OPINIONS
Friday, Oct 4 06:00pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Where will Marcus Armstrong end up in 2020?

New Zealand’s next Formula 1 hopeful Marcus Armstrong has plenty to smile about, even if he hasn’t had it all go his way this year.

 

After eight rounds and 16 races all over Europe, Armstrong came up just short of the FIA Formula 3 Championship title to teammate Robert Shwartzman of Russia.

 

PREMA Racing led a one-two-three with Jehan Daruvala of India just in arrears of Armstrong. One bonus point for the fastest lap of the race in the final was enough to put the Kiwi one point clear. 

 

Formula 1 doesn’t seem so far away now, but where will Armstrong end up in 2020? 

 

Here are all the cards we think are on the table.

 

F3


Another season of Formula 3

 

At this point it might seem a bit redundant to do another season of Formula 3, after all, Armstrong has had three seasons of the Castrol Toyota Racing Series and two years of Formula 3 competition. 

 

It’s not unheard of though to do a third season of Formula 3. Jehan Daruvala contested two seasons of the now-defunct FIA European Formula 3 Championship before he joined the FIA Formula 3 Championship this year, once again with PREMA. 

 

Similarly, current Williams Racing driver George Russell contested two seasons of the European series before joining the GP3 Series (now Formula 3), then Formula 2 and now Formula 1. 

 

There are plenty more examples, like Valterri Bottas and Antonio Giovinazzi, but Russell is a prime illustration of someone who took the time to learn the feeder series’ before trying to make it right to the top.

 

Don’t rule out a third season of Formula 3 racing, but Armstrong is good enough to take the next step up to Formula 2. 

 

Sauber


FIA Formula 2 with Sauber Junior Team

 

Perhaps the most likely option for Marcus Armstrong for 2020 is to the Sauber Junior Team.

 

Formerly Charouz Racing System, the team from the Czech Republic are only in their second season of the FIA Formula 2 Championship. Unfortunately, they’ve not had much success. 

 

Ex-Ferrari Driver Academy pilot Antonio Fuoco holds both of the teams only wins from the 2018 season, and neither Callum Ilott nor Juan Manuell Correa has taken a win with them in 2019.

 

But why would Armstrong end up at the Sauber Junior Team? A lot of it has to do with the current state of PREMA. 

 

This year Mick Schumacher joined the team after winning the FIA European Formula 3 Championship in 2018. He was joined by Sean Galael of Indonesia, who this year is in his fifth full season of Formula 2 competition (make it six if you include a partial season in 2015).

 

Galael has a lot of money behind him, his father owns the KFC franchise in Indonesia. FIA Formula 3 champion Robert Shwartzman has a bit of backing too from SMP Racing, which is owned by Boris Rotenberg of SMP Bank in Russia.

 

With this year’s FIA Formula 3 title won, it would seem likely that PREMA and SMP would want Shwartzman to step up to the leading team in FIA Formula 2 and take the place of Galael. Having not had a lot of success this year, another season with PREMA in FIA Formula 2 seems certain for Schumacher. That means PREMA is full. 

 

Over the last two seasons, the Sauber Junior Team has taken on Ferrari Driver Academy pilots. Callum Ilott, a member of the FDA, may stick around in 2020. A pair of podiums have been encouraging, but the season has been largely unrewarding. 

 

As has been well documented, Juan Manuell Correa sustained life-threatening injuries in the crash that killed Anthoine Hubert of France. Correa, it would seem, will need a lot of time to recover before he is back in a race car. The full extent of his injuries hasn’t been revealed, but that could be a limiting factor in whether he ever gets back in a race car. 

 

With uncertainty around Correa, it may allow Armstrong to make a move into FIA Formula 2 via the Sauber Junior Team.


Mick 

FIA Formula 2 with PREMA 

 

Perhaps a not so farfetched option is that Armstrong ends up at PREMA in the FIA Formula 2 Championship.

 

It would appear unlikely that Mick Schumacher will depart PREMA at the end of the year. With one round remaining in the season, Schumacher has just one win to his name and no additional podiums. 

 

Funnily enough, it’s the same position he was in at the end of the 2017 season in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship, which he went on to win a year later. Lance Stroll followed a similar trajectory, finishing fifth in his debut Formula 3 season, then winning it a year later.

 

With that in mind, PREMA will probably keep Schumacher at Formula 2 level for another year to try and take a championship before moving him to Formula 1 as is hoped. 

 

One thing letting Schumacher down is his teammate, Sean Galael. He hasn’t been quick this season (or any season for that matter) and to have a quick teammate would do Schumacher some good.

 

Armstrong has shown he can adapt quickly and has Formula 1 simulator experience with Ferrari. While Robert Shwartzman may be the reigning Formula 3 champion, Armstrong was dealt some bad luck this season. 

 

His first non-scoring finish at the Red Bull Ring should have seen him win or get second. An innocuous penalty at Monza deprived him of another podium. Factor in a spin at Circuit Paul Ricard while challenging for the win and all those lost points probably would’ve seen him be crowned champion.

 

The Kiwi is arguably the stronger driver, even if the results don’t show it. For that reason, he should be in with a good shot of being alongside Schumacher in 2020. 

 

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