Capito: ‘Different’ Russell thrives under pressure

Date published: August 14 2021 - Jamie Woodhouse

George Russell smiling at his home race. Britain, July 2021.

Williams boss Jost Capito says George Russell is set apart from other drivers by his unique ability to shine under pressure.

Russell joined Williams at their lowest point in 2019, and since then has played a pivotal role in their slow recovery process.

Until recently all that was missing was points, with Russell going close on several occasions to getting himself off the mark in Williams colours, but finally they arrived at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The Briton ended up classified P8 at the Hungaroring, following behind team-mate Nicholas Latifi in P7, a result that moved the Grove outfit up to P8 in the Constructors’ standings after a 10-point haul.

All of that while Russell has managed heavy expectations and pressure due to the links to Mercedes for 2022.

Some drivers would struggle under such a spotlight, but not Russell – something which has impressed Capito.

“If he gets a knock, he comes back better. He grows under pressure. The bigger the pressure is, the better he becomes,” Capito told the F1 website.

“Many crack under pressure but George is completely different. The more pressure, the better he will perform.

“We saw that when he was in the Mercedes last year [deputising for Lewis Hamilton who had tested positive for Covid-19]. It was the biggest pressure you could put on any driver and he performed brilliantly – and this is his attitude.”

The Hungarian Grand Prix had actually been far from smooth until the race for Russell, who on the Saturday had suffered his first Q1 elimination of the season.

But Capito said that only served to provide the Briton with a bucket-load of motivation for the race.

“I have to say, I had hardly seen him that motivated as I saw him on the Sunday before the race having qualified 18th,” Capito explained.

“Instead, he said ‘today is the day, I will see what I can do, I will fight’.

“He was so focused and determined, even more than when he qualified eighth [at Silverstone]. That was really great to see.”

George Russell, Lewis Hamilton, British GP, July 2021.

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After the first-lap chaos in Hungary, Russell at one stage was running as high as P2, although he soon had to return several places after breaching the rules by sneaking his way to the front of the pit-lane queue at the race restart.

That meant it was over to Latifi, who was running in the dizzy heights of P3, at which point Russell told Williams to compromise his race if it meant aiding Latifi’s.

Putting the team first does not get any more extreme than an offer like that, but Capito said that was evidence of the team spirit which exists at Williams.

“This is the unbelievable team spirit of George, he really puts the team first,” said Capito.

“It’s also the result of how George works with the team, and how the team works with George. For the drivers, the team comes first and they benefit from this and that puts them in this position.

“It shows what George’s thinking is like and how mature he is during the race. He analyses the situation, thinks about what it means for the team if they have a chance, and he does that all during the race when many other race drivers wouldn’t even think about it.

“He can overlook the overall situation and doesn’t need an engineer to tell him what the situation is.”

After the race in Hungary, Russell surprised himself by shedding more than a tear over the result, and Capito called these “honest emotions”.

“He’s very honest in that, you see honest emotions. He is not playing anything,” said the Williams boss.

“He is exactly like this. He is a team member and he doesn’t want to let the team down, as much the team doesn’t want to let him down.”