Marcus Armstrong has come from last to 15th in the final FIA Formula 2 race of the weekend from the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya as the Ferrari Academy driver ran into tyre degradation trouble over the final few laps.
Having retired on the opening lap in the Feature Race, the Kiwi was forced to start from the last row of the grid but made amends for his error with a dazzling opening lap highlighted by a daring outside move at Turn 1.
But a potential outside look at a top-ten result unfortunately faded away for Armstrong who encountered indecently fast wear on his hard tyres to slump to 15th in the final two laps.
There were no such dramas for Felipe Drugovich who put in a commanding performance to claim the spoils today, his second visit to the top step of the podium in 2020.
A fantastic getaway by Drugovich had the MP Motorsport driver sail away from the field as pole-sitter Luca Ghiotto came out trumps in a duel with Callum Ilott for second.
But it was Armstrong who impressed on Lap 1 as a scintillating launch coupled by a daring move around the outside of several rivals promoted the Kiwi up six spots to sit 16th. He would keep touch with Jack Aitken ahead across most of the opening stages of the race, the margin fluctuating between five-tenths and one second.
The sister ART of Christian Lundgaard fared little better as he became mired behind an ailing Louis Deletraz in a lively scrap for tenth.
The new 18-inch wheels implemented into F2 for this year have caused strategic nightmares in recent races due to their rapid falloff and short-lived life; and like yesterday’s Feature Race drivers began to trot along a significantly slower pace as they battled through the graining phase.
Ghiotto was losing time hand over fist to Drugovich, the margin out to eight seconds with over ten laps in hand. But the stubborn defence by the Italian resisted the attacks of Ilott and Mick Schumacher for the second spot on the rostrum.
Armstrong’s recovery drive was then compounded when he became stuck behind a wounded Aitken who had run out of tyre life. The Kiwi lost 16th to an opportunistic Roy Nissany only to regain the position when the Israeli driver made a forceful move on Aitken at Turn 1, forcing the Brit wide and presenting an opportunity for Armstrong to sweep pass.
A couple of drivers experimented with the alternative one-stop tyre strategy which in recent past has proven to be a race-winning call. The likes of Robert Shwartzman and Dan Ticktum ditched their lifeless hard tyres for a set of softs with a little under ten laps in hand.
Up front, Ilott had a horrid 22nd lap to fall behind Schumacher and Yuki Tsunoda to be demoted off the podium. Though it was his UNI Virtuosi teammate Guanyu Zhou who came out worse just two spots behind when the Chinese racer locked the fronts at Turn 1 and was compelled to pit as his front left tyre punctured in the process.
Armstrong was showing no signs of a need to pit having found himself in 13th as he hounded at the rear wing of fellow Toyota Racing Series graduate Artem Markelov. But the pair were no match for Ticktum who was electric on his new set of soft tyres as the Brit charged from 20th to 11th in the final few laps.
Armstrong eventually got ahead of Markelov on the final tour but was demoted to 15th at the chequered flag as he was powerless in defence from the likes of Shwartzman and Zhou who both were sporting fresh tyres.
Drugovich would easily cruise to a dominant race win ahead of a fortunate Ghiotto and Schumacher who both managed to eke out enough tyre life to make it to the flag.
Armstrong meanwhile leaves Spain with yet another pointless haul, his fourth in as many events as the Kiwi turns his attention to Spa in Belgium in hope of a shift in fortunes.