Start, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020

Russell’s Mercedes experience may help Williams improve “atrocious” starts

2021 F1 season

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The one-off appearance George Russell made for Mercedes last year may help his Williams team improve the poor starts which dogged their campaign.

Russell drove for Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton’s substitute at the Sakhir Grand Prix, which gave him useful experience of the world champions’ systems and procedures. Russell’s single race start for them saw him immediately overtake team mate Valtteri Bottas and take the lead of the race.

Last year Russell described Williams’ starts as “atrocious”. The team’s head of vehicle performance Dave Robson said their driver returned from Mercedes with thoughts on how they could improve their starts.

“He has had some good starts in our car but I think what we’re lacking is the consistency,” Robson explained. “Obviously he’s only had one [start] in a Mercedes and it was good so strictly you can’t say much about the consistency. But to be fair to them, their starts are generally consistently good.

“It’s probably as much down to what they do on their car than it is the driver. He’s got some ideas about particularly how he might like to change the clutch paddle, so the sort of ergonomics of what they do. So that’s something we can look at over the winter. Otherwise I think probably the whole drivetrain systems are a bit too different.”

Robson believes the differences between the team’s starts may also be related to how they control their tyre temperatures.

“What’s potentially more interesting is the tyre preparation,” he said. “How you understand the grip that you’re going to have at the start and therefore what the clutch target is. So that’s probably something for us to learn about.”

The team is using the off-season to glean any useful information they may gain from Russell’s appearance for Mercedes.

“I’m sure they do things slightly differently, the way they organise their weekends and what they focus on,” said Robson.

“[But] I think the fundamental car paces are probably so different that in his mind he’s probably focussing on the wrong things at the moment as in we can’t just make our car like their as simply as he would obviously like.”

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Dieter Rencken
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35 comments on “Russell’s Mercedes experience may help Williams improve “atrocious” starts”

  1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    9th January 2021, 8:52

    I think the starts have only been Russell’s problem. Kubica out launched him (and sometimes one or two others too) in over half the race starts in 2019 – despite being outqualified every time. Even this year, he’s bene outlaunched by Latifi 3 – 4 times.While his qualifying is great (part of the reason he has started well ahead of Latifi), I think the starts are his own problem and not the car. Would say at least a third of his starts in hi f1 career have been poor and that is more than his team mates. Starting right near the back in 2019 sort of masked how bad his starts were. Sad to say this, but I do think it his his own problem and 1 Mercedes outing doesn’t show that he’s got over his pretty frequent poor starts. And they will cost him a lot more at a better team.

    Saying all this, his recovery is just fine, but he needs to work on his starts.

    1. Yes, but if you remember rosberg talking about his 2016 campaign, the lengths he went to in order to make improvements in his starts were extraordinary, and a lot of them were physical changes to equipment (like his gloves). I suspect Russell is getting the benefit of years of that work from two more experienced drivers and its giving him a short cut to improve on an area that otherwise would have taken years.

      1. Good point there @hairs (Hairs_ ?) it could well be that some changes they made can be introduced at Williams too.

        Then again, Bottas seems to struggle a bit too often at starts this year.

      2. @bascb How is that a good point? Rosberg had the same start system issues that Hamilton had. Both of them had a poor start in Australia. Then in Germany and Hungary, Rosberg lost the race due to a start system issue.

        Why do people keep pretending that Hamilton, who has always been a great starter, suddenly forgot how to start? While Mercedes even explicitly explained they had issues with their start system and Hamilton AND Rosberg suffered from it. Hamilton 4 times and Rosberg 3.

        Hamilton did not lose 2016 because of his “bad” starts. He lost out because he kept having much more car issues than Rosberg did. Like starting from P10 and P22 in two of the first 4 races and getting punted off by Bottas in another. Etc etc etc.

        Out of the 9 times that Rosberg finishes ahead of Hamilton, for 7 of those Hamilton had some issue with the car.

        1. “Out of the 9 times that Rosberg finishes ahead of Hamilton, for 7 of those Hamilton had some issue with the car.”

