‘It’s not like we p*ss ourselves while driving’

George Russell has given an insight into how simulator work helps him prepare for races – although not with the supposed ‘fear factor’.

In recent years, simulators have taken on an increasingly important role in trying to replicate what a Formula 1 driver would experience without actually getting into a car at a circuit.

But there is clearly a world of difference between what some outsiders might see as little more than playing a glorified video game and, in reality, hurtling around a track at 200 miles per hour.

Williams driver Russell, quoted by Motorsport-total.com, put it like this: “You’re not afraid at all in the simulator. It’s not like we piss ourselves [in reality] while driving.

“But if you make a mistake in the simulator, you press the reset button and start over. In reality, you give your mechanics a bit of work, to say the least.”

Often the virtual world can no longer be distinguished from the real world. But there are still areas in which a good simulation differs from a less good one – the tyres.

“It’s incredibly difficult to simulate the tyres,” said Russell, 22, who remains a Mercedes junior driver.

“They are incredibly complex in their temperature development, how they work, how they deform in curves and the air pressure is higher and lower. Then there are different mixtures. That’s incredibly difficult to simulate.

“For me, this is the difference between a top simulation and a less good one – the tyre model.”

George Russell

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While some drivers clearly take away plenty from their simulator experiences, others are not quite as keen.

Valtteri Bottas said he planned to prepare on a home sim for the Portuguese Grand Prix at the new F1 venue of the Algarve International Circuit.

But when his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton had a virtual run-out for the Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello earlier this season, he was left scratching his head.

“Normally I tend to think, [and] in my past I always felt, that one of my strengths is learning a circuit quite quickly,” said Hamilton.

“For this one [Mugello] we went on the simulator, which I never do, and I don’t feel like I benefited particularly.”

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Russell bullish on Williams after 'big aero reset' for 2020

After a maiden Formula 1 season spent mostly at the back of the grid, Williams’ George Russell hopes the team is capable of making significant progress in 2020 to put it back on an equal footing with its midfield rivals.

“The rate of improvement we are on is really strong,” he told Autosport magazine. “If everybody else doesn’t improve at all, we’ll be well and truly in that fight.”

Russell explained that the improvements were part of a major overhaul by the team in all departments, and in particular in its approach to aerodynamics.

“The team took a big reset with an aero philosophy,” he said. “We had to take that hit in performance to rebuild those foundations, so starting [last] season we were not surprised, the position we were in.

“We did hope to improve at a greater rate than we did, but those foundations took longer to put in place than we all anticipated.

“Now we can really see it in the windtunnel tracker of the downforce we had at the start of [last] year, to what we have in the car now, to what we believe we will be starting with [in 2020].

“The only thing we don’t know is how much everybody else will improve,” he acknowledged. “Everybody has improved, but we believe we should be improving at a much greater rate.”

With a full season of F1 under his belt, the 21-year-old Mercedes protégé will now effectively be team leader following the departure of his former team mate Robert Kubica. The Pole’s place will be taken by Canadian rookie Nicholas Latifi.

©Williams

“I want to see progress in myself and I want to see progress in the car,” Russell said of his expectations for his sophomore year. “I do believe that we will be stronger.

“And going to 2021, which will have all of those foundations built again, it should definitely be well and truly on its way.”

Although Russell finished last year as the only driver not to score a single championship point, the Briton is not downhearted about the slow start to his F1 career and recently got the thumbs-up from Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

“We are absolutely certain that he has the qualities of a potential future Mercedes driver,” Wolff told RaceFans‘ Dieter Rencken. “He has the raw speed, he has the talent, he has the intelligence.

“There is a reason why he’s won GP3 and F2 as a rookie. It hasn’t been done many times before. And he has a flawless record in Formula 1.”

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Russell hopes to truly be in 2020 fight

George Russell says Williams’ rate of development gives him hope of being in the midfield battle this year, if nobody else improves.

The Grove outfit propped up F1’s Constructors’ Championship for the second year in a row in 2019, though it’s safe to say last year was a new low for the team.

