Russell Returns to Venue of Formula 2 Title Win as Kubica Gets Ready to Say Goodbye

by Paul Hensby

George Russell will end his rookie season in Formula 1 this weekend in Abu Dhabi, and the Williams Racing driver comes into the weekend with mixed feelings.

Twelve months ago, Russell clinched the FIA Formula 2 title at the Yas Marina Circuit, but his 2019 season has been far from easy, with the Briton the only driver on the grid not to have broken into the top ten in any of the twenty previous races.

His best finish came in the German Grand Prix when he finished eleventh, while last time out in Brazil he ended twelfth, but despite his lack of points, he is sad that the season is coming to a conclusion this weekend.

“I’ve got mixed feelings as it is going to be sad to do the last race of the year, but I’m also excited to get back out to the warm weather of Abu Dhabi,” said Russell.

“I have good memories there as winning the FIA Formula 2 Championship last year was a really special feeling, and something I will remember for a long time to come.”

Team-mate Robert Kubica will end his time with Williams after this weekend’s race, with the Polish driver’s seat being taken by Canadian Nicholas Latifi for 2020.  He hopes to end the year on a positive note but expects another tough weekend.

“Abu Dhabi is quite a difficult track, but we will try to optimise the car the best we can for the last race of the season,” said Kubica.  “It will be my final Grand Prix with Williams, and so I would like to put everything together for the boys and for the team.”

Dave Robson, the Senior Race Engineer at Williams, says the weekend in Abu Dhabi is complicated by the timing of the sessions, with the first and third practice sessions being run in conditions that will not represent the conditions drivers will face in either Qualifying on Saturday nor the race on Sunday.

“The final race of the season takes place in Abu Dhabi, which should all but guarantee warm and dry conditions, complicated only by the often unrepresentatively warm conditions of FP1 and FP3,” said Robson.  “As a result, most teams will focus their weekend preparations on FP2, leaving FP1 to explore more medium-term items.

“We will continue to work on both race setup and car development as we look to finalise some of our preparations for the FW43. Both drivers will have busy and detailed run programmes on Friday.”

Robson says getting the best out of the Pirelli tyres, particularly during Qualifying, could be the biggest challenge facing the drivers this weekend and he pinpoints the final sector as the one that will see the tyres struggle.

“The Yas Marina circuit has become the traditional venue for the season’s final race, and it offers a good blend of corners, separated by two long DRS straights,” said Robson.  “The third sector is challenging, especially in qualifying when the tyres can begin to struggle.

“Pirelli have provided their softest compounds for this event, a combination last seen in Singapore, and a significant contrast to the selection in Interlagos. The C5 ‘street circuit’ tyre should offer good grip in qualifying but getting the most out of it for the full 5.6km lap could be the biggest challenge facing the drivers and engineers this weekend.”

Robert Kubica races for Williams for the last time this weekend in Abu Dhabi – Credit: ROKiT Williams Racing

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