          Keep telling that, in another topic I already showed you that your ‘facts’ were untrue. You didn’t reply after that…

          1. It is true, as was the clutch issue with the 2016 merc.

          2. If you want people to respond, then add their tag. Who’s going to wade through all the posts to see if anyone replied? Also, take a normal alias yourself since there is no point in replying to someone who’s not going to be notified of a reply either.

            Besides “I already showed” that Hamilton had issues in quali or the race in: Bahrain, China, Russia, Spa, Singapore, Monza and Japan. So that leaves Australia (where both cars actually had a start system fail) and Europe (where Hamilton actually also had a car issue, but he lost quali due to his own fault)

            So that’s 7 of the 9 races that Rosberg finished ahead of Hamilton where Hamilton was hindered by issues costing him the race. In fact you could say even 9 out of those 9 since the other 2 he also had car issues.

            Then there were Monaco (where Hamilton still finished ahead and even won anyway after the issue in Q3) and obviously the DNF in Malaysia.

        2. Rosberg beat Hamilton fair and square in 2016 and 2013.

          In 2013, Rosberg only finished a small margin behind Hamilton in the points despite Rosberg having THREE non-points finishes through mechanical failure and the very lucky Hamilton having ZERO. To put that into context, Hamilton had ONE non-points finish through mechanical failure this year. From 2013-16 Rosberg had 8 non-points finishes through mechanical failure, and Rosberg had 4. 2016 was just slightly evening up the score. Also, in 2013, Mercedes imposed team orders on Rosberg, forbidding him to pass Hamilton in the final laps at Sepang. Despite all those advantages, Hamilton only just beat Rosberg.

          In 2016, the last four races are irrelevant because Rosberg just brought the car home safely. After Japan, Rosberg had 9 wins to Hamilton’s 6.

          Hamilton messed up at least 9 of the 21 races this season. 5 times he lost his bottle on the start, crashed in Baku, crashed in Spain, threw his toys out of the pram in China and wasn’t interested all weekend in Singapore. Do you deserve to be world champion if you completely mess up 9 of the 21 race weekends? Change one of those 9 weekends and Hamilton might be champion.

          Rosberg was a model of consistency. Hamilton was a model of inconsistency. Rosberg might not be an all-time great, but he deserved this championship.

          Like I said, Rosberg might not be an all-time great, but neither is Hamilton. Lucky in 2008, outscored by Button 2010-12, Rosberg effectively out-drove him in 2 of their 4 seasons together, Rosberg took the title to the last race in 2 of 3 seasons.

          1. Dean F, so, presumably you will also downrate every single championship winning driver as none of them have the sort of impossible perfect record that you are demanding of them?

            Why is it that it is only Hamilton alone gets this sort of criticism from you? You refuse to criticise any of your idols, to the point where you engage in considerable elaborate mental gymnastics to avoid having to say anything critical about some of them – why do you treat figures like Schumacher as so sacrosanct?

          2. Hamilton had a non-points finish this year? When? I only remember the covid one where he didn’t participate but he didn’t have any mechanical problem or anything else in 2020.

          3. I’m guessing you could mean 1 in 2016, as in malaysia, but in that case it’s not very clear at all from your comment.

          4. I meant to write in 2016.

            Rosberg got the short end when it came to mechanical retirements between 2013-16.

            That’s for sure.

          5. God how you turn an article about Williams and Russell into a slanging match about Lewis is tiresome and oh so familiar. Seriously, just really poor and embarrassing. All round.

          6. Someone else brought up Hamilton being unlucky in 2016 which is not true. He didn’t drive well enough. Underperformed in 9/21 races.

          7. Dean F, Hamilton lost races to Rosberg in Bahrain, China, Russia, Spa, Singapore, Monza and Japan due to car issues. He also had car issues in Australia, Europe, Monaco and Malaysia.

            So that’s 11 races where had issues that were holding him back.

            The only race where he actually underperformed was Europe, but the fact that he could not fight back was caused by the car malfunctioning.

        3. @f1osaurus – I guess thanks for your comment there. However, you react to points nobody made, just to then bring up how they are not true.

