Marcus Armstrong has got no further than four turns in the opening FIA Formula 2 race from the Spanish Grand Prix after the Kiwi was shuffled wide and beached himself into the gravel trap.
Armstrong was undoubtedly hoping for a drastic shift in momentum but instead lined up 19th in yet another disappointing qualifying session.
His lap one retirement also means the Kiwi will start last for the second sprint race but has a glimmer of hope after series veteran Nobuharu Matsushita took an unlikely feature race win from 18th on the grid courtesy of some late Safety Cars.
Matsushita donned a second set of soft tyres 12 laps from home when Sean Gelael and Giuliano Alesi clashed, spinning the Frenchman and deploying the race’s second Safety Car.
Falling down the order, the tyre benefit of the Japanese driver swiftly guided him towards the front and after pulling off late moves on Callum Ilott and Yuki Tsunoda before the third and final Safety Car was deployed with a handful of laps left, the MP Motorsport machine found himself in a surprise lead.
Roy Nissany was the cause of the final full-course caution as the Israeli pilot careened into the barriers at the sweeping Turn 3.
This left a one-lap shootout and Ilott, who had also pitted for another set of soft tyres under caution, struggled to match the pace of Matsushita and surrendered further positions to Robert Shwartzman and Guanyu Zhou.
Tsunoda was one of only a few drivers who did not pit a second time and clung onto fourth at the line as Ilott slumped further to end up fifth despite looking set for victory only a couple of laps from the chequered flag.
Matsushita held on to pick up his seventh GP2/F2 race win having been in the series for five seasons but was his first with MP Motorsport.
For Armstrong, Austria and the Red Bull Ring seem a world away for the Ferrari Academy racer who has now gone seven races without scoring a point and has slumped to 12th in the drivers’ championship.
2020 is looking dire for the Kiwi and he desperately needs a change in fortunes if he is to challenge for a competitive championship position.
ART teammate Christian Lundgaard fared no better in today’s Feature Race, finishing 11th after a late collapse and his consequently fallen to third to the points race.
F2 will have one more race from Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya today with the reverse top-8 race slated for 9.10 pm NZT.
|18||Jack Aitken||+1 lap|
|19||Sean Gelael||+1 lap|