Latifi was the driver who actually gave Williams the greater share of points when Russell finally finished in the top ten in Hungary, but despite being second on the road to his team-mate, the Briton was in tears after the race.
It was the culmination of so much work that had led him to the point of becoming a Mercedes driver, and it felt like a more tangible reward before that contract was finally signed.
“I wouldn’t say I was worried that it might never come, but we had so many occasions where we were so close and always something seemed to happen. But we kept on fighting and fighting and I think that’s why it all came to me after the race, because we didn’t give up and when you’re down in the weeds and you’re trying to fight back out and you’ve got these small opportunities that go amiss, you sometimes start to think: ‘Why am I… Is this ever going to happen?’
“But we just kept on fighting and I think it really shows why.”
At the time of the race in Hungary, Russell insists he hadn’t been definitively told where his future was going to be. And it was a situation that offered him the chance to address one of the arguments that was often used against him being promoted – namely whether he would be the same team player Valtteri Bottas has been at Mercedes.
With Latifi running third after the chaotic start to the race, a very clear radio message from Russell was broadcast: “If you need to compromise my race to help Nicky, do it. I will box early to avoid the undercut for anyone else. Prioritise Nicky.”
Russell insists it wasn’t directed at anyone other than Williams, but it surely can’t have helped alleviate any potential concerns on that front.
“That was just something in the heat of the moment that I felt was a necessity to say because obviously I’ve been very loyal to the team and I can understand why they want to be loyal and give me the opportunity too, but my goal is to seal the team P8 in the constructors’ championship, and to be honest I don’t really care if that comes from a result from Nicholas or a result of mine.
“Obviously I wish it was a result of mine but in our position we’re not naive to the fact that we need to get a little bit fortunate to be in that position. We’ve had some excellent races and it’s just not been enough, so obviously I’ve done 50 races in F1 now and taking away my DNFs I think I’ve had my team-mate finish ahead of me on four or five occasions out of 50 and two of them have been for points!
“So it’s just one of those things I guess, but equally I wouldn’t change it because I want to win a world championship, that’s not a realistic goal this year, but my target will be accomplished if we finish eighth in the constructors’ championship and I’ve contributed to that.
“Whether I score all the points or none of the points, all of the team contributed to it one way or another. I push Nicky, Nicky pushes I, and that is contribution enough.”
There are nine races remaining for Russell to complete his target on the track and right now it’s looking good. Beyond that he will have to watch how Williams gets on from afar while taking on his new challenge at Mercedes, but he won’t forget just what a role it played in his future, and hopes the same will be true for the team.
“I’ll feel a huge amount of pride to see the progress we’ve made over these years, and hopefully have contributed to the resurgence of Williams.”