Russell and Latifi surprised by Williams race pace deficit

Williams driver George Russell admitted that he had been surprised just how far off the pace the FW43 was on Sunday during the Styrian Grand Prix.

The previous day Russell had excelled with his best-ever qualifying performance despite atrocious conditions. It had put him in 11th place on the grid and on the cusp of earning his first championship points.

But those dreams evaporated early in the race when he ran off while tussling with Haas’ Kevin Magnussen. Although he was able to recover and continue, he had already dropped to the back of the field.

“I completely hold my hands up for that, it wasn’t good enough from my side,” he acknowledged. “I was trying to hold it on the outside of turn 6 and just completely lost it.”

  • Russell apologized to team for ‘messed up start’ to Styrian GP

The 22-year-old Briton then spent the race chasing down his own rookie team mate Nicholas Latifi. However he was unable to close the gap to any of the other drivers ahead and the pair finished at the back, two laps off the lead.

That was a big surprise and concern to the team which had been looking much stronger this season compared to a disastrous 2019 campaign. And Russell didn’t think it had all been down to his early mistake.

“We probably would have ended up in the same position had I not gone off,” he told Motorsport.com.

“We approached the weekend thinking we would struggle a bit more in qualifying and then have a better race pace in comparison.

“Yet both races and both qualifyings have been the complete opposite. We’ve had strong pace in qualifying, and we’ve really struggled in all honesty in the race.”

Russell commented that this year’s car is “relatively quick in clean conditions” but added that it “feels very sensitive from an aero perspective” when running in traffic.

“We’re still learning the car obviously as are other teams,” he conceded. “I hope that the aero department can go away and understand the issues and make some small changes – just to give us a bit more of a stable platform when following other cars.

“On paper I’d say the car suits Hungary slightly better than it does [Austria], which is a positive,” he added when asked about the prospects for the next race.

“We do still have a very draggy car, but in Hungary the drag factor and the power unit side doesn’t make such a huge difference.”

“We need to go through everything again in the next couple of days and see where we can find some extra pace for next week in Hungary,” commended William’s head of vehicle performance Dave Robson.

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“There were some good things from this weekend but overall it is clear that the car needs improving in all areas,” he added. “We knew that we had outperformed the car [in qualifying] with George and we were prepared to be defensive, but we didn’t think that [the race] would be quite so tough.”

Latifi agreed with his team mate that the race pace of the Williams had proven to be a disappointment over the first two races of the 2020 season.

“It was difficult,” he said. “We were lacking more pace than we thought coming into the race, so it was a shame we couldn’t fight more.

“I think we expected we would be able to at least have a chance of being able to fight with the Haases, but obviously it didn’t turn out to be that way.

“Most of the fighting was with George, but that was nice to experience a bit of that consistently.

“We have some homework to do, but we still learned a lot which is the main thing.”

Latifi at least took consolation in having a stronger outing on Sunday than he had in his debut the week before – even though accidents and retirements saw him finish the previous race up in 11th.

“I did a lot better job than I did the race last weekend,” he said. “I felt more comfortable behind the wheel.

“Obviously the result doesn’t show that but we got that finishing position as a result of a lot of luck and just staying on the track.”

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