George Russell says there was a noticeable improvement from the 2020 Williams on its opening laps of pre-season testing compared to the difficult start last year.
Williams was late with its new car in 2019 and missed the first two and a half days of testing, before enduring a miserable season that saw it finish last in the constructors’ standings. The FW43 first ran during a filming day on Monday but after an encouraging first morning of pre-season testing — during which he completed 73 laps — Russell says there was a clear difference with how the car feels to drive.
“I’d say definitely the general handling of the car is much better,” Russell said. “From lap one today I had confidence to push the car to the limit, whereas last year it wasn’t a nice feeling in the early laps. It was actually quite scary to drive, actually, last year in the opening laps and trying to build that confidence.
“So already that’s better but not always a nice car to drive is a fast car. It’s a lap time based sport and it doesn’t matter how you get round the lap, as long as it’s fast, that’s all that counts. It has been improved in that area, now we just need to see if we’ve managed to smash enough downforce on the car to be able to compete with the guys around me.”
Russell was first out on track as pre-season testing got underway, and he admits it was symbolic for Williams to ensure it was at the had of the queue.
“We had an intense morning planned and to get everything in it was important to get out from the beginning but also off the back of last year it was psychologically important for all of us and for everybody whose worked day and night back at the factory to see their car go out first.
“From the struggles of last year, it was incredibly tough times for the people back at Grove last year, when they are working absolutely flat out to try and make things ready and work in double time. So it was a relief for all and now we can get cracking with our test program.
“Last year was far from ideal and the team have done a really great job to achieve that and the build quality of the car is so much better standard compared to last year. Things fit properly and the car looks better from a design perspective, so I think overall it’s been a very positive morning. Nevertheless going into next week and Melbourne, it all depends on lap times and we just need to focus on our program and get the most out of these two weeks.”