A triple podium finish at the penultimate round has propelled Christchurch driver Marcus Armstrong closer to the Italian Formula 4 Championship powered by Abarth title.
Racing on the 5.2 km Mugello circuit under cloudy skies that threatened but never delivered rain, Armstrong was second in the first race, won the second race from pole position and was third in the final race of the weekend.
In race one, Venezuelan driver Sebastian Fernandez had pole but was pressured from the start by Armstrong in an aggressive challenge for the lead.
Fernandez eventually got a gap on the Kiwi, who held second well clear of third-placed Lorenzo Colombo (Italy). Armstrong’s team-mate, Enzo Fittipaldi, was fifth.
Armstrong (16) said he was happy with the result, which enabled him to add to his points tally.
“I had a good early battle with Fernandez for the lead but second at the finish is great. At this late stage in the Championship I’m focussed on the title so I wasn’t going to do anything silly in order to win,” he said.
Armstrong had pole and took an immediate lead in the second race on Sunday morning. Immediately behind him his championship rival Job van Uitert held second but Colombo slid off at the first corner, forcing a pace car period and putting Armstrong under pressure to again dominate the restart.
Key to the restart is keeping enough heat in the race cars’ slick tyres. When the race went ‘green’ Armstrong leapt out to a commanding lead while his rivals struggled to bring their tyres back to race temperature, locking their brakes as they jostled for position.
Loranzo Lorandi put van Uitert under pressure, attacking at every corner but then found himself challenged by Indian driver Kush Maini and had to defend his position, enabling van Uitert to consolidate second place.
Lorenzo Colombo, third in the championship, did not finish.
In the third race of the weekend Armstrong was once more locked in battle with van Uitert; third placed Lorandi was close behind. On the fourth lap the Guatemalan driver Ian Rodriguez left the circuit which brought out the Safety Car. When racing resumed van Uitert received a drive-through for jumping the start but it was Fernandez who capitalised, closing on Armstrong.
He overtook the Kiwi four laps further into the race. Artem Petrov and Armstrong then fought for second place, the Russian taking the position at the flag.
“The car was great, we managed to stay clear of the incidents that brought out the safety car and three podium finishes take us closer to our goal. All in all I am happy with the weekend’s results. Now for the final,” Armstrong said.
The Championship battle will go to the final round at Monza on 22 October.