It’s quite astonishing to realise that Ferrari had no less than five of their Academy drivers on the grid for F2 2020. While Schumacher, Ilott and Shwartzman all starred in the championship battle, Guiliano Alesi had a season to forget. And somewhere in the middle of these was Marcus Armstrong.
Marcus Armstrong: Early Years
Hailing from Christchurch New Zealand, Armstrong began karting at the age of 10 in 2010. Armstrong began car racing in the Toyota Finance 86 Championship in 2013 and remained in the championship for the next 3 years. He made his single-seater debut in New Zealand Formula Ford in 2014.
Single-seaters with British F3, Formula Renault and Italian/German F4
In 2016 Armstrong made the move to Europe to compete in British Formula 3 along with Formula Renault 2.0 and Formula Renault Eurocup. His results in the 7 races across the three series were not spectacular but generated enough buzz for Ferrari to sign him to their Driver Academy in November that year. Following that news, Marcus hopped back to New Zealand to compete in the winter Toyota Racing Series. Three wins saw him finish fourth overall.
2017 saw Armstrong driving for the mighty Prema Powerteam in ADAC F4 (German F4) and Italian F4. It was a fantastic season for the young Kiwi, scooping the title in Italy and finishing runner up to Juri Vips in the German series. A further winter campaign in the Toyota Racing Series saw Armstrong finish 3rd in the standings.
Marcus Armstrong joins Formula 3
Prema retained Armstrong for 2018 but this time he would be racing in European F3. It was a strong field boasting the likes of Mick Schumacher, Dan Ticktum, Jehan Daruvala and Robert Shwartzman. Armstrong won a race at Norisring to go with another 9 podiums. He would finish the season a creditable 5th which included 9th place at the legendary Macau Grand Prix.
Armstrong’s third Toyota Racing Campaign saw him win 5 races but he missed out on the title to Red Bull backed Liam Lawson. Returning to Europe, Armstrong competed in the inaugural FIA F3 championship which had replaced GP3. A strong campaign with a Sochi Feature race win and Sprint victories at Hungary and Spa saw Armstrong finish runner-up to teammate Shwartzman. His second Macau visit saw Armstrong fight through the field to finish 8th from 17th on the grid.
Marcus Armstrong’s promotion to Formula 2
On November 28th, 2019, ART Grand Prix announced Armstrong as one of their drivers in the 2020 FIA Formula 2 Championship. He would be teaming up with Renault Sport Academy driver, Christian Lundgaard.
The season started strongly with 2nd at the Red Bull Ring in the Feature race and 3rd in the Sprint race for the Spielberg round. As the season progressed, though, it seemed as if Armstrong and ART were not gelling as a cohesive unit. Peter Windsor commented that ART does seem to focus on a single driver, and often it will take a forceful and headstrong driver to get the most from working with ART. By the end of the year, Armstrong had slipped to 13th overall in the standings.
Following post-season testing with the DAMS team, it seems likely that the French team will be Armstrong’s new home for 2021.
Marcus Armstrong: GP Grandstand F1 Seat Prediction
The jury is still out on Marcus Armstrong. Obviously quick and talented, that is a given. But the lower tiers of the motorsport ladder are stacked with quick and talented drivers right now.
The bottleneck of those 20 coveted F1 seats is only going to get narrower and harder to get through as we see teams opting for elder statesmen like Alonso and Raikkonen. Others are putting the sponsor or owner’s son in the car like Stroll, Latifi and the second Haas seat.
Removing a quarter of the possible F1 drives with the above means a quick and talented driver probably won’t even make the cut, sadly. Superstar talents only need apply. The question is whether Marcus Armstrong is a superstar talent. 2021 is going to be an important year for his career.