Russell admits Williams return is ‘strange feeling’

Date published: December 11 2020

George Russell Williams

George Russell said the late news that he would be back with the Williams team in Abu Dhabi was a “strange feeling”.

The Briton made his Mercedes debut at the Sakhir Grand Prix in place of Lewis Hamilton who tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the race weekend.

Russell arrived in Abu Dhabi initially still on Mercedes duty, but when Hamilton returned a negative test and was cleared to compete, he was reinstated with Russell returning to Williams.

And the 22-year-old said although the late Williams return was a “strange feeling”, he put the disappointment aside and refocused full energy into the team that allowed him to have the Mercedes opportunity.

“It was a strange feeling, to be honest,” he told reporters at the Yas Marina Circuit.

“Prior to Bahrain, I really wanted to have the two weeks in the car, purely because I was expecting to learn everything I needed to in Bahrain and I could have come here with no excuses, as such.

“As Bahrain did go so well from a performance perspective, part of me was like you know what, I think it was a good weekend, obviously I really wanted to win and I would have had a great opportunity this weekend.

“But nevertheless, these guys at Williams, they gave me that opportunity, they’ve been working so hard for me over the last two years.

“It’s my duty to send off the season on a high, and that’s what I’m here to do.”

At the end of FP2 Russell was over 2.5 seconds slower than his team-mate from last weekend Valtteri Bottas, setting a clear example of the difference between Mercedes’ W11 and Williams’ FW43.

“There’s no hiding the laptimes, obviously that’s clear,” said Russell.

“Mercedes is the benchmark. I was fortunate enough to race for them last week and know where we need to be pushing the car.

“It’s good learning, and to get that back-to-back in the space of five days was great.”

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Abu Dhabi is Williams’ final shot at finishing the season without a zero next to their name, and Russell hopes that the drivers who are set to depart their teams or Formula 1 completely after this race will really go for it, potentially opening up a few opportunities.

“We’ll be trying our everything, I think it gets to the last race of the season, I think everybody up and down the grid gets a bit desperate.

“There are a few teams fighting over that P3 spot, so we might see some big lunges. Carlos [Sainz Jr.] is off to Ferrari, so he probably won’t care if he bashes up the car, then you’ve got Danny Ric [Ricciardo] is off, so he probably doesn’t care if he bashes up the car.

“Who else is going? Sergio [Perez]’s off, so he won’t care if he bashes up the car. It could be a good one.

“But on pure pace, we know we won’t be fighting for the top 10, in all honesty. Kimi [Raikkonen] looked really fast, and Kevin [Magnussen], but that’s usually the case.

“We’re usually a bit off on Friday, and we usually sort it out on Saturday.”

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