After turning up late to pre-season testing Williams never recovered and spent the season trailing behind the rest of the grid.

But the team have undergone changes to both their personnel and philosophies, so Russell thinks that with their current rate of development they will be competitive in 2020, if their rivals don’t find major gains.

“The team took a big reset with an aero philosophy and we had to take that hit in performance to rebuild those foundations, so starting the season we were not surprised [with] the position we were in,” he is quoted by Autosport.com.

“We did hope to improve at a greater rate than we did, but those foundations took longer to put in place than we all anticipated.

“[But] now, the rate of improvement we are on is really strong.

“We can really see that in the windtunnel tracker of the downforce we had at the start of the year, to what we have in the car now, to what we believe we will be starting next year.

“The only thing we don’t know is how much everybody else will improve.

“I can tell you now that if everybody else doesn’t improve at all, we’ll be well and truly in that fight.”

If those improvements hadn’t have taken as long to come as they did, then Russell thinks Williams would have been in the conversation for points before the 2019 season was over.

“Everybody has improved but we believe we should be improving at a much greater rate into next year than we improved over this year,” he said.

“That’s a big reason to be positive.

“If we [had] started [2019] with this car, we would have been fighting well and truly at the start of the year because we’ve put a decent amount of lap time on the car.

“But everyone else [improved as well, so] on the eye it does not look like we made that much progress, whereas we’ve [actually] made the same amount as everyone else has done.

“I want to see progress in myself, and I want to see progress in the car.

“I do believe that [in 2020] we will be stronger. Going to 2021, which will have all of those foundations built again, and it should definitely be well and truly on its way.”

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Russell opens up on relationship with Mercedes

Mercedes junior George Russell has given an insight into what it is like working for the Silver Arrows as he continues on his Formula 1 journey.

Russell, who has eyes on racing for the factory team in the not-so-distant future, will continue his development with Williams in 2020 after an impressive first season with them despite not scoring a single World Championship point.

While Mercedes continue to be supportive of Russell, he realises there is a weight of expectation of him to deliver for the team and that consistently doing a good job doesn’t necessarily warrant constant praise from his employers.

“With Mercedes, it’s always been the way that they won’t tell me when I’m doing a good job, but only tell me when I’m not doing a good job,” Russell said via Autosport.

“When I raced GP3 and I won GP3, I got a phone call to say ‘well done’, but straightaway we were talking about doing Formula 2 and doing FP1 sessions with Force India.

“At the time, I was like, ‘I’ve only just won the championship, surely I should be having a celebratory party or something?’.

“Then again, when I went to Formula 2 it was clear ‘the goal is to win, and if you win you win an F1 seat’. I won the championship, [it was] ‘well done, and now it’s F1’.

“They believe in me; they believe I’ve got the potential and I also think about it in a similar way.

“I’m being paid to deliver a very high level, and when I do that, it’s what I’m being paid to do.

“If a postman delivers his post, he doesn’t get a pat on the back because he delivered his post, it’s part of the job.

“My job, I should only be getting a bollocking if I don’t perform to a level.

“That’s the mentality, and they do appreciate it when you do something special, but everybody in a Formula 1 team – that’s the chefs in catering, they’re employed to deliver great food, the aerodynamicist is employed to deliver a great aero car, engineers and strategists are employed to perform a great strategy and set-up.

“It’s just the world we live in. I’m in contact with them every week and I always see them at the races.

“They’re definitely pleased with what I’m doing at the moment.”

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Claire Williams has been 'blown away' by George Russell

He spent his year racing at the rear, but George Russell’s performances made quite an impression on Claire Williams who admits to having been “blown away” by the rookie.

Russell’s maiden campaign in F1 was undermined at the outset, weighed down by the design flaws and depressed performance of Williams FW42 contender.

In the face of a challenging season, the 21-year-old from King’s Lynn relentlessly put his head down to focus on learning his trade and outperforming his teammate Robert Kubica, his only suitable reference of comparison.

