After a stellar showing in qualifying, expectations were high for Williams and its #1 driver George Russell going into Sunday’s Steiermark Grand Prix (or Styrian Grand Prix or Austrian Grand Prix #2 if you prefer). After all, it was both team and driver’s highest qualifying position in over a year (11th), giving #GR63 and Williams a starting berth in the thick of the action rather than at the back, to which they’ve had to accustom themselves of late.
The problem with such a fantastic performance over a lap on Saturday – especially in the wet conditions we saw for qualifying – is that it can mask long run pace when the rain abates.
And so, while expectations were high for Williams and Russell, it was with some trepidation that Williams Racing approached Sunday’s Grand Prix, knowing that despite starting 11th, George almost certainly didn’t have the 11th quickest car beneath him.
And so, when the green flag dropped (metaphorically), George knew he’d have to fight hard to maintain position. And for a handful of laps, that’s exactly what he did, before dropping it on the outside of turn 6 and hitting the gravel, dropping him to the back, all his had work on Saturday seemingly for nought.
Nicholas Latifi – starting 18th in only his second Grand Prix started steadily, finding his feet in what is still, as of yet, a new car to him.
The two Williams drivers toured line astern at the back, swapping places on lap 52, when George was able to slip by and into 16th position, where he finished, with Nicholas directly behind in 17th.
I really don’t want to spend another season claiming that getting two cars to the finish, despite being in last and second last, is a success. Thankfully, qualifying pointed to better things to come.
The FW43 looked good and stable from the onboard camera, and though the wet masks a lot of frailties, the fact that George almost ALMOST made it through to Q3 under any circumstances says a great deal about the distance the team has put between themselves and a horrible 2019. (Can you imagine the FW42 troubling Q3, even in the wet?? I certainly can’t).
While Williams clearly haven’t turned into world beaters overnight (I mean – we can dream it even though we know it’s not terribly likely, right?) their progress – albeit gradual – is significant.
Remember qualifying for the Styrian Grand Prix – it could be the beginning of Williams’ fightback.