          Hairs mentioned Rosberg working hard on his starts and introducing some new things to the team. He did that in order to eliminate one thing where he felt there was something to gain to have a shot at winning the championship. There is literally NOTHING in there about Hamilton struggling in that aspect. The fact that the team clearly did have some issues with starts that year only goes to highlight that it needed work.

          1. @bascb Come on man. By saying that Rosberg specifically improved on that means that he went over Hamilton to secure the win. There is always another side to someone improving. So don’t lamely pretend that something is just said in a void.

            Besides it’s nonsense. Rosberg had 3 start system fails in 2016 plus he messed up his start in Russia and Spain.

            Hamilton also “worked hard” on getting the start system to work in 2016, becuase it was just not working so they needed to figure what was wrong. He spent a whole weekend getting it to work and it worked for that start. Then the next race it mailfunctioned again.

          2. By saying that Rosberg specifically improved on that means that he went over Hamilton to secure the win

            I think you misunderstand, or rather wrongly interpret that @f1osaurus.

            I do not believe that Rosberg, knowing Hamilton for decades and racing closely with him for many of those, would believe that he was the more gifted driver. And exactly because he knew that, he tried to find all possible chinks in his own armour to improve upon. No doubt he looked for things (weak spots) he would be able to try and profit from to be able to finally beat Lewis too.

            And this was another aspect where there was a potential. I am sure he did hope to actually gain an advantage. But he could just as well have seen a weakness on his side that he hoped to iron out. In the end, the fact that he did lose out on 3 starts, shows it was something that Rosberg would want solved to have better chances against Hamilton.

          3. @bascb The point you keep missing is that you are looking for patterns that do not exist.

            The simple fact is that Rosberg did NOT improve his starts for 2016. He suffered about a much from the start system issues Mercedes had and had poor starts even when it did work. Moreover, his starts were a lot better in 2015.

            He might have looked better in 2016 in the sense that Hamilton wasn’t coming past him if he messed up his start. That’s simply because in 5 of the 8 times that Rosberg was on pole, Hamilton was nowhere near him on the grid (due to mostly technical issues). So Rosberg would be fighting a slower car.

            The 3 times that Hamilton was starting next to him on the front row, Hamilton beat him in 2.

            In 2015 he was beaten by Hamilton once at the start on merit and he beat Hamilton once at the start on merit. That’s a much much better track record than he had in 2016.

          4. Wouldn’t the realit that Hamilton beat him at the starts be just another good motivation to try and improve his starts though? That he did not succeed (or maybe they improved for both equally, making it advantage Hamilton again) doesn’t mean he did not work towards it or improve himself and the systems they were using though.

    2. It’s not him it’s the car, read the article, the consistency is not there with the car for any of the drivers. Kubica had plenty bad starts, middles and ends.

    3. Compared with the rest Williams had plenty bad starts that Russels got the most bad starts doesn’t means Russels is the problem as also Lifiti compained about bad starts. That could be software problem during starts (engine mapping) a bit when Max had problems with starts until Honda fix it.
      Lanching is a difficult thing and if Russels can bring the experience to Williams that is only good.

  2. @thegianthogweed Still it’s strange that his single Mercedes start was pretty good, so maybe it isn’t the driver after all. Or maybe the car is so good that even a poor starter can get a good getaway. Having said that, he probably could have learned a thing or two from Kubica and Latifi. However, I believe Kubica was also quite good at choosing the right position in the first corner to make up some places, which is probably down to experience (and less relevant when you’re on the front row).

    1. Well, if I recall bottas had some pretty bad starts this year.

      1. Bottas did indeed have at least 3 very poor starts and 2 others that were not ideal. But even drivers such as Hamilton had 3 poor starts this year. His start in Tuscany was actually comparable with Bottas’s start in Italy. He had a poor launch but was actually saved by Verstappen’s power problem which caused Verstappen to back off as well as causing 2 – 3 drivers behind verstappen to lift. Without that Hamilton will have been 4th – 5th at best by the end of the first few corners.

        But regarding Russell, probably around a third of his F1 career starts have resulted in him being behind his team mate by the end of lap one. Which given his qualifying statistic doesn’t look that great. Given When you look back at many of his starts at williams in 2019, you could quite often see a williams at the back fall back behind the pack at the initial launch, and this was virtually always Russell who would usually start 19th. If the car was that bad at launching, you would question why Kubica rarely struggled off the line. But as I said before, within very little time, he tends to recover what he’s lost. But I personally think that if he continued this pattern at a top team, he may lose more positions.

