Russell’s P2 ‘pushes him even more to Mercedes’

Jon Wilde
George Russell in Williams jacket at Belgian GP. Spa-Francorchamps August 2021.

George Russell in a Williams jacket on media day for the Belgian Grand Prix. Spa-Francorchamps August 2021.

Jost Capito suggested that if Mercedes had not already decided who would drive for them next year, Belgian Grand Prix qualifying might have made up their mind.

The Williams managing director and team principal was able to celebrate a shock front-row start at a wet Spa-Francorchamps secured by George Russell.

The Briton will line up in P2 alongside Max Verstappen’s Red Bull after outpacing Lewis Hamilton – whom Russell hopes to partner at Mercedes in 2022 rather than current incumbent Valtteri Bottas.

A decision on whether the World Champions stick or twist is expected imminently, with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff refusing to confirm anything so far.

But with Bottas starting down in the midfield, also hindered by a five-place grid penalty for triggering a melee at the last race in Hungary, Russell has shown what he can achieve in an inferior car – and Capito thinks it can only have aided the 23-year-old’s chances of a promotion to Mercedes, if that prospect remains in the balance privately as well.

“This result, if Toto hasn’t got the decision done yet, it pushes him even more to Mercedes,” Capito told Sky F1.

“He’s just a talent, so great for his age and he deserves to be in a car capable of winning the championship and we fully support him in that.”

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Nicknamed ‘Mr Saturday’ for his outstanding qualifying performances, Russell produced yet another, and arguably his finest yet, to master the difficult conditions in a qualifying session red-flagged after a big crash for Lando Norris early in Q3 when heavy rain was falling.

It gives Russell hope of more points after he secured his first top-10 finish for Williams in Hungary last time out.

“We never planned the race strategy based on this qualifying result, of course, so now we have time to discuss it and find a good solution,” added Capito. “It’s better to smile in the rain than cry in the sunshine!

“The boost came in Hungary when we got the points and going into the summer break with the best result since 2017 was, I think, very important for everyone in the team and then coming back the motivation was high.

“If we want to keep P8 [in the Constructors’ Championship] until the end of the season we need more points – you can’t just relax and lie back.”