George Russell made a definite impression on Saturday’s qualifying session for the Hungarian Grand Prix, when the Williams driver punched in a stunning lap to leap into the top ten at the end of the first round.
Both Russell and his rookie team mate Nicholas Latifi successfully made it through to Q2, a feat that would have been almost inconceivable for the squad in the last year and a half.
It’s a measure of the progress made by the team in 2020 that Russell was actually rather disappointed not to get even further. For the second week running he missing out on making it into the final pole shoot-out round by a little under two tenths.
“It was great – the car was feeling good again,” Russell said after the end of the session. “P12, a tenth or two from Q3. Great! Really, really, really great.
“P12, considering where we were last year, was incredible.
“I love driving this track flat out,” he continued. “The car came alive in qualifying in these cooler conditions and I had a lot of fun out there. Again I did not expect to be this fast. The car was feeling great and I had a good rhythm.
“It was a shame about the Q2 lap,” he admitted. “We had some traffic and I think Q3 was possible today, which would have been amazing.
“It’s actually annoying to miss Q3 by such a small margin. I’d prefer to be a bit further away because it feels a bit frustrating,” he said, before quickly adding that he was “really pleased” with how the afternoon had gone.
Now the Briton is hoping that he can convert his pace in qualifying to something similarly effective in race trim. He is still to finish a race in the top ten and claim a championship point since making his debut in Australia in 2019.
“I think we need to understand it because we’ve definitely got an advantage in the quali format versus in the race spec,” he said.
“I mean, the last two race weekends, in the race we’ve clearly been the slowest car, yet we’ve managed to qualify a tenth or two from Q3. We need to understand how to unlock that performance from quali into the race.”
The qualifying session saw some brief spells of light rain, and it appears that the FW43 – and Russell himself – thrive in tricky conditions. So much so that he hopes there’s a chance of more rain to come tomorrow during the race.
“Fingers crossed we get a bit of rain tomorrow; we could do with that and we could be on for a good result. I am ready to fight, and hopefully we have a successful race.”
“Today was one of the most difficult dry qualifying session we have had for quite some time,” remarked Williams’ senior race engineer Dave Robson.
“Although there was no meaningful rain during the session, the threat was ever present, which left us trying to balance the risk of rain against the evolution of the track.
“Fortunately, the pace of the car was quite good and both drivers were able to prepare their tyres well.
“To get both drivers into Q2 in the dry is testament to the recent work of everyone at the factory and here at the track, as well as the two drivers, who were again very, very good today,” he added.
“It is frustrating that George missed Q3 by a small margin again, but we gambled at the beginning of Q2 and used our final new set early in the session, hoping that some rain might impede other cars that waited.
“On this occasion, the gamble didn’t work but nonetheless, George was still able to qualify P12 for the second week in a row.
“Attention now turns to tomorrow,” he said. “We’ll see if we can start well and gain a few more places in the opening lap.
“We know that overtaking here is traditionally very difficult, and whilst this means that we have an opportunity to hold on to our starting position, it equally means that getting into the points-scoring positions could be tricky.”