THOUGHTS FROM ARMSTRONG, SHWARTZMAN AND KARI
FIA Formula 3: Hello and welcome to today’s FIA Formula 3 press conference following the opening race here at Sochi. We are joined by the top three finishers from Race 1. Your race winner Marcus Armstrong from PREMA Racing, in second place newly crowned FIA Formula 3 Drivers’ Champion Robert Shwartzman from PREMA Racing, and in third place Niko Kari from Trident. Robert, first of all, many congratulations on winning the championship. We will obviously discuss your season a little later on and so first we will focus on today’s race. Marcus, congratulations to you on your race win. You said yesterday you had nothing to lose compared to your PREMA teammates and that showed with your rapid start to take the lead. You had to battle back to take the win in the end though, so can you talk us through the race from your point of view?
Marcus Armstrong: I made it harder for myself than I would have liked in the end. I started well off the line and down to Turn 2 to take the lead. I tried to build a gap but these guys were very quick behind me and we traded places a few times before the end. I’m sure that was exciting for everyone, certainly the last few laps were probably the hardest I’ve pushed in a while… since yesterday afternoon [laughs], but I’m really happy to have won and congratulations to Robert.
FIA Formula 3: Going wheel-to-wheel with Robert, your teammate, in that final fight… How much was knowing that he was in the title race on your mind? Was that ever a consideration?
Marcus: To be honest, no. I knew he was not going to do anything stupid like move under brakes or anything like that. You can say that I didn’t risk, but I took my chances at the first corner. Credit to Robert because he’s a smart driver. I knew we was not going to just chop me halfway through the braking. To be fair I think I would have done that move if it was anyone else, so yeah I’m very pleased.
FIA Formula 3: Well done today. Robert congratulations again on your title win, how much fun were those battles out there today? Niko and Marcus really pushed you.
Robert Shwartzman: It was fun. The start was tricky. I didn’t have a really bad start but I saw Marcus had one a bit better and with the tow he managed to get past. After Turn 2 I was behind him in second place and my target was just to take it easy and not make any stupid mistakes, because of the title fight, and generally there is no point of killing the tyres or doing something crazy. I was just taking it easy at the beginning. I saw Niko was behind me, and it just started to rain and then we had a few virtual safety cars and a safety car. After the restart I made a mistake in the last corner when I sort of snapped it and spun the wheels. I didn’t have a good exit so Niko used it to pass me on the straight with the tow. I let him go and was in P3. For like three or four laps in front of me I saw Niko was really fast and catching Marcus so I knew that my pace was not good enough at that stage to fight with them. I was trying to save the tyres and then they started fighting with each other. Marcus made a mistake in Turn 2 so I got past him and was in P2. A few laps later with the tow I managed to get past Niko and my target then was just to get a decent gap. Until the last lap I was leading but I didn’t have amazing pace, I was starting to have difficulties with the tyres, and then Marcus tried to launch a move for the win on the last lap which is normal. I knew that it was stupid to risk it in the situation I was in, so I didn’t do anything stupid and we went side-by-side. He went past me and I was hoping that if I could stay behind him in the second straight then I could manage to get him back but I just didn’t have enough grip. He was really fast, did a really good lap, and good job to him for a nice move. Now it’s time to relax because the pressure, especially this weekend, was quite high.
FIA Formula 3: It was a very special weekend for you, racing on home soil for you as well for the first time here in Sochi. Massive cheers up there for you on the podium. How important has it been to you to be so successful here at your home race?
Robert: It is really important. I’m really proud of my fans and that they’re supporting me. I think it was the first time for me to have the whole crowd cheering. It feels great. It feels amazing. Also in Monza it was really nice. The last two races have just been awesome from the fans.
FIA Formula 3: Well done today. Niko, moving on to you now. You really took the fight to PREMA boys in the early part of the race. How much fun were those battles?
Niko Kari: It was really fun for me. Basically I tried to push them as hard as I could in the beginning because I knew that our pace would not be the same as them. I just gave it all in the beginning and hoped that the tyres would last a little bit better towards the end, but they didn’t, obviously. I tried my best and gave it all today, but I ended up with P3 and I’m pretty okay with that.
FIA Formula 3: It’s your first podium finish since the opening round of the season as well. Are you please to ending the season on such a high note?
Niko: Yeah, obviously it’s always good to end the season on a high. We have had some issues in the middle of season I would say. In most of the rounds we analysed a lot of data during the summer break and I think we turned things around a little bit. It has probably helped us a lot more.
FIA Formula 3: Well done today. Marcus, moving back to you now. On the reverse grid you’ll be starting P8 tomorrow, but we saw today that you have little trouble overtaking around here. How excited are you about the prospect of charging through the field?
Marcus: Very excited. I don’t know what the weather is going to do tomorrow. Robert probably knows…
Robert: [Laughs]. It’s better not to take my thoughts about weather into consideration! Yesterday I thought it was going to rain today and it didn’t really, so it’s better not to listen to my thoughts!
Marcus: Probably going to snow then [laughs]. Whatever happens it’s going to be fun because just like yesterday when I sat here and said that I’ve got nothing to lose, so it’s going to be good fun. Also, Robert’s got nothing to lose now [laughs], so it could be a good finish to the season!