George Russell, Williams, Circuit de Catalunya, 2019

‘I’ve only been really satisfied with a handful of races or qualifying laps’

Driver performance analysis: George Russell

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The dire Williams FW42 offered George Russell few opportunities to impress inside the car.

That made for a poor reflection on the abilities of a driver who graduated to F1 after mimicking Charles Leclerc’s feat of scoring back-to-back GP3 (now Formula 3) and Formula 2 championship successes.

But he has the long-term support of Mercedes behind him. In a sense, that meant he could afford to treat 2019 as a kind of extended test session, with occasional opportunities for genuine racing thrown in.

“My goals were quite vague in the sense of ‘just go out there and learn as much as possible’ and try and maximise every single lap on-track,” he said.

“There’s been sessions or qualifying sessions that I’ve felt like they’ve gone very well, others that haven’t gone as well, and likewise for the race. So I probably wouldn’t change any of it really, because probably from the tougher experiences I’ve learnt more from that and it’s definitely helped me become a stronger driver.”

Qualifying: Lap time

The lower the lines, the better the driver performed

With a car that typically lagged around a second off the pace of their next-slowest rival, and often quite a bit more, Russell was usually locked in a straight fight with team mate Robert Kubica for who could take 19th place on the grid. And it often didn’t amount to much of a fight – Russell was never beaten Kubica on Saturday all year.

George Russell, Williams, Hungaroring, 2019
Russell wrung the best out of the Williams in Hungary
One of few occasions Russell could set his sights on rival cars came in Hungary. There he got within 0.053 seconds of taking his car into Q2, the closest Williams got all season.

But it also showcased how fickle the tyre performance was on a car which clearly lacked the downforce levels of its rivals.

“Formula 1 is so complex, especially with the tyres,” said Russell. “It is all about these tyres.

“I’ve probably only been really, really satisfied with the quali lap or a race on a handful of occasions. And most of the times it’s only me because the tyres have been in the good window and gave me the opportunity to do a good lap. The biggest thing I’ve learned from this year is this is getting these tyres working.”

Russell said his experience of Pirelli’s tyres in Formula 2 – where new 2020 team mate Nicholas Latifi has graduated from – was only of limited use. “It helped a little bit,” he said, “but F1 is a completely different ballgame.”

But he believes he will be in a better position this year as a result. “I now have a year of experience of understanding which tyres and what it takes to get them working well,” he added, “and that’s what I want to optimise because I know when I get them working well, I can do the job.

“But getting them working well is like trying to complete a Rubik’s Cube.”

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Qualifying: Classification versus starting position

Race: Start versus finish

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Race: Share of points

Russell had to come to terms with the fact that despite having the beating of Kubica virtually all season, one of the few occasions he didn’t was also when the team scored its only point. Had he not slipped off a damp track in Hockenheim he could have had it; had the team heeded his call for slicks earlier they might have had an even better result.

George Russell, Williams, Hockenheimring, 2019
Hockenheim was a missed opportunity in more ways than one
As it was, Russell scored the team’s second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth-best results. He seized on any opportunity to get into the midfield battle and impressively led an Alfa Romeo home eight times and beat a Haas on six occasions.

“It’s not season I would have dreamt of, but it’s probably a season I’d definitely look back and think it’s done me no harm,” he reflected.

“I’ve learned so much this year being in the position I’ve been. Race after race I’ve always come away with an experience that I’ve been able to take into the following one.

“Most importantly of all, I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve had a great team around me to allow me to do that. So I think the rewards will be greater when and if we have more performance in the future.”

Whether Williams are going to furnish him with a car which does better justice to his talents this year is something we’ll have to wait to find out.

Race: Results versus other drivers

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Quotes: Dieter Rencken

2019 F1 season

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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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15 comments on “‘I’ve only been really satisfied with a handful of races or qualifying laps’”

  1. A talented young guy. Seems genuinely fast in qualifying and race trim but been too cautious at the starts for now. And such a likeable chap! Looking forward seeing him in a faster car.

    Can someone explain these new charts for me? Whats the “Gap to personal perfect lap”? A combination out of different attempts, like setting greens in s1 and s3 during one outing and setting green in s2 during another?

    The “Race: Start versus finish” is even more confusing.

    1. The “gap to personal perfect lap” is essentially the delta between their qualifying time and their best 3 sectors in qualifying. So essentially “0” is the best you can do here.

      It’s essentially a question of “did they do their best lap when it matters”…

      1. @gee mac
        Gap to personal perfect lap is another of these stupid stats. With these current garbage pirelli tires a driver has to choose whether to push at the beginning of the lap and fall off the grip at the end, or go easy at S1 and have grip at the timing line. Also drivers sacrifice some turns to improve others.

        This is a worthless stat, just show their best qually lap time vs their teammate, that is useful information.

