George Russell cut a dejected figure as he sat against the fence at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari after crashing out during Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
In a strong position to fight for his first career point in Formula One, he spun into the barriers after attempting to warm his tyres up behind the safety car on lap 53.
Sitting in tenth with just ten laps remaining, Russell’s mistake proved to be costly and he only has himself to blame.
However, away from a rare error that saw him lose a maiden point, his overall weekend proved to be another successful one in the struggling Fw43.
For the eighth time in 13 races, Russell qualified for Q2 and also extended his sizzling record of out-qualifying his team-mate in F1 to 34 races.
And, for the second race week in a row, the 22-year-old claimed the scalp of four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel in qualifying.
Although in an inferior car, his swashbuckling talents have captured the attention of two-time world champion Fernando Alonso amongst others.
Alonso, who will return to F1 with Renault next year, told Sky Sports that he believed Russell was the stand-out driver from all the young stars currently in the sport.
“How he’s driving the Williams. I’m really surprised by his natural speed. So if I have to say one name, Russell for the future is going to be my pick,” the Spaniard said.
Fast, dedicated and professional, Russell is highly-rated because he beat his now-F1 rivals McLaren’s Lando Norris and Red Bull’s Alex Albon in the 2018 F2 Championship.
Of course, junior series success does not automatically transfer into F1 glory. However, those triumphs in the lower race categories give an idea about potential performance on the big stage.
For all his burgeoning class, it is unfortunate that Russell is in a sub-par machine that does not have the pace to push those midfield sides vying for regular points finishes. But his time will come.
Part of the Mercedes Driver Programme means he is solid enough for the Silver Arrow to consider him as a future driver. And with further success against his Williams team-mate Nicholas Latifi, a seat in a stronger team should open up for him in the future.
More drama at Imola – and this time it’s George Russell
Running behind the Safety Car, he hits the barriers 💥
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 1, 2020
The King’s Lynn native did a fantastic job against 2019 team-mate Robert Kubica and has carried on that trend versus Latifi this campaign. Against both men, he has never been out-qualified and continues to push his creaking car to the maximum.
Having the edge on your team-mate is always the first step but we won’t really know how gifted he actually is until he drives a more formidable car after next season.
He may be gaining experience the hard way but his excellent racecraft and ability to storm forward from the back of the grid while avoiding contact is impressive.
Speculation did surface about his future in recent weeks – despite having a contract in place for 2021 – with some suggesting that he could be replaced by Sergio Perez.
With the Mexican bringing lucrative sponsorship from billionaire Carlos Slim, added to his recent stunning form in the Racing Point, it looked a likely option for a team under new ownership.
But Williams apologised for creating any confusion over the weekend in Italy and confirmed Russell would remain with the team alongside Latifi next season.
At 22, Russell is still so young and has a successful racing career ahead of him. His constant drive to improve, strong work ethic and commitment to make things happen would be a significant addition to any ambitious outfit.
No matter what team a driver races for, it must be frustrating to have to wrestle it out at the back of the grid and see other rivals steal the limelight, clinch podiums plus finish a full lap ahead of you.
All Russell can do now is focus on what is in front of him, stay positive, reduce any mistakes and extract the maximum from the limited package available.
As next season unfolds, if he continues to use his pace and intelligence on track, then a greater opportunity will come his way for 2022. One that will have him fighting for the podiums and wins that he deserves.
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