Christian Mansell enjoyed arguably his best FIA Formula 3 Championship performance to date with two exciting charges through the field to grab points at Barcelona last weekend (3/4 June).
The 18-year-old Australian went from Monaco to Spain in the space of less than a week as part of back-to-back race weekends on the Formula 1 support package, looking to impress in front of the Sky Sports F1 cameras in the fourth event of his rookie season.
With experience under his belt at the Circuit de Catalunya in testing and from previous racing in Euroformula Open over the past two years, Mansell entered with ambition as he set his sights on points with Campos Racing.
Mansell, backed by AJM Transport, Castrol, Vawdrey Trailers and VISA Global Logistics, showed top-10 pace in practice and once again looked a contender for that crucial top-12 position in Friday's Qualifying session. With a tight contest throughout, Mansell moved into the top 10 in the closing minutes with a time only 0.7s from pole, but improvements below him bumped him back to 16th place - a mere tenth of a second from the reverse grid pole position.
Saturday would be a new day, and one that showcased the true race craft of the BRDC star. The multiple EF Open, GB3 and British F4 race-winner made forward progress in the 21-lap Sprint race, battling with his team-mates Hugh Barter and Pepe Marti early on as he climbed past Taylor Barnard exiting the hairpin for 12th place.
Mansell's race would soon be with Gabriele Mini who aggressively eased him aside, only for the two to return to combat later on. Incidents ahead promoted the Aussie from New South Wales up into the top 10 after he dispatched team-mate Marti with DRS on the main straight, but having turned his attentions back to Mini, his successful move at the first corner was unrewarded as the latter collected Mansell's rear wheel, spinning him out of the race when points were looking a certainty.
After a fine drive ultimately went unrewarded, Mansell looked to put that right in Sunday's Feature race from the same starting position. The Infinity Sports Management, IOR Petroleum, Locker 27 and AMSL Diabetes Australia-backed man again showed strong pace throughout and climbed two places early on, swapping places with Mini twice as he took control.
He swiftly turned his attentions to Campos team-mate Barter and made his move at the hairpin on the outside, both re-passing each other with DRS during the latter stages of the race as Mansell moved onto the fringes of the top 10 with good pace. An incident ahead eliminated two rivals, and Mansell would be rewarded with a brilliant points finish as a penalty applied to a car ahead promoted him into the top 10 for a fitting end to a strong weekend.
Mansell now has a break of just under a month before the next FIA F3 meeting of the season as the fifth event takes place in Austria at the Red Bull Ring over 30 June to 2 July.
Christian Mansell:"I think it's been one of our very best performances in FIA F3 so far. The Campos Racing team gave me a super fast race car all weekend and we showed it in the races.
"Qualifying has been so often the decisive bit of the weekend for us and we were really quick, but it was so close yet again and that meant we missed out on a pole position by literally a tenth of a second.
"In the races the car just got quicker and we were able to make some moves with the DRS thanks to our speed in the last sector. It is what it is, and what happened in the first race was a real shame after we got up into the top nine. We definitely made up for that on Sunday though and it was a really exciting, clean race with points at the end of it to savour.
"Austria is another circuit that we have mileage and experience around so it should be another close weekend with only a few corners to make the difference at. I'm looking forward to it."
Image from Dutch Photo Agency.