George Russell says Williams will be very fast at some races but not at others this season, and for reasons outside of the team’s control.
The final day of pre-season testing saw Russell end up sixth on the overall timing screens, just 0.1s behind Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes. While that interval is not truly representative, Russell says the 2021 Williams FW43B is a quick car in the right conditions but is sensitive to the high winds that were seen in Bahrain.
“The positives are that when the wind is in a favorable direction the car’s very fast,” Russell said. “So when we do go to a track where the winds are lower, where the track is maybe a bit more high speed… we talk about this yaw-sensitivity, so the yaw angles get very high at low speed, especially when there’s a bit of wind, and that’s when our car is very poor.
“The positive is there is a fast race car in there. But unfortunately it’s almost out of our hands when we can excel. Had the wind been neutral for this test our lap times would have been much faster.”
Despite that weakness in the car, Russell says it was encouraging for Williams to be able to gather data to analyze it during the three-day test, especially as it ran reliably and allowed him to complete 158 laps on his one and only day of testing.
“Definitely positive that the car was reliable, as to finish first first you’ve got to finish. We saw it last year in Austria that only 11 cars finished; not saying it’ll be the same again but if it were to be the case I think we’d be in a very good position to be one of those cars.
“In terms of the timings, it’s not relevant really. I was a tenth behind Hamilton; I can be pretty confident in two weeks’ time I won’t be. We’re all doing our own programs, we’re all doing our own agendas, other teams have got the sandbags to come off.
“I mean (Russell’s best lap) wasn’t full quali trim but we didn’t have the sandbags on board. This test has been a very productive one for the team, we’ve done an incredible amount of laps, no issues reliability-wise.
“We knew ahead of the season and confirmed in these days that our car was incredibly sensitive to the wind and the conditions of those three days brought out the worst of the car — which has been positive in ways to analyze but equally I think you’ll see our performance as a bit of a yo-yo this season, and unfortunately quite often in the hands of the wind.”