The first race at the new Jeddah Corniche Street Circuit in Saudi Arabia saw DAMS New Zealand driver Marcus Armstrong take his first victory in two years of F2.
“It feels fantastic, because it’s been sort of a tough 18 months in general, so to finally get a trophy let alone a first-place one; it feels good definitely, also to see the smile on a lot of my engineers faces and my mechanics as well. It’s a great reward for a lot of work that hasn’t really been rewarded so far this season.”
Despite having three podiums to his name over two years of racing in Formula 2 prior to this round, Marcus Armstrong had never won in the category. The DAMS driver has shown pace all season long but has not capitalised on this with just four points finishes up to this point in the season. Starting in 2nd, this was a huge opportunity for the Kiwi to change all this.
Fellow Kiwi and Hitech driver Liam Lawson lined up on Pole in the reverse-grid sprint with Armstrong alongside in second. Off the line Armstrong got the better start with Lawson struggling with wheel spin. The DAMS driver then took the lead into the first corner and despite a restart due to Safety Car period, Armstrong held the lead from a charging Lawson at the end to take the chequered flag.
“I wasn’t expecting to outdo Liam [Lawson] the way I did, just due to the fact that the left side of the track is quite dirty seeing as no other cars have ever raced here. There wasn’t any rubber laid down as opposed to the other side of the track being a bit more rubbered-in.”
“We were lucky not to make contact at turn one because I’m sure he [Liam Lawson] was on the limit of the grip under breaking and I certainly was as well. Two Kiwis going wheel-to-wheel at turn one, it was getting dicey but it was cool.”
After gaining the lead, Armstrong had to deal with a Safety Car period, however he had no problems at the restart and did well to choose the right moment to pull away from Lawson. After the race, speaking to selected media including F1 Feeder Series, he commented on his decision-making process regarding the Safety Car restart.
“I was thinking during the Safety Car and to be honest last night as well where was the best place to do a Safety Car restart. It’s very unclear here. Both times I went in a similar position, just due to the fact that Liam can only get on the throttle so early. I thought that was a reasonably safe place to go. I could have done a Verstappen and wait until the control line but it’s also a bit unclear where the control line is. Maybe Max will take the risk if he’s leading at some point this weekend but for me I was just happy to do a very stop standard and take my chances down to turn one.”
With this unique track only being finished within the last week, the level of preparation was key to performing this weekend. Armstrong spoke about what he has recently been doing to allow him to have the pace to win in the first race on this new track.
“We did a ridiculous amount of simulator [work]. Also, in Maranello I was lucky enough to do a few laps. I’ve done a million laps on the simulator in Maranello and also in Le Mans at the DAMS factory. We definitely don’t lack on the preparation phase of a race weekend. I think it’s well deserved for all of us.”
Armstrong spoke about the degree of pace that he has had throughout the season, especially on street circuits and how this result was not a surprise to him or his team.
“I would rank it among the most satisfying but I think above all it was a really good reward to my engineers who have done a fantastic job this year. For one reason or another the result hasn’t come previously. On other street circuits, in Baku for example we deserved a lot more and even in Monaco as well. It seems there’s a trend. We deserve good results on street tracks. Obviously, we have two more races, I think that the rest of the weekend can be quite strong as well.”
The victory is also DAMS first victory of the F2 season as a team, who have unusually struggled in 2021. Armstrong may have ticked off a big target of his but doesn’t view this achievement as being one that will affect his confidence too much.
“To be honest I don’t think it’s going to change a lot in terms of my confidence. In my opinion I was always capable of doing it, it was just a matter of putting it all on the table. Obviously, a trophy is only a representation of what we have been working towards. It’s not going to give me a massive boost of confidence. It’s going to be nice to put next to the TV though.”
“Yet again I know that in four hours’ time I’ll be back on track for another race. We can’t really linger on the enjoyment, we need to crack on and get straight back into it.”
Feature Race starts on Sunday morning at 14:25 GMT (15:25 CET).
Header photo credit: Formula Motorsport Ltd