Christian Mansell Shows Fight On Second FIA F3 Weekend In Spa-Francorchamps
Christian Mansell has enjoyed another exciting weekend in front of the Formula 1 paddock in his second outing in FIA Formula 3 with the Charouz Racing System team, although luck was not on his side at Spa-Francorchamps (26-28 August). Fresh from his maiden outing in FIA F3 with the Charouz squad in Hungary, the Australian teenager turned his attentions to Belgium for the second outing of his two-meeting deal, a circuit at which he won at last year when the UK-based GB3 Championship made its annual visit to the popular circuit in the Ardennes. The 17-year-old, backed by AJM Transport, Castrol, Vawdrey Trailers, VISA Global Logistics and Infinity Sports Management, spent Friday morning's free practice session looking to gain further knowledge of the Dallara F3 car around the 4.3-mile strip of tarmac, and the early signs looked highly positive as the rookie slotted his car right up into the midfield mix in 18th overall, only a second away from second spot in a 30-car field. His pace in free practice meant that - as he was in Hungary at the same stage - he would be fastest of the team's cars heading into qualifying, which would take place later in the afternoon to decide the grids for the weekend's double-header. Rain arrived before the crucial timed session to add an extra unwanted curveball into the mix, with Mansell initially coping well as a wet-weather specialist before the surface began to dry out as time passed. The changing conditions did not help many drivers, including Mansell, who ended an unrepresentative 25th on the grid, albeit ahead of several of the championship's regular title contenders - such was the unpredictability. The conditions were more favourable on Saturday morning for the first of the weekend's two races, which would prove to be a lottery with a mixed up grid and a subsequent incident-strewn contest. Mansell made the best start possible however as the lights went out, jumping several places with a great launch and finding space around the outside of more cars at La Source under braking to end a dramatic first lap 18th after a net gain of seven spots. Unfortunately for the multiple GB3 and Euroformula Open race winner, he would be a victim in one of many incidents to occur in the opening two laps. Having moved ahead of Rafael Villagomez, the latter's attempts to hang onto the spot at Les Combes only succeeded in understeering into the sidepod of Mansell's car which was pitched unceremoniously into the tyre barriers, bringing the Australian's race to an early end. The BRDC Rising Star and Motorsport UK Academy member, supported by Dexcom, Rush Performance, IOR Petroleum, Locker 27, NTI Australia and AMSL Diabetes Australia, turned his attentions to race two in which he would start from 25th once more, hopeful of getting the result he felt he deserved. In front of an anticipating bumper F1 crowd, Mansell again found himself in the thick of a manic opening lap back in the pack, trying to recover lost ground from his bad luck in qualifying. A pair of safety car appearances interrupted the 18-lap Feature race, Mansell initially losing a spot in the first-lap squabbling before beginning a fightback in the second half of the race. He would make up three spots in the early going, before the youngster clawed his way onto the back of a tense multi-car fight that spread its way all the way up to the fringes of the top 10. The Charouz driver climbed as high as 21st after gaining five places before working on slipstreaming with his team-mate Francesco Pizzi, but would take the chequered flag in 24th after a flurry of changes in the final three laps of the race. Christian Mansell: “Driving these cars around a circuit like this - it's a really cool experience. I've got a bit of knowledge racing here under my belt now through Euroformula and GB3, so it was more about getting the car set up and learning more about it after Hungary. "The car felt good on Friday morning in practice and we had taken some strides forward, but the weather wasn't on our side later on in qualifying. That was a tricky session which started wet and began to dry out at the end, so it was maybe a bit unrepresentative to us and a lot of others. "I got a mega start in the first race around the outside of a handful of cars, but unfortunately we got taken out of that one on lap two. Nothing we could do, other than look forward to the second race, and again it started really well for us. The car felt good in the early laps, but then it just started to go off towards the end which meant we were battling against it. "A huge thank you once again to all the guys working with me at the Charouz Racing System team. Their support has been second to none and it's been great to spend my first steps in FIA F3 with them for these two race weekends.” Mansell will now return to Motopark to continue his successful Euroformula Open campaign this weekend (3/4 September) as the series heads to another classic circuit in Imola for Round Six - Mansell sitting second in that particular championship.
Image from Dutch Photo Agency.