Young New Zealander Marcus Armstrong is at the last round of the 2017 ADAC FIA Formula 4 championship this weekend at Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. The Kiwi has a slender two-point advantage over his Prema Powerteam teammate Juri Vips and is hoping to seal his first international series on Monday [NZT].
"That was a good weekend at the Sachsenring [last round where he finished third, second and sixth]. But the lead is only minimal, which should make for a very interesting finale at the Hockenheimring," Armstrong said from Italy.
Another New Zealand young gun cleaning up overseas is nothing new these days, especially so with the number of Kiwi drivers competing abroad. However, what is remarkable in Armstrong's case is that he's also contesting and leading the Italian Formula 4 championship. In this series his lead is healthier at 17 points over Job van Uitert with just two rounds to go in October.
"To be honest it's a little disappointing that it hasn't happened earlier [leading both series]. Obviously the main target is to win both championships and so far so good. We want to perform really well at each race and we have been doing that most of the time.
"It's going to be hard to maintain the results but I'm confident we can. Although it's the same team and car in each series we struggle at the German tracks, but are okay on the Italian tracks. Prema has a lot of experience on Italian circuits but not so much in Germany, so it's difficult to get pole for every race.
"In saying that, we all have done a pretty mega job of getting the car set up well for the German tracks this season. At the beginning of the season we struggled at lot, but now we are getting pole positions, which is good. We have improved the car dramatically this season."
The FIA Formula 4 championship's asset is that, like a number of other single-seater series (F1, GP2, GP3), the cars are all the same which allows young drivers to experience tracks in different countries at an early age.
"At some stage there could be a European championship made up of the countries who race Formula 4. At the moment a lot of drivers do both championships so it could expand," he said.
The 17-year-old is also part of the Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA), which in the past eight years has produced three Formula One drivers - Jules Bianchi, Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll. The FDA is based on the principle set out by Enzo Ferrari when he said: "I love to think that Ferrari can create drivers as much as cars."
The aim of the FDA is to provide support for young young drivers for their growth from a personal point of view, to develop their driving skills, their physical training, to become familiar with the economics of the sport and it aims to help the drivers engage with the media.
In other words, the FDA want the drivers in the programme to live and breath all aspects of motorsport 24 hours a day.
"The academy is brilliant and we work very hard and at the moment we're working on mental toughness and it's almost like being at school here in Maranello. A typical day is fitness training in the morning, mental strengths in the afternoon, then some simulator testing followed by Italian lessons.
"The programme here is quite different from the one [Elite Motorsport Academy] I did in New Zealand. That one was fantastic for all the knowledge I learned at the time and the philosophies are the same.
"It's just that here the people you work with and train with are different and the simulators are better. We use the same gym as all the other Ferrari drivers. Kimi [Raikkonen and Seb [Vettel] don't spend as much time in Maranello as the GT drivers like Giancarlo Fisichella do.
"In fact we went on a training camp with Fisichella last week, which was great as I used to watch him [F1] growing up.
"Next month we have a day karting and Vettel will be there as might be Raikkonen, which is cool," said Armstrong.
The young Kiwi is concentrating on getting through the last rounds of both his title races, rather than what next year will bring. He is, however, pretty confident he'll be contesting either Formula 3 or GP3, but will let others make that decision while he concentrates on winning races.