Russell aiming for Russian GP podium after earning second top-3 start since summer break
It’s a matter of fact that George Russell has now outqualified his future Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton at two out of the last four Grands Prix – with Russell vowing to shoot for his second career podium at the Russian Grand Prix after taking a shock P3 on the grid at Sochi.
Russell opted to use up an additional set of intermediate tyres in the damp conditions of Q2 at the Sochi Autodrom before successfully making it to Q3. But with the track drying in the final segment of qualifying, Russell instructed his Williams team to switch him onto slicks, with the Briton going on to take P3 on the grid, one spot ahead of Hamilton – and behind only surprise maiden polesitter Lando Norris and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.
“It's high risk, high reward in a situation like this,” said Russell of his decision in Q3 to change to slicks. “If we’d got it wrong, we'd have been P10, and that would have probably been a fair qualifying result. But if we get it right, as we did in Spa [where Russell qualified P2 in the wet], we can be in the top three.
“I came on the radio to say to the guys, ‘Let's get the slicks ready because it's definitely going to go slicks’, and they replied saying, ‘Okay let's box this lap’, so I thought they may have misunderstood what I meant by that radio comment!
“I came out of the pit lane on the slicks and almost crashed straight out of the box,” added Russell. “I knew that last lap was going to be the killer lap, so we saved it all for then and here we are. A bit surreal but it's my second top-three in four races now.”
Russell would go on to convert his P2 on the grid at Spa into his first F1 podium, finishing in the position he’d started in. And Russell vowed to shoot for the rostrum once again, as he prepares to start from the coveted P3 position at Sochi that affords the driver in that grid slot the best slipstream into Turn 2.
“P3 is here is incredible position to start in,” said Russell, who’s scored points for Williams at every race bar one since the Hungarian Grand Prix. “It's a really long run into Turn 2... Hopefully Lando will give me a nice little slipstream into Turn 1, so definitely really happy.
“We've been scoring points now, three [points finishes] in the last four [races], so there's no reason why we can't keep on going, and we've got to be aiming for the podium. We've got nothing to lose and we're just going to go for it.”