Christian Mansell made an eagerly-anticipated maiden trip to the iconic streets of Monte Carlo and fought his way forward in the latest FIA Formula 3 Championship meeting last weekend (27/28 May).
The 18-year-old Australian returned to the Formula 1 paddock for the first time since his homecoming event at Melbourne early last month, looking to impress at the Principality after the official third meeting of the FIA F3 season at Imola was cancelled a week prior due to severe weather in San Marino.
Instead Mansell, backed by AJM Transport, Castrol, Vawdrey Trailers and VISA Global Logistics, turned his attentions to the picturesque streets of Monaco, with eyes set on a crucial top-12 position in qualifying to be in with a shot at silverware.
In front of the Sky Sports F1 cameras, the BRDC challenger showed he could be a serious contender to the top 10 with a strong practice performance in his Campos Racing machine, before diving into the all-important qualifying session on Friday.
Mansell's times dropped as the final minutes arrived, and a rapid start to his late flyer gave him hope of the result he wanted. Unfortunately, yellow flags for a crashed competitor put a stop to that effort and forced him to slow his pace, settling for a unrepresentative 10th in his session and 18th overall.
Dry conditions on Saturday for the 23-lap sprint race would make it tough to find a way forward at a circuit infamous for traffic problems, but the Newcastle-based rookie showed his fighting spirit. After being boxed out several times on the opening lap, he pulled off a superb and decisive lunge inside fellow Aussie Tommy Smith at the Portier right-hander. Backed up in a queue of slower cars for the remainder of the race though, Mansell took the chequered flag in 20th.
All eyes focused on a fightback on Sunday morning, the Infinity Sports Management, IOR Petroleum, Locker 27 and AMSL Diabetes Australia-backed youngster again starting from the ninth row of the grid.
What followed was a much more positive opening lap, as Mansell instantly went back into combat with Smith, passing the VAR driver around the outside of the Casino hairpin. Turning his sights to the MP Motorsport car of Jonny Edgar, another great lunge at Portier proved successful. After that he settled into the 27-lap contest and came home 17th after battling oversteer in the second half of the race.
Mansell does not have long to wait for his next attack, as the fourth meeting of the FIA F3 Championship comes this weekend (3/4 June) when the series supports the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona at the more familiar Circuit de Catalunya.
Christian Mansell: "It's been an amazing experience visiting Monaco. It's got a unique atmosphere to it and the circuit is a real challenge that we have all enjoyed.
"The weekend was unfortunately determined by qualifying which didn't go as we had planned. Traffic problems were not as bad thankfully, but just as we were looking good to put in a time to challenge for the top 12 position that we wanted, a car put itself in the wall and we had to back off. That's Monaco though!
"It meant we felt out of position, and from back where we were it's always tricky to make up ground in two dry races. A tricky first lap in race one meant we were fighting to recover, but I got a chance to make an overtake which was a good feeling around here. A much better first lap in race two gave us a better finishing position, but we started suffering with a bit of oversteer in the second half of the race.
"I'm now looking forward to Barcelona. It's a track I've had plenty of racing and testing experience around in single-seaters, so we can go there and push hard for a great result which I feel we're on the verge of. A big thanks once again to the Campos Racing team and all my sponsors for their valued support."
Image from Dutch Photo Agency.