Russell whitewashed the Pole 21-0 in qualifying, but Kubica wasn’t the only one to be blown away by the Mercedes protégé.

“I’ve been blown away by George,” Claire Williams told Motorsport.com.

“Unless you are inside this team you don’t really know how hard it has been.

“George understood what he was coming into and he could see it himself, but we very clearly warned him what it was going to be like.

“And from the get go he has really behaved in a way that you could say is exemplary because it’s been tough for him, not having a car that he would like to have.

“He’ s one of those drivers that when he does have a [competitive] car, he’s going to really light things up.”

Williams revealed that Russell’s performances produced a sense of excitement within her team that reminded her of a man who wrote some of the greatest pages in Williams’ history.

“We see him on a Saturday in qualifying – and people might not focus on what George Russell does because he’s in a Williams at the back – but he gets in that car, and the boys gather around the TV screens and they’re excited about watching him,” she said.

“It’s a bit like Nigel [Mansell], he just extracts everything that he possibly can and yes it might be a second off getting into Q2 but he’s still banging in some pretty impressive laps.

“Everyone knows and loves George because of the personality that he is. I can’t speak highly enough of him and him.

“I am enormously grateful to George because he has very quickly understood the role that he can play in keeping team morale up empty space.

“Yes, he has the occasional moan like we all do, but he has held his head high and he’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do.

“But he’s also gone above and beyond that and really played a huge part in maintaining morale in this team and leading it in that sense.”

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Williams ‘blown away’ by Russell’s performances

Claire Williams says that she and her team have been “blown away” by George Russell in his first season on the grid.

Despite being the only driver not to score a point in 2019, the Briton generally got everything he could out of the Williams car and out-qualified team-mate Robert Kubica 21-0.

“I’ve been blown away by George. Unless you are inside this team you don’t really know how hard it has been,” the deputy team principal told Motorsport.com.

“From the get-go, he has really behaved in a way that you could say is exemplary because it’s been tough for him, not having a car that he would like to have.

“It has been tough for him seeing his peers that have graduated from F2 at the same time [Lando Norris and Alex Albon] get into machinery that is far more competitive than he’s got.

“He’ s one of those drivers that when he does have a [competitive] car, he’s going to really light things up.

“We see him on a Saturday in qualifying – and people might not focus on what George Russell does because he’s in a Williams at the back – but he gets in that car, and the boys gather around the TV screens and they’re excited about watching him.

“It’s a bit like Nigel [Mansell], he just extracts everything that he possibly can and yes it might be a second off getting into Q2 but he’s still banging in some pretty impressive laps.”

As well as his driving ability, Williams praised his demeanour outside of the car, saying he played an influential role in keeping team morale up throughout the season.

“Outside the car, considering this is his first year, the knowledge that he has on how a Formula 1 car works and [how] to translate that into useful information that the engineers can then use to develop has been impressive.

“I am enormously grateful to George because he has very quickly understood the role that he can play in keeping team morale up empty space. Yes, he has the occasional moan like we all do, but he has held his head high and he’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do.

“But he’s also gone above and beyond that and really played a huge part in maintaining morale in this team and leading it in that sense.

“I’m very proud that we have a driver like George driving our car, flying the flag for Williams in the way that he does because he ticks every box in what we want to have in a racing driver.

“I just want to make sure that we can give him the car to really show what he can do.”

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Russell: Career on ‘exact same course’ as Leclerc’s

George Russell and Charles Leclerc enjoyed the same junior success, and Russell believes they are still on the “exact same course”.

Before bursting onto the F1 scene in 2018 with Sauber, Leclerc had won the GP3 and F2 titles back-to-back.

Russell would then complete the exact same achievement, winning the 2017 GP3 title in his rookie year, and then doing the same to take the 2018 F2 crown.

The British driver made his F1 debut this season alongside fellow F2 graduates Lando Norris and Alex Albon who finished P2 and P3 respectively behind Russell in the 2018 standings.

