New Zealand racing driver Marcus Armstrong has put his preparation behind him and is ready to do battle as the 2018 FIA Formula 3 European Championship opens this weekend at Pau in France.
Armstrong, 17, has one simple aim. He wants to be champion in his rookie year, and he believes his team (Prema PowerTeam), engineer and mechanics can help him achieve that goal. It is the last year for the current version of Formula 3, and thus a chance to write his name large in the history books.
“This season is going to be a good one. There are a number of championship contenders and all the teams and engine manufacturers want to stamp their claim on this F3, seeing as it’s the last year. My intention is to be champion in my rookie season. If there is a year that a rookie can do it, I believe it’s this year,” he said.
He has rivals a-plenty. With Prema running its biggest team ever in Formula 3 Euro, Armstrong says he faces the toughest battle within his own team.
“I think all five of the Prema drivers are in contention for the title. It’s a strong and experienced line-up which is great because we are always learning from each other. My challenge is to be the best of them,” he said.
Others likely to feature among the 23-strong entry list include Alex Palou, Sascha Fenestraz, Dan Ticktum, and Ferdinand Habsburg.
The car, he says, is very well developed for this year.
“The F3 car is really quite special. The aero is very well developed and the car is light [535 kg minimum] which means at times we are cornering at speeds second only to F1. That’s really exciting.”
Additional key pieces of the F3 operation are the engineer and mechanics. With a French engineer and Italian mechanics, Armstrong says, he is learning Italian as he goes along.
“I’m lucky to have a very experienced engineer this season, in previous years he has worked with Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon. My mechanics don’t speak much English but to be honest I enjoy making small talk with them in Italian!”
In preparation for the championship, Ferrari Driver Academy member Armstrong says he has been working up to seven days a week.
“Since I left New Zealand it’s been very busy. We’ve had a few Ferrari training camps plus one Prema training camp which was more of a team-building excercise. Between that we have had five pre-season tests, so I’ve been kept quite busy. Then whenever we have a free Friday, myself, Antonio Fuoco, Callum Ilott, Guan Yu Zhou will go KZ training in Lonato with a team based in Maranello.”
Armstrong says he knows the importance of nutrition in any athlete’s event preparation, and tries to eat mindfully – but this may also have been helped by the fact he hasn’t learned to cook any local dishes.
“First up I’m a terrible cook! Luckily where we live in Maranello there are a few restaurants, so we mainly stick to them. I prefer to stay away from the pizza, so much so I’m not even sure I’ve had a proper pizza since I’ve been living here. I try to eat half healthy, whereas Callum for example, basically lives on spaghetti Bolognese!”
Armstrong says the 2.76 km street circuit is spectacular but challenging, narrow in places and with plenty of kerbs and unexpected footpath edges to catch out the unwary. He is unfazed by the prospect of starting the season on a street circuit.
“This is what I’m here for, and it’s the same for each driver. I can’t wait!”