George Russell feels Williams are ahead of Haas after Friday practice in Bahrain, but Kimi Raikkonen looks “incredibly quick”.
Heading into the opening Friday of the season, Williams’ best way of judging their progress following on from 2020 would be to compare themselves to their rivals of last season Haas and Alfa Romeo.
Russell would finish FP2 almost a second up on the fastest Haas, that being Mick Schumacher, suggesting that the Grove outfit have overhauled that particular rival.
But the Briton was four tenths shy of Raikkonen in the Alfa Romeo ahead, so Russell feels Williams have their work cut out for the remainder of the opening race weekend.
“It was tricky conditions, I think the track temperature was up at 58 degrees at some point in FP1 which is incredibly hot,” he told reporters.
“FP2 felt pretty good, high-fuel pace was better than expected even with these gusty winds, so I was pleasantly surprised about that, but equally the wind is changing so much at the moment, it effects everybody a huge amount.
“But I do really think our car is a little bit more sensitive to these changes, so fingers crossed it is either calm or in a favourable direction tomorrow and Sunday.
“I think it will be a long tricky race, but nevertheless I’m looking forward to it.
“As I’ve said before I think it’s going to be a little bit of a yo-yo this season, but I think promising signs if we believe these are the trickiest conditions for our car, I think it can only get better let’s say when this is a worst-case scenario.
“Our rivals Haas look to be a bit behind us which is positive, Alfa look very very fast, really impressive, Kimi is a bit of an elder statesman today but still incredibly quick.
“So we’ve got our work cut out and as always I’ll just be driving as fast as possible.”
— Williams Racing (@WilliamsRacing) March 26, 2021
Russell’s team-mate Nicholas Latifi meanwhile had a torrid Friday, finishing FP2 in P19 over a second slower than Russell.
And at the end of a troublesome day he had nothing positive to say about the FW43B.
“I think compared to pre-season testing the wind had a bit of a 180 [degrees] on us, so completely different car handling characteristics,” he explained.
“It was very tricky, I’m just struggling to find the right confidence, right balance with the car.
“Different issues in different practice sessions. FP1 was one thing, trying to solve it, went a bit too far the other way, and FP2 I wasn’t satisfied with the low-fuel or high-fuel running with the balance, so we have a lot of work to do tonight.
“It really is like a completely different car out there from the day I drove it [in testing], but I think irrespective of the weather there are some other issues that we better dig into because the feeling of the car I was getting, it has to be something more than just the wind.”