George Russell was jubilant after clinching his best-ever Formula 1 qualifying result on Saturday at the Red Bull Ring.
Russell made it into Q2 and ended up 12th on the grid for tomorrow’s Styrian Grand Prix, with a time just a fraction of a second off the pace of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
That’s a huge step forward for the beleaguered Williams team, which spent most of last season bumping along the bottom row of the grid, and puts Russell in touching distance of earning his first world championship points.
“It felt incredible,” Russell told Sky Sports after the end of the session. “It was a real buzz driving, I was giving it everything I had.
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“I had a lot of fun out there,” he continued. “If somebody said we’d have been a tenth away from the Ferraris [to make it] into Q3, there’s no way I would have believed it.
“There’s no way I would have believed that prior to this weekend. If you’d told me this two weeks ago prior to last weekend, even Q1 I would’ve said was a stretch.”
Russell’s previous best starting position had been 14th in last year’s Belgian and Italian Grands Prix. He admitted that the inclement weather had been a factor in levelling the playing field in today’s session.
“It’s not quite our true pace,” he acknowledged. “It was very tricky, I couldn’t see at a lot of points. I was asking my engineer where cars were because I was just keeping it flat on the straights when I couldn’t see anything.
“It was pretty sketchy a lot of the time,” he said. “At the beginning of Q1, I couldn’t see anything up the straight.
“You’re literally going flat out almost 200 miles per hour into turn 3 and you just can’t see anything. It’s just mist and fog from all the water, the spray is everywhere.
“But that was when it was at its worst. When it cleared out I could get my down and get in a good lap.
“It was great. I’m really happy. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow,” adding: “I hope we can at least hold onto it.
“Surprisingly, our straight-line speed looks relatively good. Points is the aim, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
Lacking wet weather experience in F1, Russell’s team mate Nicholas Latifi wasn’t quite as fortunate in Q1 and will start tomorrow’s race from 18th on the grid.
“I was surprised with how comfortable I felt as it was the first real wet session that I have been given the green light to push fully in,” he said.
“I am disappointed as we could have easily made it into Q2. My pace on the first set of tyres was in the top fifteen but I just didn’t get a clear lap on the second set.
“Every lap was either traffic or a yellow flag and then the red flag. I think there was much more in there, so I am just a bit frustrated.”
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