George Russell, Williams, Hungaroring, 2019

2019 F1 driver rankings #11: George Russell

2019 F1 season review

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Lumbered with a car which was, on average, almost 2% slower than any other car over a lap, George Russell’s opportunity to show what he was capable of was always going to be limited.

He had Robert Kubica to race, of course, but a thumping 19-0 victory on Saturday (excluding the two sessions where his team mate did not set a qualifying time) tells you everything you need to know about his raw speed. Russell almost invariably took the chequered flag ahead of Kubica as well.

He should have scored the team’s only point of the year in Germany, but that went to Kubica. There were two reasons for this. Firstly, had Williams heeded Russell’s eagerness to switch to slick tyres at the same time Daniil Kvyat and Lance Stroll made their races by doing so, he could have propelled himself much further up the field. But in the final reckoning it was an unforced error which cost Russell his position and the point to his team mate.

Nevertheless, over the balance of the season Russell demonstrated clear superiority of his team mate, the likes of which was only seen to a comparable extent between Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly at Red Bull. Russell nearly put Kubica a lap down at the Red Bull Ring, and came incredibly close to giving Williams their only Q2 appearance of the season at the Hungaroring.

Where Russell really stood out was his ability to occasionally drag the FW42 home ahead of better cars. Six times a Haas finished behind him, something Kubica managed just once. Russell beat Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi four times each; Kubica’s combined record against the Alfa Romeo drivers was half as good, and he only led Raikkonen home once.

As the season ran its course, Russell found fewer opportunities to draw an eye-catching result out of the Williams. He tended to out-qualify Kubica but was often more circumspect at the start and lost out to his team mate on several occasions, though he almost invariably regained the advantage later in the race.

George Russell

Beat team mate in qualifying19/19
Beat team mate in race16/18
Races finished19/21
Laps spent ahead of team mate906/1151
Qualifying margin-0.62

He took advantage of Raikkonen’s first-lap collision at Spa to beat the Alfa Romeo and came within a lap of beating a similarly disadvantaged Vettel at Monza. He didn’t reach the chequered flag in Singapore, after a rare tangle with Romain Grosjean, or in Russia where a car failure put him into a barrier. But he battled to the end at Suzuka in spite of wildly fluctuating brake performance which he described as being borderline dangerous.

A chaotic race in Brazil gave him the chance to snatch 12th – the team’s third-best result of the year – but the season finale was the usual slog at the rear of the field.

Figuring out exactly how good Russell is compared to his rivals is frustrated by the quality of equipment he had at his disposal. The FW42 often wasn’t quick enough to race with other cars, or its drivers were hamstrung by the need to preserve the team’s stock of parts.

What we can say with certainty is that Russell’s talent is one which deserves a better car at its disposal. Hopefully next year Williams will supply one.

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Over to you

What’s your verdict on George Russell’s 2019 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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44 comments on “2019 F1 driver rankings #11: George Russell”

  1. the surprising part is the fact Kimi will be higher in this list.

  2. Russell suffers from how tricky it is to gauge his performance. Given such a slow car it would seem to controversial to rate him much higher, although it isn’t unreasonable to argue that he was probably about as good in the Williams as Vettel at Ferrari and almost certainly better than Raikkonen.

    Maybe he didn’t get as much out of the Williams as Vettel for Ferrari all the time, but he certainly made considerably fewer errors. He made a costly error in Germany, and was partially to blame for his Singapore collision with Grosjean, but aside from this he was mistake free. Take Vettel who messed up in Bahrain, Canada, Silverstone, Monza, Brazil…

    Whilst it is claimed these rankings are supposed to remove the car and focus solely on driver performance, it is hard not to feel that it still favours drivers of faster cars, where performance can be more easily gauged.

  3. José Lopes da Silva
    17th December 2019, 12:36

    I think people are evaluating Kimi according to his previous years, and not the current one.

  4. Fewer points than a brave old man with virtually no function in one arm.

    This kid will never amount to anything.

    1. That’s a good point. Why do I bother waiting for these rankings (and subsequent discussion) every year when the WDC table ranks everybody by points anyway and that that’s all that matters?!

    2. Riiiight not like F1 is a sport with any variables whatsoever no no, the WDC is an exact summary of the talent shown during the year.

