Marcus Armstrong came out on top in today’s FIA Formula 3 Free Practice, which sprung to life in the final few minutes at the Red Bull Ring. The PREMA man set a laptime of 1:19.396 to lead Trident’s Pedro Piquet and the much improved Christian Lundgaard of ART Grand Prix.
Niko Kari was first out on track in the stunning Spielberg scenery as the cars got used to a warm early morning in Austria. Jüri Vips set the bar at 1:22.686, but was quickly usurped by the ART machine of David Beckmann, with the team looking to bounce back after a sorry French weekend.
Championship leaders PREMA resisted the temptation to hit the track straight away and remained in the pits for the first ten minutes of the session. When their trio of drivers finally departed, they wasted no time in taking their customary place at the top of the standings, in the order of Robert Shwartzman, Jehan Daruvala and Marcus Armstrong.
Jenzer debutant Giorgio Carrara was impressing in his maiden F3 outing and made a surprise leap from 13th to 3rd with 10 minutes to go, despite his lack of experience in the machinery. He later dropped down the order at the hands of PREMA, before falling further and finishing in 24th.
Jake Hughes had shown impressive pace in Le Castellet last week and was looking to continue this form as he broke up the all PREMA front three to sit second behind Shwartzman.
Having acclimatised to the track, the session got going with five minutes remaining as the drivers tested out the limits of the Red Bull Ring. Beckmann, Lundgaard and Piquet all had turns at the top of the table, with Logan Sargeant and Hughes pushing them close in the positions behind. The Brazilian was the man to hold onto the position and looked to cement this going into the final few minutes.
Their speed saw the PREMA duo of Shwartzman and Daruvala – both race winners in France – pushed down to eighth and ninth. The laptimes kept on coming, but Piquet appeared uncatchable out in front.
With one final lap to switch up the order, Shwartzman was unable to improve on P8 and teammate Daruvala could only achieve P6. It was the third PREMA of Armstrong who managed to dethrone Piquet, setting a laptime of 1:19.396 to steal P1 at the death.
He was followed by the Brazilian from Trident and Lundgaard, with Beckmann fourth and Vips fifth. Daruvala, Leonardo Pulcini, Shwartzman, Kari and Max Fewtrell completed the top ten.
The teams will continue their attempts to break up the PREMA dominance when action returns this evening at 5.50pm for Qualifying in Spielberg.