May 18, 2021

Russell has 2019 flashbacks after “incredible struggle” at windy Algarve | 2021 F1 season

George Russell described his Portuguese Grand Prix as “an incredible struggle” after his best qualifying performance for Williams yielded only a 16th place finish.

The team entertained hopes of challenging for a points finish after Russell took 11th on the grid, missing a place in Q3 by less than a tenth of a second. But he said the team’s highly wind-sensitive car performed too poorly in traffic to make any progress.

“It was probably the most difficult race we’ve had since 2019,” said Russell, referring to his gruelling first season with the team when their car was the slowest in the field by far.

“We’ve said it since the beginning – we know the strengths and we know the weaknesses of our car. It’s incredibly sensitive aerodynamically. And we saw at Imola when conditions were calmer, the performance was there. We saw yesterday in qualifying, the conditions calmed down for that Q2 run, and the performance was there, as it was in FP1.

“Today it was nowhere. And unfortunately, that’s the nature of the beast with our car at the moment. We’ve had three races now, two of which have been very gusty and very exposed circuits, so fingers crossed we’re not talking about this all season.”

His team mate Nicholas Latifi slipped to 18th at the finish and took the chequered flag behind Mick Schumacher – the first time a Haas has beaten a running rival this year.

Russell said the car was too sensitive at the start of the race to capitalise on his strong qualifying performance. “There is no confidence in myself or Nicholas to attack on those first laps,” he said. “We’re constantly on the back foot, battling from behind.

“It was a race of survival, keeping the car on the track as opposed to actually racing. One of the hardest races we’ve ever done. So it was a real shame because the car does have potential.”

However he remains optimistic that the team will be able to race better in calmer conditions later in the season.

“We have been at now two races out of three very gusty, very windy [conditions], everyone up and down the pit lane is talking about it. Bahrain and Portimao are very exposed. Let’s just see as the season progresses.

“It’s clear there is pace in the car, but the stars have to be aligned for us, or else we are just going to be nowhere really as we were today.”

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2021 F1 season

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