Williams Racing believes its race pace will be an improvement on its lacking one-lap performance, having locked out the back row in qualifying for the Formula 1 Mexico Grand Prix.
George Russell outqualified Robert Kubica for the sixteenth time in 2019, by a margin of 1.356 seconds at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, and managed to get within two-tenths of eighteenth place man Romain Grosjean‘s time for the Haas F1 Team.
But Williams struggled with tyre, chassis and aerodynamic performance in the high altitude of Mexico City, at a track where the downforce is unusually high for a circuit with very high top speeds.
The team chose to focus on race setup in a damp Free Practice 3 on Saturday morning, with a number of new parts also introduced for this weekend – including the heavily-discussed front wing assembly for both cars.
Russell says that he may have a chance to run close to the Haas and Alfa Romeo Racing cars, two teams also struggling for performance this weekend, in a rare display of competitiveness for Williams.
“It was really tricky out there for everybody, but I was pleased with the lap,” said Russell.
“There was still a bit more in there, but we are definitely going in the right direction.
“I think our long run pace is better than our single lap pace, especially versus the Haas cars and the Alfa Romeos, so we will have to see what we can do tomorrow.”
Kubica was more downbeat on his first visit to the Mexico track, revealing that he “felt no grip” in the car on his fast runs and made no predictions about his chances for Sunday’s race.
“It was a difficult qualifying session,” Kubica said.
“Unfortunately, I felt no grip in the car today and the lap time reflected that. We will have to see what we can do tomorrow in the race.”
Williams’ senior race engineer, Dave Robson, praised Russell for his efforts in qualifying and forecasted a difficult race for the cars in challenging ambient conditions – but echoed the Brit’s hunch that the Haas and Alfa Romeos are in sight.
“George did a good job, finding time with each run to finish frustratingly close to Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean,” Robson summarised.
“Robert struggled a little more and made a mistake on his second run, which lost him some momentum.
“[The race] will be difficult for the field, with [power unit], brake and tyre management all potentially tricky.
“On Friday we were more competitive on high fuel than we were on low fuel and so we will look to race the cars ahead, with the Haases and Alfa Romeos in particular being realistic opponents.”