Momentum has always been key in any sport or championship, and despite not winning either race at Silverstone last weekend, George Russell is the one with that momentum, pulling out a thirty-seven-point advantage over Lando Norris.
Russell started the seventh weekend of the FIA Formula 2 championship season by dominating free practice for his home race and then secured his third consecutive pole position on Friday afternoon, and was on course for victory in the Feature race when a slow pit stop by his ART Grand Prix mechanics saw him fall behind Alexander Albon, who ultimately went onto claim his second victory of the year.
Circumstances forced Russell’s hand thereafter, with a five-second time penalty thanks to speeding into the pit lane, which meant he opted not to attack Albon for the win, particularly due to the chasing pack being a considerable distance behind the leading duo.
That gap, more than eighteen-seconds when the chequered flag fell, was due to the duo’s knowledge of the Pirelli tyres, which did not degrade as much as everyone expected. Both Albon and Russell did a long run in practice that gave them confidence that the tyres would last, and whereas the drivers behind them drove more conservatively, that ultimately left them trailing in their wake.
Russell finished second again in Sunday’s Sprint race after a storming drive from seventh on the grid, with good moves on Luca Ghiotto, Antonio Fuoco, Louis Delétraz, Artem Markelov and Nyck de Vries enabling him to climb to second, but he ran out of laps to catch and pass polesitter Maximilian Günther, finishing just half a second down on the German, who took his maiden series victory. If only there was one more lap, the race might have seen a different winner…
Norris should have taken two podium finishes across the weekend, with the Carlin Motorsport driver showing good pace before and after his mandatory pit stop in the Feature race, however his struggles to pull away from a standing start continued as he stalled in the pit lane, relegating him to the back of the field. Perhaps it was lucky the races continued to be rolling starts…
He was forced to rely on a couple of drivers being handed penalties in the Feature to secure a solitary point for tenth place, but Norris was, like Russell, a star on Sunday, climbing from tenth to claim third, with a double pass on Markelov and de Vries around the outside of Vale/Club a particular highlight, even if he admitted he was not intending to pass both at the same time!
Norris had already survived contact at Luffield with Fuoco, with the Italian taking the blame for the incident that initially saw the Charouz Racing System driver push him off the track, only for him to return to the track and hit the Italian’s car into the gravel trap and into retirement.
Günther’s Sunday performance needs to be highlighted and praised, with the BWT Arden driver managing his tyres much better at Silverstone than he has at any time this season. The former FIA European Formula 3 Championship race winner had often struggled towards the end of the races but despite Russell’s pace towards the end of the race, he had the tyres to maintain his position and taking his first F2 victory at the home venue for his team.
On the other end of the tyre management spectrum is de Vries, who once again showed his frailties in that department, with the Dutchman dropping from second place, not far off Günther to seventh at the chequered flag as he struggled with the degradation of his rear tyres. If he has true Formula 1 ambitions – he is a part of the McLaren F1 Team junior programme after all – he needs to get on top of this sooner rather than later, although he is probably already aware he’s fallen behind Norris in the pecking order by now.
Someone who will be feeling pressure is Jack Aitken, with the second ART Grand Prix driver enduring a terrible run of results, and since his win in the Sprint race at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in May, he has only scored points in one of the subsequent eight races. At Silverstone, he had finished inside the points on Saturday but was handed not one, but two penalties to drop him down the order, while he could not better twelfth on Sunday. With his team-mate now 121 points ahead of him, there has to be some worries going through the Anglo-Korean’s mind.
No look back at the Silverstone weekend can be complete without looking at the astonishing goings on at Trident between drivers Arjun Maini and Santino Ferrucci. The inter-team rivalry has been brewing for weeks, with it getting rather personal behind closed doors, but in both races the two drivers clashed, while the post-race antics of the American, which saw him drive into the back of his team-mate, earned him a four-race ban and a lot of condemnation. It will be interesting to see whether we see Ferrucci in Trident colours again, or indeed in Formula 2, while his association with the Haas F1 Team may also be under threat.
After three rounds in three consecutive weeks, the championship now has a two-week break before it reconvenes at the Hungaroring, where the battle for supremacy between Russell and Norris will resume. You have to assume that these two will be battling each other in Formula 1 sooner rather than later.