George Russell admits he was shocked to qualify on the front row of the grid for the Belgian Grand Prix, but believes he has a chance of staying at the front if it’s wet in the race.
The Williams driver pulled out a sensational final lap on worn intermediate tires to take provisional pole, and was left waiting for the rest of the field to complete their laps, one by one failing to beat him. In the end Max Verstappen was the only driver to jump ahead of Russell by 0.3s, but the 2018 Formula 2 champion says confidence and past experience helped him deliver the surprise second place.
When you split the two title rivals in qualifying at Spa 👌
And put your Williams on the front row for Sunday's race 😮
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 28, 2021
“I mean, incredible team effort — the car was really on it in these wet conditions,” Russell said. “And there’s so much that has to go right — all the little details — to give the driver the confidence because we aren’t doing many laps. The conditions are so tricky, constantly changing, you’ve got to have that confidence to be able to extract the most.
“In Q3 we had the extreme tires on at the start which were the incorrect tires and I only had one lap at the end, and I think being in Q3 I was in the fortunate position I could put it all on the table and just absolutely go for it. I definitely wasn’t expecting to be on the front row this weekend that’s for sure!
“If it was wet I thought Q3 was definitely a real possibility. I have good confidence in the wet around this circuit — it’s a place I enjoy in the conditions. Throughout the junior ranks you get the chance to drive this place a lot and more times than not it is wet. But getting into Q3 was an achievement in itself, and we had no more new inter tires, so we were actually on a used set of inters for Q3.
“So I was expecting P9, P8 or P7 really, and when my engineer came on the radio telling me all the drivers who were slotting in behind me I thought, ‘Crikey, this could be a good one!’ and then obviously Max just pipped me. We’re in a great position but obviously no points for qualifying, so eyes on tomorrow.”
Russell believes his Williams is performing so well in the wet that he can defend his position at the sharp end of the field and stay in the podium mix if the conditions are similar on Sunday.
“We’ve obviously got to be realistic — we’ve got incredibly fast cars behind us. If the conditions stay the same we’ve got a car that is probably quick enough on merit for the top 10. If we’re starting on the front row, there’s no reason why we can’t try and hold that position for the majority of the race.
“I don’t think I’m going to do anything stupid with the cars around me that are clearly going to be faster than us, but I think there’s no reason why we can’t finish — if conditions are like this — top five and just maximize it. Points are an absolute minimum.”