FIA Formula 2 Championship leader George Russell is pleased to have secured pole position at the Yas Marina Circuit, ahead of the night time Feature race, which the Brit admits will be going into the ‘unknown’.
Russell was able to clinch pole position in the final qualifying session of the season, adding four points to his championship lead to second place Alexander Albon.
Albon in the DAMS‘ car could only manage eighth place at the end of qualification, putting himself in a challenging position to keep his title hopes alive in the Feature race.
Russell is in a strong position to claim the F2 title in race one on Saturday night if he finishes ahead of Albon in the points. Albon needs to outscore Russell by 24 points to keep his title hopes alive.
In the F2 press conference after qualifying, Russell feels pleased to have captured pole position and increase his championship margin to the Thai-Anglo driver.
“I am very, very pleased about that pole position,” said Russell.
“Coming into this weekend obviously I had a very healthy points margin, but I knew that there was a potential 8 point swing after qualifying depending on whether Alex or I got pole, so clinching that is great for me and the team. It was incredible.”
Russell was able to set an improved time in the final moments of qualifying, clinching pole away from Pertamina Prema Theodore Racing‘s Nyck de Vries.
Both de Vries and Nicholas Latifi, who qualified in third for the Feature race, both set their first fast laps during the midway stage of the session when the track was quiet.
But Russell was able to claim pole back after making a clean second run, after he admitted making two mistakes on his first run in qualifying.
“I didn’t fully optimise the lap on my first run, I made just 2 little mistakes which cost me a bit of time but I knew the rest of the lap was great.
“Then I managed to get it all together for my second run and really managed to nail that lap, but I think it’s difficult for all of us F2 drivers that we get an FP session in the middle of the day on harder tyres and then we go into a night session where the car is quicker, the engine runs faster, you’ve got softer tyres, and we get 1 lap on each set of tyres!
“We’ve got to go in blind and nail it basically, and if you don’t then you’re finished, as we saw with a couple of the drivers.”
When asked whether Russell has any expectations for the race in the night, the Brit responded about driving into the unknown, as the F2 drivers will race in the night conditions for the first time this season.
“I’m not too sure,” replied Russell. “Today we’re going into the unknown a bit.
“We’re racing into the night, we haven’t tested all year in the night either, so our only previous experience was Bahrain qualifying.
“My goal is just to get a good start, get into the lead, and manage the race from there, but as we’ve seen earlier in the year anything can happen in Formula 2, so you’ve just got to be clean, not make any silly mistakes, and obviously my main objection is to win the championship and keep Alex behind me.”