'I put everything on the line' – Russell says his Williams was ‘flying’ before wild ride in Q1
George Russell managed to maintain his record of never being out-qualified by a team mate in Formula 1, despite a trip across the Turn 7 gravel at Mugello on his flying lap on Saturday afternoon – and afterwards he said he had “no idea” how he managed to keep going, and even go faster than on his previous runs.
It was a spectacular moment as Russell kept the throttle pinned to the floor of his Williams FW43 in the final moments of Q1, bounced across the gravel, carried on, and still managed to improve his time to out-qualify his team mate Nicholas Latifi – who was at that point quicker than him – by under a tenth of a second.
“I put everything on the line,” said Russell after the heart-stopping moment. “Nicholas was ahead of me in the first two runs. I knew if I didn’t put everything together in that lap, he could’ve out-qualified me and I thought I threw it away.”
Several drivers, including Lando Norris and Esteban Ocon have spun this weekend after a dropping a wheel on the gravel around this old school circuit – so how did Russell keep the car on track? By channelling rally legend Colin McRae’s famous motto…
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“I have no idea [how I didn’t spin] to be honest. Just: ‘if in doubt flat out’," Russell said. “I kept it pinned. Honestly, the car was absolutely flying until that point. I damaged the rear diffuser quite a lot and obviously [had] gravel on my tyres, so [otherwise] Q2 was definitely on the cards.”
Making Q2 would have been an impressive feat for the Briton, given that he missed FP3 due to a brake failure and turned a total of just three flying laps on Saturday.
“it would’ve been a great way to reward the boys. They deserved it after all the work they did repairing the car after P3. But nevertheless, considering it was my third lap today, I think it was a good job,” he said.
Russell still felt that there is time to be gained in the race as Williams went for a low-downforce set-up on Saturday to suit Mugello’s high-speed demands, which could yield dividends on Sunday.
“We massively changed the downforce level from last night, which I planned to run this morning and I hadn’t. So it was max downforce yesterday; we’re medium downforce today,” he explained.
“I did my laps [in practice] and I was convinced that was the way to go. But we kept it for qualifying and the car was very different, which took me a little bit of time to get used to, and I think it will favour us in the race tomorrow so I’m glad we stuck with our gut and rolled the dice.
“Just a little bit annoyed that I couldn’t finish that lap,” he concluded.