Russell eyed beating Hamilton as well as Vettel

Jon Wilde
George Russell (Williams) leads Sebastian Vettel

George Russell (Williams) leads Sebastian Vettel

George Russell took pleasure from beating Sebastian Vettel in Russian Grand Prix qualifying – and had his eye on Lewis Hamilton’s scalp too.

The Williams driver produced what for him has been a typical qualifying performance this year. As well as maintaining his 100% record of outqualifying his F1 team-mates, Russell also made it through to Q2 for the sixth time in 10 races this season.

In Q1, the Briton turned in a stonking lap right at the end of the session to ensure he advanced with a faster time than the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel.

Then in Q2, Russell secured P14, just ahead of Vettel after the four-time former World Champion crashed out.

But during the red-flag stoppage as a result of the accident, Russell thought he may even be starting the race with Hamilton behind hm. At the time, the reigning World Champion did not have a time on the board as his initial effort had been deleted for exceeding track limits.

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Despite being a Mercedes junior driver, who is ‘on loan’ to Williams, Russell allowed himself to dream for a moment – albeit Hamilton had just about enough time to squeeze in a P2 lap and went on to take pole position.

“Obviously I don’t ever want anything bad to happen to Mercedes but when I saw Lewis behind me I thought ‘well, there’s an extra position there potentially’,” laughed Russell.

“But no, it was good to be ahead of Sebastian, almost on true pace I’d say. I’m very happy.

“I think we’re in really good shape for tomorrow with the set-up we chose and we’ve got a fight on our hands.”

Russell was close to gaining his first Formula 1 points last time out in the Tuscan Grand Prix, but will probably need misfortune to afflict some of his rivals again to have a chance of a top-10 finish at Sochi.

“The last couple of weekends we have been focusing more on the Sunday as we have recognised our Saturday pace has been good, but our Sunday pace hasn’t quite matched it,” added Russell.

“We have rebalanced our quali and race pace here, which will put us in a good position.

“I think Haas and Alfa Romeo still have the edge on us, so I think it will be a race to drive as quickly as I can and check my mirrors to make sure they aren’t going to overtake me.”

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