A daring two-stop strategy in a Safety Car-affected Formula 2 feature race from Mugello has unfortunately seen Marcus Armstrong slip back to ninth at the chequered flag after a second row start.
The race was won by Hitech’s Nikita Mazepin from 14th on the grid who ran the alternative strategy and donned the softer tyres for the final stint, getting extremely fortunate with the timing of two late cautions.
The first Safety Car was deployed eight laps from home to retrieve Giuliano Alesi who found himself in an awkward position on track and required the use of a crane to be recovered.
Mazepin was tenth at the time, promoted a spot when Armstrong from sixth and a handful of other drivers decided to make a second stop for fresher tyres on the run to the chequered flag.
There was then drama from the restart as a three-car crash between Jack Aitken, Guanyu Zhou and Mick Schumacher meant another Safety Car was deployed. Only Schumacher avoided retirement as another coming together between Yuki Tsunoda and Dan Ticktum made for a frenetic restart.
But the largest benefactor from the incident was Mazepin who had been elevated to third in all the chaos.
Pole-sitter Christian Lundgaard held the lead over Luca Ghiotto but both were powerless in their resistance of Mazepin who swiftly charged to the lead, pulling out a 4.4-second margin at the chequered flag.
Ghiotto managed to scythe his way past Lundgaard in the dying stages to ensure the result was a Hitech GP 1-2.
Lundgaard had looked in complete control of the race and like his ART teammate Armstrong, both were on for a strong haul of points until the two late Safety Car interventions threw the race result on its head.
For Armstrong, ninth is his best result since the Red Bull Ring back in July and his first points finish in over 11 races. The Kiwi does, unfortunately, miss out on reverse grid pole for tonight’s final sprint race but will at least start inside the top-10.
On the circuit, behind Lundgaard was Juri Vips who benefited from the chaos to score his first F2 points in seventh and Artem Markelov who took eighth and reverse-grid pole for the sprint race.
Armstrong was ahead of former New Zealand Grand Prix winner Jehan Daruvala who extends his points-scoring streak from Monza in tenth.
Tsunoda was eighth on the road but took a five-second penalty for his role in the contact with Ticktum which left him 16th, one place ahead of the wounded Brit.
The final race of the weekend for the F2 paddock from Mugello and capping off a tripleheader of rounds will begin from 9.10 pm NZT tonight.
|19||Jack Aitken||+7 laps|
|20||Guanyu Zhou||+7 laps|
|21||Giuliano Alesi||+12 laps|
|Ret||Robert Shwartzman||+17 laps|