Christian Mansell enjoyed another great showing in the latest FIA Formula 3 Championship event at Hungary last weekend (21-23 July), scoring yet more points to add to his growing 2023 tally with a top six finish.
Fresh from a sensational Silverstone outing where the Aussie from Newcastle, New South Wales, scored his maiden podium finish in the championship, Mansell hoped to take that form back into Europe as the series visited Budapest in support of the Hungarian GP.
Campos Racing's Mansell, backed by AJM Transport, Castrol, Vawdrey Trailers and VISA Global Logistics, headed into qualifying on Friday afternoon armed with plenty of data from the morning's free practice run in front of the Formula 1 crowds, and saved his best showing of the day for the most crucial timed session.
As had been the case throughout his first full-time F3 campaign, qualifying was incredibly tight, but Mansell showed his cards in the final run with a mighty effort that put him top of the times at one stage. The previously damp track conditions improved in the dying minutes and Mansell was knocked down the list, but he remained inside the crucial top 12 in 10th - only two tenths of a second from the front row.
With the reverse grid applied for Saturday's sprint race the following day, Mansell lined up an optimistic third. The 18-year-old charged into the first two turns of the opening 19-lap race side-by-side with Gabriel Bortoleto, holding off the Brazilian with a strong defence at Turn 2.
The Aussie ace then settled into the race with the top two in sight, and held his line firmly to hold back Bortoleto. Without DRS, Mansell was powerless to hold off his rival who took third at the opening corner, and he looked on course for a strong fourth place after rebuffing the firm attack of Paul Aron shortly after.
A safety car bunched the pack up just as Mansell had broken his rival's attack, allowing Aron to make the pass in the slipstream and demote the Campos Racing driver to sixth as he fought to hang onto the place on the inside at Turn 2. Taking the chequered flag as the team's best finisher in an impressive sixth place ensured another five championship points were added to his tally ahead of Sunday's Feature Race.
The Infinity Sports Management, IOR Petroleum, Locker 27 and AMSL Diabetes Australia-backed star lined up ninth on the grid for Sunday's contest, and followed team-mate Pepe Marti early on. Tyre troubles and the advantage of DRS for his rivals made defending tough for Mansell thereafter, as the MP Motorsport cars both made their way by him under braking at Turn 1 to leave the GB3 and Euroformula Open race winner 11th by the finish.
Another strong weekend means Mansell has climbed the Drivers' Championship table to 13th, and will be back in FIA F3 action this weekend as he heads to the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium for the latest two races over the weekend of 28-30 July.
Christian Mansell: "It feels good to be climbing the table now and it shows that the progress we're making as a team is going in the right direction still.
"We had a good car in qualifying and managed to get ourselves into the fight with the main runners which was crucial around a tight and technical circuit like this. That gave us a chance to fight for the podium on Saturday, but against the DRS it was always going to be tricky and we were hindered in the end by the late safety car.
"On Sunday we just cooked our tyres in the early laps and that was something I couldn't really recover from. It meant defending for much of the race, and we just missed out on points which would again have been a great result considering.
"Campos gave me a fantastic car again, so now we'll go to Spa and use it well to get some results. I love the track and have won there before, so let's see what we can do."
Image from Dutch Photo Agency.