Most of young Kiwi race driver Marcus Armstrong's friends in New Zealand are studying to become teachers, accountants or lawyers. The 17-year-old has spent 2017 studying to become a Formula One driver.

Armstrong has spent a year in Italy at the Ferrari Young Driver Academy along with five other drivers learning all the different aspects of elite level single-seater racing. In most regards it is just like school.

"You get an email each day with a comprehensive schedule for the following day," Armstrong told the Weekend Herald.

"A pretty standard day would be simulator in the morning - say from 8.30 to lunchtime. After that we go to the gym with trainers. Sometimes they can be twice a day.


"We have some mental trainers there with us.

"Every day I rock up at the Ferrari track and you walk through the gates and there is a track there and cars are being tested."

Armstrong had a busy race schedule as well, competing in the Italian and German Formula 4 championships, so a lot of time during the week was spent on preparing for the race weekend.

It worked well with the Christchurch-born teenager securing the Italian title and narrowly missing out on the German one.

He saw significant benefit in his training in specific areas, reaction times being an obvious example. At the academy he would often work on his reaction times by touching shapes that lit up randomly on a wall.

"That is part of the mental training - it is not too complicated really," Armstrong explained.

"That is one thing that has helped a lot.

"Quite simply the reaction times at the start because I remember when I first started my engineer was giving me crap because I wasn't quick enough in the reaction and launch and by the end of the season there was no one that could get off the line as quick as I could."


The results are clear to see. Armstrong has advanced his career significantly this year and has earned a Ferrari-backed Formula 3 drive with the leading Prema outfit in 2018.

He is on the fast track to Formula 1 and it wouldn't be unreasonable to think that he could emulate what fellow Kiwi Brendon Hartley has done in the next couple of years.

"Between the FDA and Prema I have grown a lot," he admitted. "It has opened my eyes a little bit to everything that goes on to being the best.

"They have a lot of experience. I react better to the stories of what the top guys would do. For example what Fernando Alonso would do in a certain situation.

"Without a doubt I have grown a lot this year."

But while the idea of Formula 1 school might seem like the dream job for a young race driver there are hard parts as well. Armstrong has little time for socialising and is a long way from family.

"It is not easy but it is only difficult because I want to do the best job possible," he said. "If I slacked off and took a rest day every now and then it wouldn't be as difficult but I want to make the best of the opportunity I have every day.

"I am used to being away from family. I still have to answer the phone to my dad twice a day."

"In terms of relaxing, I do have the weekends so it is similar to school in that regard."

He also struck up a close friendship with Italian driver Antonio Fuoco.

"Antonio - he is quite social - he likes to go out for dinner every single night. He has been almost a big brother to me this year. He did F2 this year and is 21.

"The other guys I don't spend that much time with because they tend to keep to themselves but Antonio and I spend quite a bit of time together."

Thanks in part to that friendship and having spent a year in Italy, the Kiwi's Italian is improving, too.

"It is getting there. I have a wee bit of a way to go but hopefully this time next year I am fluent."

Armstrong is back in New Zealand for the holiday period and will contest the Toyota Racing Series in January and February where he will be one of the favourites for the title.

After that, it is back to Maranello for year two at the academy.