Russell: Qualifying belies Williams’ true pace

Jon Wilde
George Russell, Williams, ahead of Aston Martin and Red Bull

George Russell, Williams, ahead of Aston Martin and Red Bull

George Russell has admitted qualifying does not show the “true pace” of the Williams after another Saturday they had “maximised”.

Well established as a Q1 specialist, Russell produced a typically gritty display as he again achieved the initial target before putting his car 15th on the grid for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Still yet to be outqualified by a Williams team-mate, now four races into his third season with the Grove-based squad, the Briton was pleased to have beaten an AlphaTauri and an Alfa Romeo – as well as his colleague Nicholas Latifi by nearly three-quarters of a second.

But the problem for Russell has been backing up his qualifying performances the next day, for example last week in Portugal where he dropped from 11th on the grid to finish the race 16th, and he acknowledged that Saturdays tend to flatter the Williams car.

“Doing it over one lap is one thing,” said Russell, who is still seeking his first points for Williams. “When the pressure’s on, you’ve only got two opportunities, two laps. Everyone feels that pressure and for whatever reason we manage to get the most out of it.

“But when you have a 65-lap race you can get into the groove, feel what the car’s doing and then push yourself over a couple of laps to that limit. That’s when the true pace of the car comes out.

“For whatever reason, we just manage to optimise it when the pressure’s on in those Q1 and Q2 sessions. I don’t know if we’re over-achieving or the others under-achieve, but we often know our Saturday position isn’t really the true pace of the car.”

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Nevertheless, there were signs of encouragement for a team that are gradually working their way back to competitiveness from a very low base to which they had plummeted.

“I think Q2 today was the maximum,” added Russell. “We knew the car has never really worked perfectly around this circuit relative to our performance elsewhere.

“We struggled a bit yesterday in FP2, the conditions calmed down today, the car was in a much better window and we managed to outqualify cars like Tsunoda and Raikkonen who were mega-fast in practice – Raikkonen had been in the top 10 and he’s obviously one of our rivals.

“Very well maximised today and glad to have kept two new sets of medium tyres for tomorrow because we may be needing them.”

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