On Sunday the Formula 1 Grand Prix circus hit Paul Ricard for the first time in two years for the 2021 French Grand Prix.
While most of the attention was – quite rightly – focussed on the intriguing battle at the front of the field, Williams’ George Russell was in a fight of his own to not just score his first world Championship point for the Grove team, but also to prove he’s ready to move up into a car that will allow him too to compete for wins and championships.
After another sterling qualifying on Saturday around the Paul Ricard/Le Castellet circuit in the south of France, with it’s dazzling/nauseating striped run off areas (depending on your viewpoint), where George once again made it into Q2 for the 15 quickest cars, he made his traditional tardy start (he really needs to sort those out!), slipping back to second last by the end of lap 1.
“I got sandwiched into Turn 1, had a car on the outside, a car on the inside and there was nowhere I could go” said George post-race.
However, two strong stints on first the medium Pirellis, and then the hard from lap 17 to the finish when those around him were struggling to make their tyres last allowed the Briton to move steadily through the field and up to 12th by the flag for his best result of the season.
“It was a really good afternoon. We made a couple of overtakes, including Tsunoda on track, and managed to finish ahead of Ocon and the Alfa Romeos, too.” George told williamsf1.com
“The conditions out there were tricky, and it was hard to keep temperature in the tyres without too much graining, but the car felt good and we made the strategy work really well.”
“Finishing 12th on merit is a great achievement and I would go as far as saying it’s probably the best race I’ve ever had with the team.”
Nicholas Latifi fared less well, having qualified in a decent 17th place ahead of ex-world champion Kimi Raikkonen, but struggling to make his tyres last in his second stint, eventually coming home 18th.
“Overall, there are a few question marks so we’ll investigate and make sure things are better for the races in Austria.” he said.
It was a race of surprisingly low attrition – all 20 cars making it to the finish – just the one or two retirements you usually see in a Grand Prix and results for both guys could have been a whole lot better.
Much of the talk in the build up to the French Grand Prix was of an alleged deal for George Russell to replace Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes in 2022. If George’s intention was to prove that he’s worthy of said deal – whether agreed or otherwise – then he can consider it a job well done.