    2. The “Race: Start versus finish” is even more confusing.

      On the left is where they started, on the right is where they finished, so you can see if they tended to gain or lose places.

    3. the “race: start versus finish” diagram will be much more insightful for the midfield. for those who always start at the back, you can only go one way so it’s not really telling you very much.

      1. So “gap to personal perfect lap” shows what I thought it shows.

        The “race: start versus finish” I get too. But it’s problematic because when I hover above p19 it says Mexico. That’s the last time he started from that position but the other times he started p19 are not shown at all. Maybe it would be better if it shows the total of starts from that position instead?

        Thanks for the clarifications @geemac @keithcollantine and @frood19 (:

  2. Russel boy has had a tough year. Beating Kubica by a sometimes large margin is like a consolation prize, but that’s all. It says little about his ability to go neck to neck with Hamilton.

    We missed all of his drives, since broadcast will never focus on the last cars of the pack after the first lap. But does anyone recall a spark of talent? Like an outstanding wet drive, a superb pass on the outside, or extending tyre life an extra 10 laps?

    Those are the signs to look for, and the worst the car the easier those things surface. Like Senna’s Toleman drive, Schumacher and his 7up car (Was it a Jordan? Help here!), Hakkinen getting Senna out of his mind by beating him fair and square at qualifying, Barrichello getting the Stewart were it didn’t belong, and recently Leclerc putting the Sauber-Alfas way up in the points.

    Let’s hope Williams give him a better chance in 2020, but the Latifi investment can only make changes to 2021 model.

    He will be on his own again.

    1. I would say best qualifying lap of the year is a toss up between Russel’s effort in Hungary and Riccardo’s in Canada. Not only for almost getting that Williams into Q2 but the way he did it. On the onboards his Williams was clearly harder to drive than those who qualified around him and more importantly he was taking a unique line through turns 4 and 5 which was visibly gaining him time. If that doesn’t scream natural talent and having a good racing head on his shoulders I don’t know what does.

      1. Im going to need more than a subjective view of a couple of lines through corners and the same of 2 quallys that anybody bar him and his engineer might struggle to remember at all, let alone as the best of 2019.

        Theres different pressures in traffic/running in the top 6 and actually the one time he had a sniff of points he dropped it. I’d love it if he was a major new talent I just don’t see the evidence yet.

    2. Senna in 1984 – The Toleman was a pretty handy car if the engine was reliable. Different eras, different machinery. The Williams in 2019 was definitely the slowest car in the field by a huge margin.

      Schumacher in 1991 – The Jordan was one of the best handling cars Ford powered cars in the field that year, finishing 5th in points in e constructors championship. Again, not the slowest car.

      Hakkinen in 1993 – Again not the worst car out there. Hakkinen also had more f1 racing and testing experience (he did all the testing that Senna did not want to do). After Portugal, Senna was never beaten by Hakkinen on one lap pace or in the race.

      Barrichello from 1997 to 1999 – In 1997 the Stewart was tidy but unreliable, and their 2nd place podium did owe a lot to Barrichello keeping his wits and driving within the limits in a wet race where the 2 Williams started on slicks. The Tyrrell of Mika Salo, with an underpowered car, came 5th.
      1998, the Stewart was very unreliable and slow.
      1999, the Stewart was very quick but unreliable. In the three years Barrichello maximised what he could from the cars, but the gap to the front running teams was far too great. Stewart took the opportunities to play to the strengths of their car and it was fortuitous that they won a wet dry race at the Nurburgring.

      Leclerc at Sauber – Again maximised the car that he had when he had it. Out of all the drivers mentioned had the least preparation on track (although probably lots of simulator time, it’s not the same).

      As said in the commentary all year, need to see Russell in reasonably competitive machinery before passing judgment. He presents very well and hopefully he will have an opportunity in 2021 if Williams fail to improve.

    3. Yes, the “7up car” was a Jordan, the 191 to be precise. It helped Jordan finish 5th in the WCC in its first year in F1, so it was no slouch.

    4. Did Alonso really have those standout moments at Minardi? I can’t recall he did.

      In a dog of car there’s nothing you can do except outshine your team mate and show good morale.

  3. Hard to find this one…but here it is:

    It seems to me more of an outbreaking/oversteer moment than a different racing line, but who knows? Maybe that cost him the 0.053s to be in Q2. Hamilton also had his moment at the end of the lap, showing he was really going for it.
    That’s impressive from Russell, I agree. Let’s wait for some more moments like that.

    1. Nice joke putting shots from F1 game :)

  4. This consistency and small gap at qualy laptime vs optimal lap is very nice, almost always around and below 0.1s. Just compare it to Grosjean’s similar data, and add that Williams likely had the worst grip and driveability. Hopefully Williams will have a random miracle hit at the next year’s car design, to allow Russell to battle at least some other competitors, not just his teammate. Although that battle against Latifi likely won’t challenge him much more than against Kubica, maybe even less.

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