“We need to give it a bit more of a chance to see if this is real throughout. But having that confidence in the car is a big thing. And today’s a very calm day, not a single gust of wind or anything. I’m sure that that does also help us a lot.”
Regarding his race pace he added: “Yesterday was probably the best Friday we’ve ever had. Let’s see how that translates tomorrow. We did have a new set of hards for the race pace run, which I think did account for something – we didn’t do the low fuel on the hard. But the car felt really good. And we looked strong. And see let’s see if it is translates into something tomorrow.”
The big benefit of starting 11th was that those immediately in front of him were committed to the soft tyre, while he was able to take mediums and thus run longer into the race. He also received a little bonus in the form of a grid penalty for Yuki Tsunoda that promoted him to 10th.
The downside of starting on the mediums was that he had a less grip off the line than those ahead, so there was little chance of making immediate progess. However on the first lap he gained two spots from the Charles Leclerc/Pierre Gasly clash, and fought back past Tsunoda, who had briefly got ahead.
“The issue was so typical in a way, but that’s racing, it’s not meant to be easy” George Russell
Then around lap 17 came the message that was to change his day: “George, we need to convert to Plan B for reliability, so you need to pick up the pace.” Plan B obviously meant two stops instead of the scheduled one. Russell knew something must be up as it made no sense in strategic terms.
A few laps later he said, “I trust you, but I’m happy with where I am at the moment,” to which his engineer replied, “Copy that, there’s something we need to do.”
Sure he enough when he was called into the pits early he had to sit there for over 18 seconds while a mechanic replenished the power unit’s pneumatic system. He tumbled to the bottom of the order, any chance of points gone.
The stop hadn’t solved the problem, and not long after he returned to the pits to retire the car, having run 36 laps.
“When I heard that message, obviously, I was a bit confused,” he told Motor Sport. “We were having a great race. And I saw that they had to top up the pneumatic pressure that was depleting. And obviously, they topped it up, and it went down again.
“So quite a rare issue, not one that the team have experienced in a long, long time. I’m gutted for the team to be honest, they’ve all worked so hard. We all have. And these opportunities don’t come every race. So typical in a way, but that’s racing, it’s not meant to be easy.”
Russell had no doubt that he was going to be able to hang in there and secure his first top 10 result with Williams.