George Russell went into Qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix hoping to make it through to Q2 for the first time in 2019, but traffic issues and a subsequent lack of tyre temperature at the start of his final flying lap attempt denied him the chance of progressing through.
The Williams Racing driver tried to leave it late to get his final attempt in as conditions towards the end of Q1 were more optimal for quicker laps, but he was forced to run slowly as others ahead of him prepared for their laps, meaning his tyre temperature fell away.
Ultimately, Russell was forced to settle for nineteenth fastest, but he knew that if he could have hooked the lap together at the end, Williams could have found themselves in Q2 for the first time this season.
“We decided to risk it and go as late as possible to get the best from the circuit,” said Russell. “Unfortunately, lots of other drivers were trying to do the same and my warm up lap was 20 or 30 seconds slower than every other I have done this week.
“When I started the lap I almost spun off as I had no temperature in the tyres, so from the first corner I knew that the lap was pretty much ruined. It was a shame as we had a small chance of a good result, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Team-mate Robert Kubica was restricted to only one flying lap during Qualifying as he missed out on setting a second flying lap by less than two-tenths of a second.
He had been called into the weighbridge after his first run, which had delayed his return to the track, and despite his best efforts he couldn’t start his next lap before the chequered flag fell to end the session, with the Pole ending twentieth and last as a result.
“We improved the car balance for qualifying and I was a bit surprised, so probably under drove a few corners on my first lap,” said Kubica. “I knew I had a second set of new tyres and the track evolution was pretty big, but we had a problem with the refuelling between the runs and left the garage too late.
“Unfortunately, I took the chequered flag before opening my final lap. It’s a shame but that’s how it is. The race will be a big challenge. The track is demanding both physically and mentally. It is also hard on the tyres and the car, so it will be a tough one.”
Dave Robson, the Senior Race Engineer at Williams, admitted Qualifying was a frustrating session for the team, with neither driver being given the opportunity to demonstrate the actual pace of the car.
He says analysis will be done to work out just went wrong in Singapore, so the problems do not repeat themselves in the future, while immediate concerns are to move forward from their grid positions on Sunday.
“Qualifying was ultimately frustrating as neither driver had the best opportunity to demonstrate the pace of the car,” said Robson. “For George, his final out-lap was compromised by being in traffic, which hindered his tyre preparation.
“Meanwhile, Robert had a small issue with the car during the quick garage turnaround following a visit to the FIA weighbridge. The short delay meant he left the garage later than intended. His out-lap was good and he was able to prepare the tyres as he wanted but he was further delayed in the final corners by the traffic ahead.
“Although the TV footage shows that he started the lap before the lights went red, the official timing, which is the final arbitrator in such matters, unfortunately showed that he had missed the end of the session by 0.2s. Reluctantly, we had to tell Robert to abort his lap as taking the chequered flag twice would have led to further sanction from the stewards.
“It is frustrating for everyone in the team, but we knew that to have a chance of progressing from Q1 we had to take some risks. On this occasion, we were not rewarded. We will analyse what happened and improve as a result.
“However, tomorrow there is still an opportunity to race the cars ahead of us on the grid and our immediate focus is on how best to achieve this.”