First, the positives. George Russell took his Williams into Q2 yet again in the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix – the sixth time in six races in 2021, continuing his streak of out-qualifying his Williams team-mate in every race he’s started for the Grove team.
This was especially impressive given that his Williams crew were forced into an engine rebuild just prior to the start of qualifying (a four hour job completed in two apparently!) after a water pump failure on Saturday morning, for which the Williams team deserve an enormous amount of credit.
Then, after a 15th place start, the Williams team tried an experimental strategy that saw George pitting on lap 1 which could have given him an opportunity to lap in clean air, potentially giving him an advantage over the cars he’s fighting with for a point or two.
Okay, so it didn’t quite work out as George struggled to find the pace he needed on the hard tyre he’d need to coax a long way, and the anticipated safety cars didn’t quite fall in his favour, but it’s this sort of creative thinking that is eventually going to net the team a points finish – Williams not yet quite having a top ten car on pace alone.
“The car felt fast and I had a lot of confidence in it so there are definitely positives to take away from the weekend.” George told williamsracing.com after the race.
After making his way back up to the midfield George was poised to take the restart following Verstappen’s crash in 14th before gearbox gremlins forced his retirement as he made his way to the grid.
Nicholas Latifi in the #6 Williams, starting 16th, attempted a one-stop strategy and was holding his own ahead of the two Haas cars before the red flag came out and a communication disaster earned the Canadian a penalty.
With Max Verstappen’s stricken Red Bull on the main straight the cars were led through the pits by the Safety Car. Latifi got the call from his engineer to ‘stay out, stay out, stay out, stay out, stay out, stay out…’
Naturally, Nicholas stayed out (I mean, you would wouldn’t you??), continuing down the main straight.
However, what his engineer actually meant by ‘stay out x6’ was ‘Come into the pit lane as per the instruction from race control but don’t pit’, and for disobeying race control Latifi found himself with a 30 second time penalty, dropping to 16th as a result.
So Williams leave Azerbaijan with a DNF and a 16th place – Scant reward for a lot of hard work – and remain pointless in the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship.
On to Paul Ricard in two weeks time!