George Russell maintained his ‘Mr Saturday’ reputation into 2021 with a Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying performance in which he extracted the “absolute maximum”.
The Williams driver got himself into Q2 time after time last year, frequently being the one from the six men who were regularly fighting at the back of the pack to claim a place among the top 15 on the grid.
It happened again at the opening race of the new season as Russell got another shot at the second part of qualifying and although he could not get ahead of any more rivals, he felt P15 was the best position on the table.
“I think that was the absolute maximum, to be honest,” said Russell, who is in the third and final year of a ‘loan’ deal from his mentors Mercedes.
“Last year it was clear we were racing the Haas and Alfa Romeos. This year I think we’ve closed the gap to the front, but Alfa Romeo have made an even greater step.
“I thought Q2 would be out of reach today and really glad we got a clean lap together at the end to sneak in there.”
Kicking off the year in Q2. Happy with that but we’re focused on tomorrow. 👊 pic.twitter.com/0KlTaOa3Cd
— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) March 27, 2021
Russell said after testing, and has since maintained the stance, that Alfa Romeo look particularly quick and that was borne out by the fact neither Antonio Giovinazzi nor Kimi Raikkonen found themselves in the bottom five.
They will start 12th and 14th respectively, ahead of Russell, with Esteban Ocon (Alpine) and Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) being the Q1 fall guys this time.
As for the race, Russell has said Bahrain does not suit the Williams car because of the windy conditions – and Sunday is forecast to be particularly gusty, so the Briton is simply hoping things somehow fall his way.
Asked what he can do, he said: “Try and get the most out of it, try to capitalise. I think first race of the season, conditions will be really tough for everyone, so try not to make any mistakes and pick up the pieces.”
Nicholas Latifi, Russell’s team-mate, said qualifying had been “the best I’ve felt out of all the practice sessions so far” as he qualified 17th – ahead of the Haas duo and also Vettel, whose final run had been compromised by encountering two sets of double yellow flags.