George Russell once again excelled in a Qualifying session in 2020, with the Briton making it through to Q2 for a ninth time this year in the unfancied Williams Racing FW43.
Williams has yet to register a points finish this season such is the pace deficit to their rivals, but Russell has been able to get some good one-lap pace at times this year. He remains with a 100% qualifying advantage over team-mate Nicholas Latifi and has yet to be beaten by a team-mate in Qualifying since he debuted in the sport at the start of 2019.
With Carlos Sainz Jr. not setting a lap time, Russell’s one and only lap in Q2 was good enough for a place on the seventh row for the Bahrain Grand Prix, with the Briton unable to get close to a first Q3 appearance as he only had a used set of soft tyres to use.
“It was a very good session and I am happy to have qualified P14,” said Russell. “It was amazing to do a good lap and get into Q2, particularly having missed FP1 and then had tricky sessions in FP2 and FP3.
“That was all we could hope for as the midfield is too far ahead but to outqualify the Haas and the Alfa, and to capitalise on the issue Carlos [Sainz] had was great.
“I was on a used tyre for Q2, as we wanted to retain two fresh sets of the medium tyre for tomorrow. The race will be difficult, but we will try our best and do everything we can.”
Team-mate Latifi was twentieth and last in Qualifying, although the Canadian was pleased with his final lap of the session. However, when he compared his time to Russell, he knew there was plenty of time he was unable to find that the Briton could on the other side of the garage.
“I was pretty pleased with my lap, but there was a big gap to George so it shows that the potential of the car is there,” said Latifi. “There are a few set-up differences between us as we went in slightly different directions, so that could account for some of the time difference.
“We need to look into it and see what we could have done better. Ultimately in the race tomorrow the tyre degradation is going to play the biggest factor in the result. We will try and get on top of that, manage that well and have a good strategy.”
“George drove very well” – Dave Robson
Dave Robson, the Head of Vehicle Performance at Williams, praised Russell for once again showing good speed during Qualifying, with the Briton earning the praise for getting the best out of his tyres across all of his Q1 runs.
However, he admitted it was a shame that Latifi was not able to get the same kind of performance out of his car to at least move ahead of one or both of the Haas F1 Team drivers ahead of him.
“George drove very well and made good use of his three new tyres in Q1 to put in a great lap at the end of the session,” said Robson. “The car was behaving well in the cooler conditions of the evening session and we were able to get the tyres into their window on the outlap.
“Unfortunately, Nicholas wasn’t quite able to extract as much from the car today, which is a shame as he was very close to beating both Haas cars.”
Robson says it will be important for both Williams drivers to manage their tyres on race day, and he believes there is a chance that Russell and Latifi can have strong races if they are able to maintain life in their Pirelli rubber.
“Tomorrow will be a very different prospect with tyre management being key,” he said. “Hopefully the changes that we made to the car since Friday will help us and we can have a strong race with both cars.”