George Russell admits he was stunned by the performance improvement Williams delivered at the Hungarian Grand Prix as he almost reached Q2.
The rookie was 1.3 seconds slower than the next car in Germany a week ago, a margin that had been common for Williams throughout this season after delivering an uncompetitive car late in pre-season. However, upgrades introduced in Hockenheim were honed for Hungary and Russell made a remarkable step forward as he outqualified both Racing Points, the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo and his teammate Robert Kubica, just missing out on a spot in Q2 by 0.053s.
“It was unbelievable — I’m almost lost for words,” Russell said. “Prior to this weekend I don’t think we could have ever dreamed of qualifying off the back row at any point on merit. I think we’ve really turned a page this weekend understanding the tires and understanding the car. The thing came alive then.
“We felt prior to this weekend that we didn’t have the tires in the perfect window at some previous events and decided to take a new approach and try some different things. As I mentioned yesterday, it was a very productive day. These tires are just a tricky thing and when you get them working you are battling with a completely different beast.
“I felt absolutely great inside the car but, forgetting the tires, it really shows the work that the aerodynamicists have been doing back at the factory to rebuild the issues they’ve had over the last two years. It has truly paid off because we have seen a big step in performance and the positive thing is we have got more of this to come later in the year. For everyone back in the factory it was a massive sigh of relief.”
Russell admits there was a big boost to the atmosphere inside the team trackside after its most competitive performance of the season.
“The mood is quite electric considering our whole season to this point has been an incredibly tough year from so many aspects, especially the race team people. It doesn’t matter if you are at the front or the back of the grid, you still work the same hours and put in the same effort.
“These guys only four years ago were putting the car on the front row at places and getting podiums week in and week out. They’re probably working harder now than they’ve ever worked before and they’ve had nothing to show for it. That performance … especially going into the summer break, it’s what we all needed as a team.
“This performance isn’t just from my side, we really did this together.”