But that’s where the story has taken a twist – despite being a Mercedes junior Russell found himself in the worst car on the 2019 grid – Williams’ FW42 – while Norris has enjoyed a solid debut campaign with McLaren and Albon graduated from Toro Rosso to Red Bull mid-season, also claiming the Rookie of the Year Award.

That being said, Russell still feels his career is on the “exact same course” as Leclerc’s after the Monegasque driver stepped into a Ferrari seat for 2019 and finished ahead of four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel.

Speaking to MotorsportWeek.com, Russell said: “Everybody at Mercedes, and Williams, knows I beat Lando and Alex last year.

“I’m on the exact same course as Charles, factually, he won GP3, I won GP3, he won F2, I won F2, both in our first seasons, so now that Charles has the most amount of poles, and is winning races, Alex is showing what he’s capable of, Lando is doing a decent job, I’m happy for these guys. I actually want them to do better as the better they do the better it is for me.

“When my time comes and I’m negotiating or whatever, I can say ‘well I’ve not really been fully able to show what I can do, but I showed what I did last year and the year before, versus these guys, and they’re clearly showing what they can do’. If they were doing a bad job it probably wouldn’t give the same sort of credit to what I did in F2.”

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F1i Team Reviews for 2019: Williams

We begin our annual F1i review analysing how all ten F1 teams fared in 2019 with Williams, including a look ahead to speculate on what’s likely to be in store for the beleaguered independent next season.

Williams

The team picture

  • Constructors standing: P10, 1 point

Could the midwinter look any bleaker for the hard working Williams team? 2019 has been an absolute shocker, but the signs were right there at the start when they failed to get their new car ready in time to take part in the first few days of pre-season testing in February. Even when they did show up, the mismatched assortment of body components would have been an embarrassment to Frankenstein.

Technical director Paddy Lowe took the fall for that acutely embarrassing episode, but the problems were now ‘baked in’ to the FW42 and there was little that anyone could do about the situation. For the rest of the year, the final car running on track – invariably a lap or more off the leaders – would be a Williams.

The team just managed to avoid the ignominy of finishing the season pointless and has to be praised for some good reliability. But it was still a very sad state of affairs for the team that was once home to the likes of Nigel Mansell, Keke Rosberg, Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost, Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve and Ayrton Senna. And not forgetting Pastor Maldonado of course.

©Williams

Head-to-head

  • Robert Kubica: P19, 1 point
  • George Russell: P20, 0 points

In almost all respects, Williams had the most one-sided team mate battle on the grid. George Russell whitewashed Robert Kubica 21-0 in qualifying, and by a whopping average margin of 0.57s. However neither driver was able to make it into Q2 in 2019: the nearest Russell got was in Hungary where he missed out on progressing by just half a tenth. In the races themselves, the rookie beat his team mate 17-3 with both drivers failing to finish in Russia.

But balanced against that, it was Kubica who proved responsible for 100% of Williams’ entire season tally … of a single championship point. It was one of only three times the Pole finished ahead of Russell, on this occasion by a slender margin of 1.5s in Germany. After crossing the line in 12th place he had the good fortune to be promoted into the points by hefty post-race penalties on both Alfa Romeo drivers, leaving Russell out in the cold in 11th. So close!

Looking to the future

We confess: we’re very worried about Williams. Given the depth of their performance woes in 2019, you’d have thought they would have prioritised building up their technical team over the course of the year. Instead there’s been no replacement announced for Lowe, while vague assurances that the iconic Sir Patrick Head would be popping into Grove every now and then to keep an eye on things didn’t seem nearly enough to tackle the growing sense of malaise and inertia.

At least Nicholas Latifi will provide some fresh energy in the cockpit and keep Russell on his toes. However Williams may find themselves missing Kubica’s experience and highly regarded technical acumen – not to mention all that corporate sponsorship money he brought in.

Unless Williams is keeping a surprise well hidden under its racing overalls, we fear that 2020 might achieve the seemingly impossible – and actually prove to be even worse for the once-mighty constructor than 2019.