      1. José Lopes da Silva
        17th December 2019, 21:11

        “Why do I bother waiting for these rankings?”

        Why do I bother looking at every comment section on the internet.

        1. C’mon dude! Surely you could see I was being sarcastic?!

  5. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    17th December 2019, 12:52

    Disagree with Russel being placed 11th – he should be lower (13th/14th). He is the only driver not to score points – yes driving the worst car of the field. To be honest I didn’t pay much attention during the year but do not really recall great overtakes/defending from Russel nor outstanding drives.

    “He had Robert Kubica to race, of course, but a thumping 19-0 victory on Saturday” – sorry but for me that says more about Kubica than Russel, Kubica who very likely is restricted due to impact of his injuries, particularly during qualifying where speeds and G-forces are at their maximum.

    1. If you’d paid more attention, you’d know that it was impossible to do any overtaking, and pointless to do any defending against other cars. The comparison with Kubica is the only data point we can go by.

      1. Then on what grounds you rank a driver who has 0 points, no overtakes, no defences.
        He is exactly where the f1 2019 standings left him the worst driver in the lineup.

  6. Russell beat Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi four times each;

    But should have been 5 times as he deserves to be ahead of Kimi in the annual ranking.

  7. british press need to chill with the russell hype, if he’s that talented how did he finish behind stroll 2 times in F3

    1. 2 times is not a lot. If we are simply saying finishing behind, then Hamilton was very clearly beaten by Stroll in Germany. Can Hamilton be talented based on this way of judgment?

      1. No, I’m talking about 2 races, I’m saying he finished behind Stroll in the 2015 & 2016 euro F3 championships and the 2nd time it wasn’t even close

        1. @slobo, Stroll was racing for Prema Powerteam, and Prema has been dominating the European Formula 3 scene for quite a few years now.

          Between 2012, when the European Formula 3 series was formed, and this year, they’ve won the team title in every year and won the drivers title in all but one year (Norris is the only driver to have won the title without driving for Prema). Furthermore, there were complaints that Williams had been helping Stroll whilst he was at Prema, including the allegation that they had been producing parts for his car.

          Now, how accurate those allegations are is open to debate, but either way the field of competition seems to have been rather tilted in Stroll’s favour.

          1. To add to that: Verstappen ended his F3-season behind Blomqvist and Ocon. I’m pretty sure he is at least equally talented.

            Russel did better dan Albon and Norris in F2 as well.

    2. NOthing to do with the nationality of the press but im yet to be convinced, wherever he’s from. Driving well with no pressure is a very different beast to life at the front plus hes been too timid for me in the opening laps when that is the time to go banzai in a slow car. We will see but he is overhyped so far.

    3. Hamilton finished lower then Stroll in Germany this year. So in your logic that must show something..

  8. Kimi had a good season and the floor of his car was wrecked in Spa so no surprise he finished behind Russell. I don’t understand why they didn’t retire his car tbh.

  9. I think he should just be in a new position called ‘unrankable’ – it’s completely impossible to know how well he did. We’re really basing his performances off of last year in F2 when he was better than Norris and Albon. I fear that next year will be another resounding victory over Latifi, and again, somewhat difficult to know how good he actually was.

    1. Yeah agree you with that. It’s so much down to machinery and who races against you. The most recent one being Vandoorne. You don’t win GP2 as an average driver. As Russel had a problem with his car Vandoorne had Alonso. I think Alonso could have beaten Russel fair and square but next year could tell more us about Russel but only if Williams will build a much better car.

    2. I totally agree. Placing him 11th seems rediculous. We really won’t know just how good he is till he is in a competitive car.

  10. Vettel in the top 10?!

    Are drunk?

      1. I has drunk.

        1. am drunk we?

          1. You drunk must be

    1. José Lopes da Silva
      17th December 2019, 21:15

      Vettel as measured pretty well against Leclerc, and Leclerc is the best driver since Gilles Villeneuve.

  11. And both Merc chauffeurs also o_O

  12. The benefit of the doubt puts him 11th when he should be much lower for exactly the same reason.

    Not only he had a bad car, but he also had the biggest unknown ever as a team mate. That’s what we always use to know how a driver performed: his team mate. Like Magnussen and Grosjean.

    He absolutely cannot be ahead of Albon for instance, who did very well against a refreshed Kvyat.

