with one round remaining.
Mick Schumacher retains the points lead after taking seventh in the sprint race. Just 14 points separate himself and Ilott with 40 up for grabs over the final two races.