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Russell concedes first point ‘wasn’t meant to be’

The only driver yet to score a point this season, George Russell missed out on 10th place at the Brazilian Grand Prix by a mere 1.7s.

Russell started the penultimate grand prix of his debut campaign from 18th on the grid.

He was passed by the race leaders on lap 23 but was able to unlap himself when the Safety Car came out for Valtteri Bottas’ engine related retirement.

Running near the back of the pack, Russell was elevated up the order as both Ferraris and Lance Stroll retired bringing out the Safety Car for the second time.

With the field again bunched up, he made up another place when Alexander Albon was pitched into a spin by Lewis Hamilton.

Russell crossed the line in 12th place, a measly 1.7s behind 10th-placed Daniil Kvyat.

“The first lap was good, I was able to fight with some quicker cars and the first stint was not too bad,” he told F1i.com. “But afterwards I just lost the pace.

“Especially on the hard tyres, the front end was not working and we have to save the rears. While saving the rears we couldn’t put energy into the fronts and the fronts were just ice cold and no grip.

“Additionally it was quite windy, and with this aero configuration – a mixed car, the old package and a new front wing – the car feels very strange to drive when it’s gusty and windy.

“It was quite a long lonely race to start with, then suddenly it was all kicking off in front

“It was definitely crazy in those last few laps and that gave us half an opportunity.

“It was nice to finally be in the mix and within that battle, but everyone’s pace when they are battling is our pace when we go flat out.

“I gave it my everything to try and get an overtake here and there and try and salvage everything we could, but it wasn’t meant to be.

“That was the maximum we could do.”

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'Points just weren't meant to be', accepts Russell

Williams’ George Russell was closer to securing his maiden championship point than ever before in Brazil, where he was within two seconds of a top ten finish.

Russell is the only driver in this year’s line-up not to have picked up any points in the 20 races so far. His team mate Robert Kubica had been handed a single point in Germany after Alfa Romeo were penalised for using driver aids.

But Russell remains far from downhearted, and insisting that he was happy just to have been properly in the mix in a thrilling race on Sunday.

“The first lap was good, I was able to fight with some quicker cars and the first stint was not too bad,” he said. But afterwards I just lost the pace.

“Especially on the hard tyres, the front end was not working and we have to save the rears. While saving the rears we couldn’t put energy into the fronts and the fronts were just ice cold and no grip.

“Additionally it was quite windy, and with this aero configuration – a mixed car, the old package and a new front wing – the car feels very strange to drive when it’s gusty and windy.”

He had dropped behind Kubica at the start of the race, and the short nature of the Interlagos track meant that he was passed by the leaders on lap 23.

But fortunately for the rookie driver, a late safety car enabled him to unlap himself and put him right back into the midfield battle.

“It was quite a long lonely race to start with, then suddenly it was all kicking off in front,” Russell recalled. “It was definitely crazy in those last few laps and that gave us half an opportunity.

“It was nice to finally be in the mix and within that battle, but everyone’s pace when they are battling is our pace when we go flat out.

“I gave it my everything to try and get an overtake here and there and try and salvage everything we could, but it wasn’t meant to be. That was the maximum we could do.”

Russell ended up crossing the line 1.668s behind Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, who secured tenth place ahead of Kevin Magnussen and Russell himself.

Robert Kubica (POL) Williams Racing FW42 leads team mate George Russell (GBR) Williams Racing FW42.

But Russell did have the satisfaction of finishing ahead of Roman Grosjean, Alexander Albon, Nico Hulkenberg, and Kubica who was the last man still running at the line in his penultimate outing with Williams.

“The first lap of the race was good,” said the Pole. “I was able to fight with some quicker cars in the first stint. Afterwards I lost the pace, especially with hard tyres.

“We had to protect the rear tyres, but, by saving these, we were unable to put any energy into the fronts, making them ice cold with no grip.”

While Kubica won’t return to the team in 2020, Russell is assured of a sophomore season although his new team mate is yet to be confirmed.

The Briton now has just one more chance remaining to break his duck in the championship by picking up a point at the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi on December 1.

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