  13. This means Norris is top rookie! How? Judging by mid season, undoubtedly, but being beaten by sainz jr is not a good form guide. Why is raikkonen all of tge sudden a clear top ten driver just because his car is impossible to judge, one week great the other abismal.

    1. One last thing. Russel had nothing to do for the whole season yet managed to often start poorly, givrn he had nothing to gain, maybe thats a plus; managed to race kubica, the driver he trounced in Q more often than you would think Small small blemishes. I wonder if georgie is still a rookie.

  14. In Russell’s situation he did all he could by beating his team mate. What many have forgotten is that a decade ago Robert Kubica was being touted as a future world champion. Both Hamilton and Alonso suggested that Kubica was one of the best drivers on the grid. Then he had his crash, a crash that nearly killed him nevermind his career. The fact that he can drive an F1 car was a massive achievement in itself, but this year showed that it was time to move on sadly.
    Russell in short can only be judged when he has the machinery that is competitive, so I am undecided really about George. My hope, as I am sure is his, is that that competitive car for him to drive is just around the corner.
    Kubica’s story was a sad one but one loaded with guts and the spirit to prevail. He will always have my respect, an inspirational man and the perfect driver for Russell to compare himself.

  15. Wow, I would have put Russel much higher.

  16. Lumbered with a car which was, on average, almost 2% slower than any other car over a lap

    Given that kubica is an unknown quantity, isn’t this a wild guess in the dark? I guess Russell’s record in the junior formulae suggests he’d be on the general pace but we really don’t know.

  17. I’m no Williams fan, but there is something about Russel that makes me think he’s going to be a champion one day. He’s mentally mature, dedicated to learning and smart. Being a Mercedes driver though is a negative as his only real promotion option is with the works team.

  18. Very difficult to judge where Russel should be. I would maybe put Albon just ahead only because he’s been tested at the sharp end and done pretty well, but Russel beats his teammate 19/19 in qualifying with a massive 0.62 margin. It’s not too rusty.

    1. (Russell sorry)

  19. Russell needs to get out of the williams as soon as possible. Driving for the backmarker team with weak team mates will hurt his career in more ways than one. He is at the point in his career where the foundations are laid for whether he becomes a future world champion or someone who quite never had it. He needs to be in the mid field fight where every tenth counts every time he goes out. That will teach him how to handle the constant pressure when there is a reward for every good session and penalty for every bad one. He needs to be in an environment where 100% is always the expectation. He needs a tough team mate who occasionally beats him so he can learn and won’t become complacent. He needs an experienced team mate who can show him how to handle the team and steer the ship from his position and give the team good feedback and sometimes different feedback.

    And most important he needs a fast car (midpack) to be able to show what he has. All it takes is unreliable car for one year and he could be out because of perceived lack of results. He needs a team that allows him to get those results. Williams can not offer any of this. His first year was impressive but he can not prove much in that car. His ability in F1 is still to some degree a massive question mark and even if he did beat kubica all year long he only beat the worst driver on the grid. Is this the driver who can win the mid field championship for renault? The driver to put pressure on hamilton or verstappen? Nobody knows because the car was and is going to be junk.

  20. I don’t envy Keith having to make these assessments as it’s a thankless task that will only result in people disagreeing with him.

    For mine, the only way you could really assess drivers would be to evaluate their performance against the capability of the car they’re driving but no one really knows how good or bad a car really is so other factors like performance against team mate have to be used.

    In Russell’s case I think Keith’s done pretty well.

    About the only one that seems to be out of position for mine is Kimi – he had a totally unremarkable year and didn’t seem to completely dominate his teammate nor did he appear to make his car perform significantly better than expected. That however is more an observation than a deep dive into the statistics.

    I suspect Dan Ric is going to be reasonably low down as well – he really didn’t seem to excel beyond Renault’s wildest dreams so I’m expecting him and Kimi to be the next two in the list. Probably Kimi and then Dan but we’ll see.

  21. Guys, but still, when Russell has the opportunity to score points he made a mistake and got overtaken by Kubica. Kubica finished higher than Russell in the overall points ranking in 2019. Kubica – 1 point and Russell – 0.

  22. We know russell is quick as everytime he gets in a merc he sets the fastest time of the day! So anyone who questions his real pace just have a look at the testing times!

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