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  • Dan Mason

Christian Mansell Charges To Superb Podium In FIA F3 Season Opener

Christian Mansell put in a star performance to surge to a podium finish on his ART GP debut in the 2024 FIA Formula 3 Championship season opener at Bahrain in front of the F1 crowds this past weekend (29 February -02 March).

The young Australian charger headed to the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain armed with a new squad by his side in ART Grand Prix, with eyes set on a strong second season in Formula 3 after claiming two podium finishes in his first full campaign last year.

Mansell, who resides in Newcastle, New South Wales, arrived fresh from strong running in recent pre-season testing at the same circuit as he aimed to translate his pace into a point-scoring start to the season. Free practice proved encouraging and that optimism was confirmed in Thursday's crucial qualifying session. Mansell, backed by AJM Transport, Castrol, Vawdrey Trailers, Sargeant Transport and Ultimate Driving Tours, came out of the blocks impressively and put himself right in the mix - finishing a competitive eighth in the final times.

The top-12 reverse grid system therefore placed the 19-year-old rising star fifth for the sprint race on Friday, with eyes set on the podium places ahead of him. Despite falling to eighth into the first corner when the lights went out, the Aussie fought up to seventh place and got the better of rival Sami Meguetounif with a great retaliation into Turn One a few laps later.

As the race drew on, tyres and set-up characteristics began to affect the field in different ways. For Mansell, it went in the opposite direction to what was planned as he found himself marred in a battling pack, coming home an unrepresentative 14th by the chequered flag with his focus shifting quickly to Saturday's feature race.

Changes made for the following day, the Rush Performance, Infinity Sports Management, IOR Petroleum, AMSL Diabetes Australia and NTI-backed driver started eighth for the 22-lapper and instantly showed he was up for the challenge, dodging a slow car and bravely sweeping around the outside into fifth place exiting the first three corners.

That soon became fourth thanks to a supreme late-braking move up the inside of Santiago Ramos into the downhill Turn Eight hairpin - a move he would further put into practice two laps later when he repeated the lunge successfully on Tim Tramnitz to move into the podium places.

With pace and confidence on his side, Mansell was far from finished, and on lap five he was up to second with a third example of demon late braking at the same downhill right-hander to dispose of Meguetounif's Trident car. The former Euroformula Open, GB3 and British F4 race-winner set his sights on a maiden FIA F3 victory as he quickly caught leader Luke Browning, and pressured the Hitech driver all the way to the chequered flag to match his best ever finish of second place.

Christian Mansell: "What a start to the season! A great way to mark the first FIA F3 weekend with ART GP, and thanks to the team for providing me with a great car to go and get the job done.

"The testing miles we put in certainly helped us work out some set-up options for this weekend, and I think the pace we showed in practice and qualifying was good. We thought we could fight for something in race one, but the set-up was maybe not quite where we thought it would be in the second half of the race.

"On Saturday it felt great. I was comfortable, and we were really strong on the brakes which meant we could fight up the order and challenge for the win. So close, but we can't complain with a result like that to start the year.

"I'm so excited to be heading to my home event in Australia next. Last year it was such an amazing experience, so I hope to go and give the home fans something to cheer about!"

Sitting third in the championship standings with a great start to the new season in the books, it couldn't be a better time for Mansell to head home as the next FIA F3 rounds take place at Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia, over the weekend of 22-24 March.

Image from Dutch Photo Agency.


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