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Mansell convinced ART GP will be competitive again in F3 after 2023 low

by Ida Wood

Photo: Formula Motorsport Ltd

ART Grand Prix driver Christian Mansell believes the team will return to its usual race-winning FIA Formula 3 Championship form this year after an uncompetitive 2023.

The French outfit came third in the teams’ standings for four seasons in a row, winning eight races in that time and taking Victor Martins to the 2022 title, then last year it scored only 71 points – 40% of the total it amassed in its least competitive season prior to that – and sank to eighth in the standings.

Mansell drove for Campos Racing in his first full FIA F3 campaign last year and the team, after two successive seasons of coming eighth in the championship, jumped up to fourth in the standings with 179 points (2.8 times more than it had ever managed previously) and three wins.

Formula Scout asked Mansell ahead of the 2024 season opener how confident he was about ART GP’s pace given its 2023 struggles.

“I mean, the transparency about what happened last year and why it happened the way that it did with ART not performing to the level that they wanted to. They said why, they gave explanations why, and that was sort of the turning point in how I have so much trust in them,” said Mansell.

“Because they know what they did wrong. It wasn’t all their fault, but they know internally what went wrong and how they can fix it. And in testing, the car, it feels really good. From a feeling point of view, I feel very comfortable, especially within the team. I really enjoy the team environment.

“Obviously Campos having a really, really good season last year with myself, Pepe [Marti], Hugh [Barter] and Josh [Dufek] at the end of the year, it was a real confidence booster for them. And I’m sure they’re still riding that high into this year, which they should do. But in ART also, they’ve come back with a big, big purpose and a big push to sort of get back to where they belong, really. Because as you said, they’d finished third for the most part, and obviously there was a dip last year, but I like to think of it as just a dip.

“We can try and get back to being that competitive car, and I truly believe that the car is competitive and I feel competitive. Which is the main thing. And Nikola [Tsolov] and Laurens [van Hoepen, Mansell’s ART GP team-mates], we all think that the car is capable of very, very good things. So I guess we’ll just have to wait until qualifying and the end of this race weekend to really see how competitive that car is. But we feel good, we feel ready.”

Tsolov was fourth fastest in pre-season testing at Bahrain, an abrasive circuit that hosts this weekend’s season opener, and his team-mates trailed the benchmark pace by over 0.7 seconds in 18th and 19th place. The trio were 17th, 19th and 20th in the 30-car field on long-run pace.