Marcus Armstrong has clinched the Italian Formula 4 title by finishing second in the opening race at Monza behind winner Artem Petrov.
Ferrari Driver Academy ace Armstrong started the race from pole position and opened up a decent lead on the first lap as Petrov battled his way past Job van Uitert and Lorenzo Colombo to move into second.
Petrov then chased down Armstrong and passed him down the pit straight just before a mid-race safety car period for a collision between Jenzer drivers Federico Malvestiti and Giorgio Carrara at Paraboilca that left both cars stranded in the gravel trap.
Armstrong’s championship rival Van Uitert had fallen down the order on the first lap, partly due to contact with Ian Rodriguez on the entry to Ascari that sent the Jenzer driver through the gravel trap before rejoining.
He recovered to seventh before the safety car intervention, and then made up another three places soon after the restart to get onto the tail of Armstrong, who had lost out to Lorenzo Colombo into the first chicane a lap after the restart.
One lap later Van Uitert got past Armstrong for third place – a result that would have allowed him to take the title fight into Sunday’s races, when Armstrong would have to start race two of the weekend from the back of the grid?due to a technical issue in qualifying.
Armstrong immediately fought back however to regain the position into the second chicane, and he would go on to reclaim second from Colombo before the end, finishing nearly six seconds behind first-time winner Petrov.
Van Uitert would also pass Colombo for third despite getting two wheels in the gravel on the exit of the first chicane when setting up the move.
That wasn’t enough to prevent Armstrong becoming champion, as the New Zealander now has a 56-point advantage at the top of the standings, or 52 points when dropped scores are factored in, with the drivers’ best 16 results from the 21 races counting towards the final tally.
“To be honest I didn’t know I’d won,” said Armstrong, who looks likely to step up to Formula 3 next season.
“I only found out after I crossed the line, because before the race the team literally said nothing.”
Rodriguez finished fourth ahead of Colombo, with Kush Maini beating Sebastian Fernandez and Leonardo Lorandi to sixth.
Armstrong’s Prema team-mate Enzo Fittipaldi was ninth, with Giacomo Bianchi 10th.