After an underwhelming qualifying on Saturday afternoon that would see Williams’ two drivers George Russell and Nicholas Latifi line up 18th and 19th respectively for Sunday’s Tuscan Grand Prix, mayhem in the race left Williams and George Russell tantalisingly close to their first points of the season.
Shortly after the lights went out at 14.10 for the Mugello circuit’s first ever Formula 1 race, an incident involving Last week’s Italian Grand Prix winner Pierre Gasly & Mercedes’ only real threat Max Verstappen left both men in the gravel and out of the race before a single lap had been completed. Carlos Sainz too hit trouble, and found himself pointing in the wrong direction, which contributed to Russell’s promotion up to 11th with team-mate Latifi two places back in 13th.
The Safety Car was required to manage the race while the wreckage was cleared away, and on the restart Nicholas was unlucky to find himself caught up in an accident over the start line as drivers jockeyed for position & prematurely flooring it, unaware that leader Bottas ahead hadn’t yet released the field.
Giovinazzi – accelerating significantly more than the cars ahead – hit the back of the slow moving Magnussen, followed by Sainz, cannoning Gio’s Alfa Romeo into Lafiti’s Williams FW43 and the Canadian was out of the race, as out came the red flags.
On the plus side (for one half of the Williams garage at least), this reduced the field down to just 14 cars – 13 when Ocon retired with brake trouble – effectively giving Russell (now in 10th place) just three cars to beat to earn his first World Championship point.
When racing resumed, George dropped a place on the restart he’d quickly regain, before spending the next 33 laps in the points.
Happily, he seemed to have the measure of Kimi’s Alfa and Grosjean’s Haas, and could keep Vettel’s Ferrari – the main threat to George’s tenth place -behind to keep a top ten place firmly within his grasp.
Sadly though, standing starts – for so long George Russell‘s bête noire – would once again compromise the Briton’s race, as following a second red flag for a big accident for former Williams man Lance Stroll, he was swallowed up on the restart, shuffling to the very back, and after a feisty duel with Vettel, passed the chequered flag in 11th, one measly place away from that elusive first point.
Now, while many people seem to consider a tenth place some sort of victory for Williams that they’ve been robbed of, I don’t quite think like that.
For me it’s the next step in Williams’ progress towards the front of the grid. It’s not a win, in and of itself, but when it comes (and it will come), it’s an indication that Williams have moved, and are moving, in the right direction.
The ease with which George dispatched of Grosjean, and the ability to keep Kimi’s Alfa and Vettel’s Ferrari behind is itself affirmation of progress, it’s just not cemented in quite the way that a point would have done.
And while that point could come as soon as the Russian Grand Prix in two weeks time, it did seem like this was an opportunity missed.