Russell vows to ‘go for it’ in F1 Sprint after ‘incredible’ home crowd roars him to P8 in qualifying
He’s become known as ‘Mr Saturday’ for his qualifying heroics, but George Russell proved he can also do it on a Friday, after overcoming lacklustre pace in practice to claim eighth on the grid for Saturday’s inaugural F1 Sprint at Silverstone – much to the delight of the British fans.
The Williams driver was audibly roared around the track by tens of thousands of fans as he completed his final lap in Q3 – his second successive appearance in the top 10 shootout. And he didn’t disappoint his home crowd, equalling his best ever grid slot for Williams, only a tenth of a second or so off fellow Brit Lando Norris's McLaren in sixth.
Afterwards, Russell paid tribute to those that had cheered him on. Referencing a recent conversation with 1994 Silverstone winner Damon Hill on our F1 Nation podcast, he said: “Damon Hill told me the crowd was worth a second [a lap of performance] – I thought he was lying, but maybe he was right!
“Incredible support and amazing feelings. You know, it’s my second Q3 with Williams on the bounce and we’re just on this roll at the moment. Being here, and seeing everyone together, its just great. I had a bit of a rubbish FP1, so I knew we had to step it up in quali and we did that.”
Indeed, Russell was dead last in the only practice session heading into the first Friday qualifying session of the new Sprint weekend format. Asked what had made the difference between FP1 and qualifying, he said: “I don’t know to be honest. The track was a bit green and we were a bit lost in the set-up, so we just said ‘let’s go back to basics, don’t overthink it and let the track come to us’.
“I went out first lap in Q1 and knew we were in a good spot. I’m buzzing to be honest. Also my family are here – they haven’t been to a race since Abu Dhabi 2019, so that’s great for me as well and so nice to do it in front of them.”
Russell has been adamant heading into the weekend that he would go for it in the Sprint, and not take it conservatively, as some are predicting drivers will do. And it appears he’s not changing his mind now, despite the elusive first Williams point he craves only being open to the top three drivers in the 17-lap sprint.
“I think a lot of guys will be playing it a bit easy because they want to get a good starting position for Sunday,” he reasoned. “But we’re going for it. It’s another race for me and I want to go forward, I want to fight with these guys around me and get the best possible starting position for Sunday. I’m treating it like any normal race and just going for it.”