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Mansell explains why he lifted off in moment that cost him an F3 win

by Alejandro Alonso Lopez

Photo: Dutch Photo Agency

ART Grand Prix’s Christian Mansell has explained the error that costed him a potential victory in the FIA Formula 3 sprint race at the Red Bull Ring.

The safety car appeared on lap 17 of 21, and the moments immediately before that proved decisive in the race result.

Mansell, who started from reversed-grid pole, had just reclaimed the lead at turn four after fighting team-mate Nikola Tsolov. However, an instinctive reaction to the danger signal drivers receive on their earphones when a yellow flag is waved on track prompted him to lift off too early and he dropped to third in what he described as a “bittersweet” end.

“I had a beep and responded to it out of intuition,” Mansell told media including Formula Scout after the race. “Obviously, the other guys just kept it flat, which in theory is what you should do. You should wait until you get the virtual safety car on the steering wheel, but I just jumped a bit too early.”

“The thing is: when there is a yellow flag, we immediately get a beep,” race winner Tsolov explained. “Even if it’s behind us or in front of us, just so we know and in case it’s in front of us, we have time to react.”

The Alpine junior was first left confused by his team-mate lifting, but he still managed to benefit from it. Should the VSC or an actual safety car period have occurred, a second beep sounds on the radio confirming racing is neutralised.

“There definitely was [some confusion] because I heard the beep and I saw Christian lifting off and then I thought to myself ‘is there actually a safety car so quick without any yellow flags before that or something?’,” added Tsolov.

“So I saw the panel immediately that it was not safety car or anything, so I threw it, managed to get by Christian, and then I saw Martinius [Stenshorne] on the inside. I knew there was definitely going to be soon a safety car or something, so I broke late into [turn] six and managed to keep the lead just on time.”

McLaren junior Stenshorne finished second, and feels the procedure is clear enough.

“That’s why I managed to overtake Christian and almost Nikola,” he said. “I also got a beep. I saw them both lifting off. But I knew there was no VSC or safety car, so I just made a move.”

“The process is fine. I just made a mistake,” acknowledged Mansell, who was making no excuses. “When you’re fighting for the lead of the race — I’m not justifying what I did — but it’s a bit stressful. So sometimes you react and do some silly things.”