Christian Mansell: “I want to be the best prepared driver on the grid”

Christian Mansell has been putting in the hard yards in pre-season as the Australian aims to be the best prepared driver on the 2020 F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost grid at Donington Park next month.

The 15-year old makes his full-time switch to single seaters in Britain’s FIA Formula 4 series this year with reigning Drivers’ champions Carlin, and will partner Zak O’Sullivan, Matias Zagazeta and Marijn Kremers.

Prior to 2020, his CV includes two promising outings in the CAMS Australian F4 Championship at Phillip Island, including five top-eight finishes and a best race result of fourth, as well as stints in the FIA European Karting Championship, WSK EuroSeries and Australian national karting championship.

Speaking about his mental approach to the season-opening triple header at Donington Park on 1st-2nd August, Mansell was pragmatic about managing his title bid across the entire 26-race, 9-event season, but aims to hit the ground running nonetheless in Leicestershire.

“You’re not going to win the championship at Donington, but the main thing is when we hit the track, I want to be the best-prepared driver on the grid, and I want to make sure that I know the car, the track,” he explained.

“I’m the best-prepared, the car is the best-prepared, I’ve just got to drive it and fine tune everything.”

He also took the positives out of the enforced break from racing due to COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdown, taking the opportunity to keep building up his physical and mental strength and further immersing himself in a new car, and a new championship’s worth of information.

“Obviously this was not expected in any way, but there’s a bit of a silver lining to it all in the sense that you have more time to train, more time to learn data, the car, the tracks,” says Mansell.

“I like to try and take some positives out of all this.

“The silver lining is I had more time to train, time to build myself up physically, mentally and just try to be a complete driver. That’s what the team wants.”

Carlin’s record in the series is enviable; Trevor Carlin’s eponymous outfit have won the Drivers’ crown in every season they’ve competed (the exception being 2018), and have only lost the Teams Cup crown on one occasion.

Mansell will also be eligible to compete in the Rookie Cup this season, with the regulation amended last year to include drivers who have contested fewer than three car racing meetings.

Their line-up of Mansell, Zagazeta, O’Sullivan and Kremers is expected to run at the front once again, but Mansell believes the quartet will work in harmony as they look to repeat the same successes in 2020.

“We’re a strong team. Obviously if best comes to best and we’re 1-2-3-4 in the championship, it’s up to us to be smart and how we drive around each other,” he explained.

“Because obviously you’re going to be a little bit more cautious around your team mates, because if you crash into them, you’ve got to deal with the Team Manager [going] ‘what the heck was that for?’.

“If I’m told ‘gloves are off’, then gloves are off. I’ll just drive my drive at this point and play it by ear.”

Mansell was among the first to resume testing post-lockdown, and gave some insight into returning to the driving seat after nearly four months away.

“It’s just the standard issue, getting back into the car, getting used to the dynamics. It’s definitely a little bit different than a sim.

“You jump back into the car and it’s like ‘oh, my neck’. You train your neck, but it’s just different to driving a car, but after the first couple of runs you’re pretty used to it.

“The team give you some work to fine tune – the brake shapes, steering angle, all that stuff – and you obviously take it away with you.”

The new season begins at Donington Park on 1st-2nd August.