Russell found the Williams 'joyous to drive' in Spain as he commends team for rolling the dice on strategy
Far from being disappointed at getting so close to scoring points, George Russell climbed out of a Williams that was “joyous to drive” in Barcelona.
Williams have not scored points since 2019 when Robert Kubica finished tenth in Germany, and Russell himself has not finished in the top 10 for the team since he joined the Grove-based outfit.
After a race in Portugal where he started 11th but dropped to the back of the field due to the car being sensitive to windy conditions, the opposite was true in Barcelona where a pit stop under the early Safety Car period put Williams in the frame for points and Russell briefly ran tenth before fading in the closing laps.
“I mean it’s incredibly tricky, I think we did a really great job pitting under the Safety Car at the beginning, effectively almost doing a one-stop,” Russell said after eventually finishing 14th. “For sure, if I had just managed to clear [Fernando] Alonso then who knows but I think having Alonso ahead of me helped keep those faster cars behind because I had the DRS, they had half a second of car pace and probably one second tyre pace.
“It would have been an incredible task. But I’m really pleased that we rolled the dice and found ourselves in the position. It’s fine margins, who knows what would’ve happened had I just managed to clear him. It’s very difficult but all in all I think we did a really good job.
“The car felt the best it has ever felt, to be honest, in a race probably the best I can ever remember. That just makes it so joyous to drive compared to normal, most of which I put down to a calm day.”
Explaining why the Williams was so much more competitive, Russell highlighted how one aspect of the weather can have a knock-on effect on other areas of the driver’s performance.
“I think because it was a car with a consistent day, the wind was less than 10 km/h, there was minimal gusts which just made the car consistent to drive. When it’s consistent, as a driver you can drive around it and I think that’s something that Nicholas and I struggled with, especially at Portimao, that was really exposed and it was incredibly inconsistent.
The car felt the best it has ever felt, to be honest.
“As a driver, you lose all the confidence, then it has a negative effect on the tyres and then you’re just in this downward spiral. Whereas on days like [Sunday], the car is nice and consistent. As a driver you can really push it to its limit, you can manage the car as you wish, manage the tyres as you wish and really optimise everything.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure a lot of people felt their car felt better. But I think we take a bigger jump in both directions when these conditions are favourable or not.”
And although he finished 20 seconds outside of the points, Russell attributes the final result to the risk Williams had to take to be in the mix.
“It’s difficult in our position when you’re naturally on the back foot, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. That was our situation after qualifying in Q1. We didn’t think we had quite enough pace to get into Q2, but we were wrong.
“You get to Q2 and you think ‘Oh I wish we had another set of tyres’. Had we finished Q1 in P16 or P17, you think ‘Why didn’t I use that third set?’. That’s the same situation [in the race]. Perhaps if we did an ordinary strategy, we would’ve had a better finishing time and finish closer to that midfield, but we wouldn’t have had that opportunity to be in the battle.
“It’s so difficult, it’s difficult for the strategists because often, we’re having to just roll the dice to try and get that fortunate result. We only need one good result in the whole season to transform the constructors’ championship.
“As a driver as well, I recognise it and sometimes you’ve got to put more on the table than if you’re battling for a championship, which is naturally not who I am as a driver, not how I’ve gone about my business in the junior series trying to win a championship, opposed to all in for that one opportunity.”