When people look back at the 2021 Styrian Grand Prix in years to come, the records will show that Williams achieved a 17th place for Nicholas Latifi and DNF for team-mate George Russell. ‘A familiar tale for Williams’ they might say to themselves, after three years of 17th places and DNFs.
And those future F1 historians might be forgiven for thinking that, because that’s what it looks like on paper. However, should they choose to delve a bit deeper (and if they’re any kind of historian that’s exactly what they’ll do!) they will see that the 2021 Styrian Grand Prix demonstrated the most dramatic upturn in Williams’ form, probably since the very beginning of the turbo-hybrid era in 2014.
Forget that George Russell retired his FW43B on lap 36/37 with a power unit issue whilst in 18th position. Because up until lap 24 when mechanical gremlins started to creep in, Russell was comfortably holding his own against the might of Ferrari, Aston Martin and Renault/Alpine in 8th position, and pressuring double Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso for 7th.
And it was far from a flash in the pan – there was no huge pile up ahead into T1, there was no freak weather, and there was no pit-stop jiggery-pokery. George and Williams were well inside the top ten on pace alone. And that – for Williams Racing – should be considered a massive success.
The fact that everyone at Williams was bitterly disappointed, demonstrates both how desperate the team is for its first point since 2019, but also the determination and ambition everyone shares to be further up the grid, rather than simply making up the numbers.
“A frustrating day for both drivers and the whole team. The car was reasonably strong all weekend, but we were unable to deliver the result that the pace deserved.” Williams’ head of vehicle performance Dave Robson told WilliamsRacing.com.
George Russell added: “I had a good start today and was managing my tyres well in P8, so everything was great up until then. Racing is cruel sometimes, but we’re all pushing together, and these things happen.”
Nicholas Latifi meanwhile, qualified in 16th and was unlucky to find himself in a tangle at turn 1 on lap 1, from which he picked up a puncture and never really recovered.
There is no doubt that the Red Bull Ring in the Styrian Hills near Spielberg is a strong one for Williams and Russell – the good thing is that it’s a double header and so we get to go again next Sunday!