Williams hopes for another Q3 run; Russell not sure how they do it
The Brit says team's focus in race points even though they get Top 10 in qualifying.
Dave Robson talks about Williams making it into Q3 plus the progression from George Russell, who is not sure how they do it, as they don't do anything extra in qualifying.
Silverstone marked the second time in three years that Williams reached the final part of qualifying, all at the hands of Russell who described making Q3 for the first time with Williams as "like a pole position". In a few years for Williams where their car has been a backmarker, the emergence of the Brit has been a bright spark.
Time and time again he gets performance from the car he has no right to find. Last season he made Q2 on a handful of occasions, and this season Q2 has been at every race at least and now he’s kicked on to Q3. He also boasts the remarkable record of never being out-qualified by a teammate at the team, which will span three years if he continues that till the end of 2021.
With Hungary upon us, senior race engineer Robson is keen for Williams to replicate the Q3 showing with Russell at a track which has suited them in the past. "Obviously the last two races we've got there, which has been great," he said when asked by FormulaRapida.net. "I think probably it's a little bit early to say whether that is going to be something that's a regular occurrence."
Let’s not forget the Williams is, on paper, the ninth best car on the gird yet Russell manages to find top 10 performance in qualifying. "There is no doubt that George is driving extremely well at the moment, but then he has always done, if not always done well in qualifying," said Robson. "I think there's an element for him to get on that upward spiral, after Q1, you get in this case, two new sets to have a go at Q2."
It seems that Robson believes once the Q1 hurdle is cleared, the possibility of Q3 is really on the cards, two new sets of soft tyres to have a go and the appropriately named “Mr Saturday” behind the wheel. A recipe for good things. "He gets an opportunity to chip away at it," said Robson. "So, there's an element of that. That's sort of initial success in Q1 breeding more success as you go through the session."
Williams have in the past been very track dependent and still are to an extent. They’ve typically gone well at the low downforce high speed circuits. "I think if I am being completely honest, I thought it would be harder for us to achieve Q3 in Silverstone than in Austria," he said. Robson is a man who knows that Williams car inside out, and Austria was where Williams took their last pole back in 2014 so the Styrian hills are a happy hunting ground for the British outfit.
As for Silverstone, it was more environmental factors as opposed to the track itself which helped facilitate the home Q3 appearance for the team. "The evening qualifying session, I thought, worked really well and was probably particularly good for us because the slightly cooler conditions, very calm conditions, quite rare for Silverstone," said Robson. "I think that probably played to the strengths of the car quite well."
Mercedes powered cars have always gone better in the cooler conditions and on a weekend so hot like in Silverstone, Williams needed this little helping hand to achieve their second Q3 showing of 2021. "So, can we replicate it in Hungary?” That’s the big question, the question Robson wants to know.
"Its hard to know as it is completely different track to the last couple we've been to, with completely different sets up," said Robson. "That said, bizarrely, we've been quite good in Hungary in the last couple of seasons, relative to other circuits. So, the car does perform there and George does seem to drive particularly well there. So I think there's a good chance we will be there or thereabouts."
Hungary is a high downforce almost street circuit like track whereas Austria and Silverstone are low downforce power circuits. Russell bagged his first Q2 appearance of the season back in 2020 at the Hungaroring. A hat-trick of Q3 performances in 2021 is on the cards for the Brit to keep his upward trend.
For Russell, though, the qualifying performance is still a surprise as he reckons Williams is not doing anything extra. "I don't know how we keep managing to qualify so high," he said. "We still on paper have the ninth quickest car in every single session except qualifying. FP1, FP2, FP3 and the race, we're the ninth quickest.
"And then somehow come qualifying we manage to put it inside the top 10 or top 12. So come Sunday, when you have eight faster cars, or whatever it is, starting behind you, it's so difficult to keep them there," summed up Russell. This is why points have eluded the Brit for Williams, the race pace simply isn’t there relative to qualifying.
When cars around you are that much faster, it can make life very frustrating and it proves how simply repeating Saturday’s performance on Sunday is easier said than done. "I think the cars behind are three, four or five tenths quicker than us and when you've got that sort of pace advantage it's easy," said Russell.
"And they seem to be better on the tyres than us as well. So it was always going to be a race of looking in the mirrors and trying to keep these cars at bay." Defending and trying to keep up with the cars around you, it can chew through your tyres which is maybe why Russell feels the Williams car isn’t kind enough on it’s tyres. It’s another aspect which makes his quest for points harder.
With qualifying nailed, Williams’ focus has rightly shifted, "we're not focusing on qualifying, we're focusing everything onto the race." Now it’s a mission, a mission to score some points before season’s end because they won’t do any better than what they’ve achieved in qualifying so Sunday must be their priority.
"I don't know if we improve or the others make mistakes," said Russell. "When it's one single lap and the pressure's on, a one tenth or two tenths mistake makes the difference. Whereas in a race, you get into the groove, you get into the rhythm, and you find the limit over the course of a few laps, and then you can make hay at that."
In F1 the margins are so small, a few tenths of a second can cost you grid spaces as Russell says. But the driving dynamic is very different in a race scenario, it’s a different kind of limit, a sustainable one, it’s a marathon not a sprint.
When the pressure in on, Russell steps up and when he inevitably makes his move to Mercedes, this will put him in very good stead. "We just need to do a really good job with the procedures, getting everything right, the tyres in the window, right place on the track," said Russell. "And I feel confident in the car in that situation. And I think just between us all we do probably a better job than most, clearly."
Confidence isn’t lacking from Russell which is key in this sport. Getting everything spot on on a Sunday, operationally, will facilitate the on track performance required to score points. If Russell leaves Williams, whether that be this season or next or whenever, without scoring any points, it will hurt him.
He puts everything into that car every weekend which is evident with how much performance he is getting from the car and the extent to which he outperforms teammate Nicholas Latifi. It will come in 2021, it’s just a matter of time. But Hungary is next, and now we all know what Williams are striving to achieve there.
The story was written by Ollie Pattas
[Image courtesy: Williams Racing] [Note: This story was written on FormulaRapida.net]