Marcus Armstrong's stellar march towards his coveted goal of being a Formula 1 driver has hit a bit of a speed bump, as the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the world's physical race tracks and put paid to any racing globally.
The Kiwi Ferrari Driver Academy inductee has an impressive record over his short career, having already finished in the top three at season's end in the Italian Formula 4 (he won), German ADAC Formula 4, Toyota Racing Series and the FIA Formula 3 championship.
It came as no real surprise that Formula 2 (old GP2) would be his gig for 2020, having signed with the multiple-championship winning ART Grand Prix team. Yet to race a F2 car in anger, Armstrong was a quick study during preseason testing and was quickly on the pace from the get-go.
"Straight of the bat I've felt really comfortable in an F2 car," said Armstrong. "It's a bit of a shame that everything has been pushed back and there's nothing anyone can do about it, but it's the same for everyone.
"No one's getting any advantage at the moment so that's fine by me. I can't wait to get back in the car though."
Junior formula cars are different in their own way, but the step from F3 to F2 is by far the biggest leap. These cars are more akin to their bigger brothers in F1 than anything Armstrong has driven before.
"The cars are quite different [F3 to F2]. The fundamentals though are quite similar with aero and tyre grip, but stepping into F2 everything is so exaggerated. If you're not doing something well in F3 you'll soon get caught out.
"The power is almost double and the cars are much quicker in a straight line. One of the big differences is that F2 cars have carbon brakes whereas F3 is still steel, and of course the tyres are bigger," said Armstrong.
ART is generally regarded as the best F2 team — their F3 team isn't too shabby either — and has an enviable track record of developing and producing F1 talent. Current F1 drivers who graduated from ART's F2/GP2 programme are Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes, Lando Norris at McLaren, Romain Grosjean at HAAS, Charles Leclerc at Ferrari, Pierre Gasly at Toro Rosso, Alex Albon at Red Bull and George Russell at Williams.
A pretty useful lineage you'd think and more so if you include former luminaries such as Sebastien Vettel (F3 Euro), Valtteri Bottas (F3 Euro), Nico Hulkenburg (GP2) and Kiwi Richie Stanaway in his GP3 days.
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"The team's history is quite special and many of the mechanics and engineers have been with ART from the [Lewis] Hamilton days," says Armstrong.
"For example, my chief engineer used to be Hamilton's in 2006. I really like picking his brains about what he [Hamilton] was like and hearing about what his and other driver's strengths and weaknesses were and how they coped with everything," said Armstrong.
The 19-year-old has been back in New Zealand during the pandemic and while it's been good to be back home and have the distraction of pseudo racing via the simulated iRacing platform, he's very keen to get back to Europe and put virtual sim racing behind him.
"I'm lucky enough to have a gym at the house and I've been training hard. I've not really been that much of a sim racer. I've been practicing recently though, as the Academy has an esports team and I've been racing with them, which is very cool as they are really good on a sim.
"I still haven't done enough sim racing to be any good and I didn't tell anyone that I was doing the Racing Local last Friday. I sort of did okay.
"The sim we have back at the factory (Ferrari) is for developing the car, not racing, so it's quite different. It's in its own big room and has full movement.
"iRacing is a game, which is very different to developing a car. It's been fun to be back home but I can't wait now to get back to Europe and get into the car for real."