It was a good start in ART Grand Prix colours for Christian Mansell after the Australian clinched P8 in Qualifying at the Bahrain International Circuit.

The Australian took provisional pole late on in the session but ultimately wound up eighth overall by the chequered flag, with teammates Nikola Tsolov and Laurens van Hoepen ending up 11th and 12th and on the front row for the reverse grid Sprint Race tomorrow.

It was a promising result he said after Qualifying, highlighting that he felt there was more pace in the car. Mansell added that he was satisfied with his first top-12 with the team and what it means for their future potential.

“It was pretty electrifying. I've really, really enjoyed the ART car so far. I'm really happy with the performance of the car and team and obviously, we reflected that in Qualifying performance with us all of inside the top 12.

“Nikola and Laurens are on the front row for tomorrow's Sprint Race and with me being P5 we’ve done such a great job today, it's just important to keep it going.”

Asked whether there was more in the car during the session, Mansell was unsure but did believe there is more speed to come as he builds up more confidence as the season progresses.

Mansell was pleased with the teams performance across the board with all three inside the top 12
Mansell was pleased with the team's performance across the board with all three inside the top 12

“Personally, I don't know if I could have done the pole. I don't know if we had the car for that, but we are certainly close. We're really, really close and I'm really close as well, it is nice to feel like that.

“I feel very confident, obviously, not too confident because this is F3 and it can flip on its head instantly, but overall, I'm very, very pleased with today's result, and also very pleased for the team.

“I personally don't think I've reached the maximum potential of the ART car, which is half of the reason why I think we could maybe have been on pole today.

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“I think we can be super competitive but I've got to make it work in my way and in my own time, preferably sooner rather than later. But at the moment, it's not far away.”

Interestingly, Mansell is looking forward to the Sprint Race to better understand the team’s competitiveness. With both his teammates going from the front and having clean air at the start, he’s eager to see how that is reflected in the data the team will accumulate during the Sprint Race on Friday.

“I'm really happy that Nikola and Laurens are on the front row tomorrow because if they're able to get into the lead, or if they're battling, it gives me a lot of good data to go off of.

ART are aiming to bounce back from a tough 2023 but look to be on the right track according to Mansell
ART are aiming to bounce back from a tough 2023 but look to be on the right track according to Mansell

“If the car is too oversteery if it was in the battle in the midfield with cars and with the air washing over, then it might be perfect. It's just about maximising what they've done, and also maximising what I've done.”

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s Sprint Race, the ART driver insists that there’s no expectation on the result, but he will be looking to push to the maximum in order to better understand where the team sits in the true competitive order.

Going from fifth on the reverse grid, Mansell will be looking to carry on his strong form from the end of 2023 when he achieved top 10 results in the final three races, including a podium in the Spa-Francorchamps Feature.

“Naturally I don't really place expectations on myself. I just like to get the maximum out of the package. And if I know that I have done that, then I'm happy. Whether that be P21 or P1, as long as I've done all that I can do, I'm happy.

“Momentum is everything. It’s looking like a good weekend now with a solid start to my campaign. It's nice to be in this position and we'll try and make it last. But I'm really, really looking forward to just racing because racing is my favourite part. Qualifying is fun, but I am a racer at heart.”