George Russell is not expecting to be vying with Ferrari in Belgian Grand Prix qualifying – despite outpacing Sebastian Vettel in FP2.
A year ago at Spa-Francorchamps, Ferrari took P1 and P2 in qualifying with Charles Leclerc winning the race from pole position. Russell was slowest of the 19 drivers who set a Q1 time, almost four seconds slower than Leclerc.
But such has been the convergence of performance between Ferrari and Williams this season that in FP2 for this year’s Belgian Grand Prix, Russell was faster than Vettel on merit and less than a quarter of a second behind Leclerc.
However, the Englishman does not expect it to be a similar story in qualifying – much as he would love it to be.
“Unexpected, hey? I don’t think it was necessarily from our amazing performance, I think they’re really struggling for whatever reason,” said Russell, who ended the afternoon session in P16.
“I’ll be surprised if we are in the fight with Ferrari during qualifying, but if we are we’ll take it.”
— Williams Racing (@WilliamsRacing) August 28, 2020
Countering the fact that Williams were competing with the Ferraris was that Russell and team-mate Nicholas Latifi found themselves behind their more usual rivals Alfa Romeo – but the 22-year-old is hoping to rectify that on Saturday.
“Q2 is still the target and beating both the Alfa Romeo and Haas cars,” said Russell, who has progressed from Q1 in four of the year’s first six races.
“Haas had a really tough day with their issues, but nevertheless they still looked pretty competitive considering they just jumped in to do half an hour of running in FP2.
“It will be tricky, but nevertheless it’s always great to drive around Spa. We tried some different set-ups today to try and get a bit more straight-line speed – some were beneficial, some not. So I think we have a good understanding for tomorrow to gather the data and make the most of it.”
Rain is forecast during Sunday’s race and that is a prospect Russell is relishing.
“We’d like to see a bit of rain to mix things up – I think that would give us half a chance to get a good result if we can maximise it,” he added.
“But we’ll have to make the most of whatever the conditions throw at us and I’ll be ready to do that.”