George Russell is optimistic of scoring his first points for Williams after narrowly missing out on Q3 at the Red Bull Ring, but he will now have a top-10 start on Sunday.
‘Mr Saturday’, as he is often referred to, was at it again come Q2 for the Styrian Grand Prix, taking advantage of an extremely tight midfield pack to put himself in contention for a first Q3 appearance with Williams.
He fell short by a mere 0.008sec, but still took great satisfaction from the performance – which has since taken an extra turn. A three-place grid penalty for Yuki Tsunoda means Russell will now start in the top 10 in his Williams, while still having a free choice of tyre on which to begin the race.
In keeping with his ambition to become more Mr Sunday, Russell is targeting a points finish.
“Obviously we want to get into Q3, that would be a great achievement. But so close, so satisfying when we get the maximum from it and we do this a lot,” he told reporters.
“And even more so, we are putting a lot more emphasis on the Sunday pace and just trying to really maximise the car for the race pace.
“So let’s see how it turns out tomorrow. I think we are there on merit. We’ve a lot of quick guys behind – Ricciardo, Sainz, Vettel – but I’m looking forward and we want to score some points.
“We are looking forward and we’ve gone down a slightly different direction with the set-up and it seems to be paying off.
“But we’ve only had a couple of races like this. We need to give it a bit more of a chance to see if this is real, throughout. But having that confidence in the car is a big thing and today’s a very calm day, not a single gust of wind or anything. I’m sure that also helps us a lot. So far, so good.”
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Russell took further confidence from what he called “probably the best Friday we’ve ever had”, although he is keen to see how greatly the new set of hard tyres which Williams ran in their race simulations contributed to his pace.
“Yesterday was probably the best Friday we’ve ever had – let’s see how that translates tomorrow,” said the Briton.
“We did have a new set of hards for the race pace, which I think did account for something. We didn’t do low fuel on the hards. So for sure that accounted to something, but the car felt really good and we look strong. Let’s see if it does translate into something tomorrow.”