        1. @thegianthogweed Which other two races did Hamilton have a bad start? Imola I guess and then … Sakhir perhaps?

          For Bottas I would say four horrible starts (Hungary, Spain, Monza and Bahrain) plus two that were “not ideal” (Portimao and Sakhir).

          But then Bottas had to deal with starting from the dirty side of the track for most races, while his closest rival would be behind on the clean side in a car that was just as fast if not faster in race trim.

          1. @f1osaurus
            Imola I remember as one yes. And on the highlights, Ben Edwards said this “That’s one of the poorest starts we’ve seen from Hamilton all year so far”.

            And although this wasn’t the start as such, it was the first lap. In Portugal, Hamilton seemed to go backwards and the commentators said that Bottas was the one at Mercedes to have his tyres switched on initially. Hamilton did lose 2 places. So by the end of the lap, it was more Hamilton that hadn’t had the ideal run, not bottas.

          2. @thegianthogweed Ah you are redefining “start”

            But yeah Imola would probably have been the “worst” start for Hamilton all season. Starting on the dirty side losing one place …

          3. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
            12th January 2021, 9:51

            I sort of corrected myself by saying it wasn’t exactly the start if you read my words saying “it wasn’t exactly the start”

            Still, It can be remembered and could be said that lap one is the start of the race.

            I think Tuscany was his worst start, but as I’ve already described, that was masked by verstappen’s issue, so maybe the commentators forgot that when saying Imola was his worst.

  3. What potential race seat is there for George after 2021? It’s seems odd that the potential of this kid is so tied to the once amazing Williams but now is at other the end of success. I don’t know the nature of his contract and it seems like year after year he struggles with the machinery offered. The struggle coming from the machine itself. This news today about experiencing the starting line options from Mercedes and immediately seeing how this floundering team remains afloat. Is he contracted to start in another team in 2022 already? Other than Williams?
    George must anxious to escape from the very dull results getting team.
    There are many very good current drivers who race in machines that aren’t up to the abilities of the driver. They flounder waiting for a better opportunity.
    So I can only imagine what George must really think about Williams. So who is he future contracted to? Right now it’s Williams and for them, only miracle results seem possibility. Does the Mercedes one off race have him tied to that team down the road? He seems like what he brings to the table should make him highly desirable.

  4. Dave Robson started with something interesting as clutch point related to tyre management. He end up with there’s nothing Williams can do about it. And he was the head of car performance?

    I think the most valuable insight from Russel is Merc work ethics. And he should tell the new owner what new facilities and software they should buy.

  5. This is great, Williams should learn a lot from the champeons

  6. Williams currently use their own gearbox instead of using the one Mercedes make, so maybe part of George’s starting problems in the FW43 are related to something different inside the gearboxes. When you consider Williams failed to score any Constructors Championship points last year, then would reducing the time taken to launch the car get Williams closer to scoring points? I suspect fixing this would make a 1% improvement in the chances of scoring points this year. Good starting is essential if you’re on the front row of the grid, but failing to score any points is far more important. If fixing this is easy then Williams should do it, but if it’s going to be difficult and expensive then I’d leave it and worry about fixing the other problems with the car.

  7. What I find interesting is Russell presumably had to sign a non disclosure agreement when he arrived at Merc to not give away any of the secrets they want to keep to themselves. So if Russell has brought this to Williams and Williams are publicly discussing it, it must be something that Merc were happy to share with Williams. Seems like a pretty big advantage to have Merc offer advice on how to optimize a car.

    1. Mark in Florida
      10th January 2021, 18:59

      (@g-funk) I don’t think that Merc minded giving them some help. Honestly Williams has been an embarrassment to see in action. Improving their starts is fractional help at best. They could have been Mercs satellite team but pride wouldn’t let them. Now racing point has that in hand and are reaping huge dividends. Good luck Williams i hope they do improve. It must a huge let down to come back to Williams for George.

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