Russell found working with Kubica an ‘eye-opener’

Jon Wilde
George Russell and Robert Kubica at the Abu Dhabi GP. Yas Marina November 2019.

George Russell walking with Robert Kubica on qualifying day for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Yas Marina November 2019.

George Russell has paid tribute to the part Robert Kubica played in the development that has earned him a promotion to Mercedes.

The Briton’s dream move has become reality for 2022 as he will partner Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes, who have managed his career so far.

Part of that management was facilitating a three-year ‘loan’ spell at Williams where Russell has honed his skills, in the first of those seasons with Kubica as his team-mate.

Like Russell, the experienced Pole was not used to being on the Formula 1 grid at the time for he had not raced in the elite category for the previous eight years as the result of life-changing arm injuries sustained in a rallying accident.

But in the first of two campaigns that were dismal performance-wise for Williams due to their uncompetitive cars, it was Kubica who scored their solitary point of 2019 – and Russell learned a great deal alongside a man whose career had been so devastatingly interrupted.

“Definitely being team-mates with Robert is something I was incredibly fortunate to have,” said Russell during an interview with Motorsport Magazine.

“He’s got so much experience, so much technical knowledge. That was a real eye-opener for me being team-mates with Robert and I had to raise my game, to be honest.

“I feel like I’ve made huge progress since 2019. I feel like I can come to the track and discuss openly with the engineers about different set-up options and items and what I believe would work in this part of the track or these corners, why we want to go down this direction.

“This was really benefited by just seeing how educated Robert was, which really helped me in 2020 and this year after Nicholas [Latifi] came on board as a rookie.”

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Since those dark days of 2019 and 2020, Williams have improved considerably and following the euphoria of their double points finish in Hungary just before the summer break, Russell has now finished in the top 10 at three of the last four races.

The 23-year-old explained what had brought him to tears amid the joy of that Budapest breakthrough.

“I wouldn’t say I was worried it might never come, but we had so many occasions when we were so close and always something seemed to happen,” said Russell, possibly reflecting on the two occasions at Imola when he crashed out with points in sight.

“But we kept on fighting and fighting and I think that’s why it all came to me after the race, because we didn’t give up and when you’re down in the weeds and trying to fight back out and these small opportunities go amiss, you sometimes start to think: ‘why am I… is this ever going to happen?’

“But we just kept on fighting and I think it really shows why.”