In too many Grands Prix since his arrival in Formula 1 at the beginning of 2019, George Russell has found all his good work in qualifying undone before completing a single lap.
All too often a poor start sees the Williams driver swamped by those around him, and perhaps as a result – with cars to his left and right – an overly tentative lap 1 leads to more places lost, off-track excursions, or worse; contact.
After a net loss of positions at the start of GPs over the course of 2019 (-2) – despite an average starting position of 18.4 meaning that more often than not there was only one car behind him to be overtaken by (his team-mate), and 18 ahead to overtake – it was clear work needed to be done if he was to make inroads on the cars ahead of him.
But disappointingly, this trend has continued into 2020, where he’s currently -2 on places gained/lost on lap 1 of a Grand Prix – identical to 2019.
Whereas in 2019 Russell was only really racing his team-mate, much stronger pace in qualifying in 2020 is giving him a better starting berth with more places to lose, and more at stake, and so not only is it more important to start well, but it’s also more noticeable when he doesn’t.
But speaking to Autosport, George says he’s identified the cause of his lap 1 maladies.
“It’s been evident this year and even last that I’ve been struggling with confidence on the first lap”.
Unfortunately for George though, his first attempt to overcome this with a concerted effort to be more aggressive on lap 1 of Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix ended in him off-track and slipping back down the order after a stellar first couple of hundred metres.
He said: “Today was a time I thought, ‘right I need to be more aggressive’, and ironically, that’s actually what went against me.”
“Had I been fannying around slightly more as I have been at some of the other race starts this year I probably would have been in a much stronger position.”
Hopefully George won’t let this stop him taking the same approach in future. He was battling for 8th position on the run up to turn two and it would have taken something as small as Pierre Gasly moving to his right rather than his left for it to have been a very different story for George.
With Williams’ current position, meek and risk-averse isn’t going to win them anything. They need bold and aggressive, and if that comes with more risk then so be it. I’d rather have a real crack at the top ten and it end in the wall, as opposed to playing it safe and both cars plodding round in the mid-teens.
The days of fannying around are over!
George Russell’s lost/gained on lap 1 of races in 2020
Austrian Grand Prix: -2
Styrian Grand Prix: -1
Hungarian Grand Prix: -3
British: +2 (from last)
Anniversary Grand Prix: -2
Spanish Grand Prix: 0
Belgian Grand Prix: -2
Italian Grand Prix: +2
Tuscan Grand Prix: +7 (-4 on restarts)
Russian Grand Prix: -3