Yes, Grand Prix rookie George Russell, in his maiden Formula 1 season has been given the opportunity to test with World Champions Mercedes (to whom he’s still contracted), and he’s shown just what he’s capable of in an F1 car by setting the best time of anyone in the official two day test.
The test followed the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, in which Russell finished 15th and second last, ahead of just his team mate Robert Kubica.
Russell’s time of 1m29.029s on Wednesday is a full four seconds quicker than the 1m 33.682s he was able to do on Tuesday – the first day of the test – in the Williams FW42 he’ll be driving for the remainder of the 2019 F1 season.
Speaking about his Mercedes pace, Russell said:
“Timings don’t mean a lot in testing but it’s always a special experience to be on top of the timesheets.”
His pace underlines the need for Williams to get the FW42 up to speed to allow Russell and Kubica an opportunity to fight the teams around them rather than languishing a few seconds behind.
If they’re able to do that, then in Russell at least (the jury’s still out about the 2019 version of Kubica) they have a driver capable of maximising the potential of any racing car.
“Driving a different car than usual, I personally also learned a lot which I can take back to further improve my driving.” added Russell.
Williams will hope that Russell’s experience will not only help his development as a Grand Prix driver, but will also help the team move forward with stronger links to a front-running F1 team, Russell’s knowledge of how they operate and what makes the Mercedes car particularly strong.
And if he’s sworn to secrecy about the things he’s seen whilst at Mercedes, then at the very least Williams should benefit from a stronger, more experienced and mature driver behind the wheel.