Claire Williams has spoken very highly about George Russell, with the Deputy Team Principal of the Williams F1 Team admitting she has been ‘blown away’ by the Briton’s performances during his rookie Formula 1 season in 2019.
Despite being the only driver not to score points, Russell generally had the better of team-mate Robert Kubica across the year, but the FW42 was not the car that anyone was hoping for at Williams, and Williams said it has been an extremely difficult season it has been.
Never-the-less, Williams felt Russell behaved in an ‘exemplary’ way despite not having the same kind of impact that the likes of his primary FIA Formula 2 rivals Lando Norris and Alexander Albon had during their own rookie campaigns.
“I’ve been blown away by George,” said Williams to Motorsport.com. “Unless you are inside this team you don’t really know how hard it has been.
“George understood what he was coming into and he could see it himself, but we very clearly warned him what it was going to be like. And from the get go he has really behaved in a way that you could say is exemplary because it’s been tough for him, not having a car that he would like to have.
“It has been tough for him seeing his peers that have graduated from F2 at the same time [Lando Norris and Alex Albon] get into machinery that is far more competitive than he’s got.”
Williams Compares Russell Compares with Mansell
Williams likens Russell to former Williams driver and 1992 World Champion Nigel Mansell in a sense that he can extract ‘everything that he possibly can’ from the car, and should he get a competitive car, he will really light up the sport.
Mercedes-Benz protégé Russell out-qualified Kubica in every Qualifying session in 2019 and had an average 0.625 second advantage over the Pole on Saturdays, the biggest margin of any driver over their team-mate.
“He’s one of those drivers that when he does have a [competitive] car, he’s going to really light things up,” adds Williams. “We see him on a Saturday in qualifying – and people might not focus on what George Russell does because he’s in a Williams at the back – but he gets in that car, and the boys gather around the TV screens and they’re excited about watching him.
“It’s a bit like Nigel [Mansell], he just extracts everything that he possibly can and yes it might be a second off getting into Q2 but he’s still banging in some pretty impressive laps.
“And outside the car as well, considering this is his first year, the knowledge that he has on how a Formula 1 car works and [how] to translate that into useful information that the engineers can then use to develop has been impressive.
“And he’s been able to maintain this demeanour that he has. Everyone knows and loves George because of the personality that he is. I can’t speak highly enough of him and him.”
Williams Grateful for Russell for Keeping Team Morale Up High
Williams has also spoke highly on how Russell has kept morale higher than it should be at the team, especially on the back of a trying season where only one point was scored across the twenty-one races.
“I am enormously grateful to George because he has very quickly understood the role that he can play in keeping team morale up empty space,” said the deputy Team Principal. “Yes, he has the occasional moan like we all do, but he has held his head high and he’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do.
“But he’s also gone above and beyond that and really played a huge part in maintaining morale in this team and leading it in that sense.”
Russell, who will start his second year of a three-year deal next season, is just the kind of driver the team want to pull them out of the doldrums, and Williams hopes they can give the Briton a car that he can truly show what kind of talent he really is.
“George is very much next-gen Williams, and that’s really exciting,” she said. “I’m very proud that we have a driver like George driving our car, flying the flag for Williams in the way that he does because he ticks every box in what we want to have in a racing driver.
“I just want to make sure that we can give him the car to really show what he can do.”