The ’emotionally brutal’ F1 moments that made Russell stronger

Russell has moved on to a full-time Mercedes F1 seat for the coming season after spending the past three years racing for the Williams client team.

Russell’s performances at Williams earned him widespread acclaim in the F1 paddock and convinced Mercedes to pair him with Lewis Hamilton five years after joining his junior program.

MORE: How Russell sees his place in the Mercedes-Hamilton F1 super-team

While performances in Hungary, Belgium and Russia were the highlights of Russell’s 2021 season, the points breakthrough for Williams came after a few bitter missed opportunities in the previous two years since joining the team. team in 2019.

Discussing his development throughout his three-year stint at Williams, Russell spoke about the importance of getting past setbacks quickly, saying there were a few moments that “stood still”.

Russell chose the 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello as a race that “probably went under the radar of a lot of people” after dropping the points late. It would have been his first F1 score and Williams’ first since Germany 2019.

“We got off to a really good start, and then there was the incident, and I was actually in the points for the majority of the race,” Russell said in a roundtable interview including Autosport at the end of last year.

“I think I was in P10 most of the time. Then [Charles] Leclerc must be at the pit for some reason, he wasn’t catching up, so I was in P9 during the red flag for [Lance] The promenade incident.

Russell was relegated to the third start of the 2020 Mugello race, missing his first F1 score

Photo By: Mark Sutton / Motorsport images

“Then I got off to a bad start and felt like it was our only opportunity of the year because we hadn’t really had any opportunities until then. It was as if the opportunity had just happened and we will never get the opportunity.

“It was our only chance. It was really difficult after this race.

Russell also chose the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix at Imola in 2020 as another difficult moment “for obvious reasons”, having crashed behind the safety car when he was 10th.

Following Hamilton’s positive test for COVID-19 ahead of the Sakhir Grand Prix in December 2020, Russell was fortunate enough to join the senior Mercedes team and prove himself in high-tech machines.

Russell qualified second and dominated the race before a Mercedes strategy error and a late puncture denied him a likely victory. He thought of it as an “emotional roller coaster”.

“Everything that happened that week, the spotlight on me, the constant monitoring of my performance, the amount of work that was required just to fix the seat and learn all their procedures, work with the engineers to get buttons on the steering wheel, figuring out the car – that was a lot to experience, ”said Russell.

“It was exhausting in itself, and obviously the race looked pretty good and everything was under control at one point. For it to all go away, it was pretty difficult.

Finally, Russell highlighted his second crash at Imola in the 2021 race – when he collided with Valtteri Bottas while battling for ninth – as another big moment he had to recover from.

Marshals clear damaged car of Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12, from gravel trap

Marshals clear damaged car of Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12, from gravel trap

Photo By: Charles Coates / Motorsport images

“These are the four moments in my three years that stood out to me and were pretty brutal emotionally,” said Russell.

“It was just learning to deal with it. I watch Bahrain without frustration or hard feelings.

“It’s something that I guess made me become a stronger rider. “

Russell finally got his first points for Williams in Hungary last year after the team capitalized on early chaos and a race of attrition to put both cars in the top 10.

MORE: The jubilation and grief Williams experienced when he returned to F1 in 2021

After finishing eighth in Hungary, Russell would step onto the podium in Belgium after a superb qualifying lap securing him second place on the grid which would be maintained under the two laps behind the safety car.

Further points followed for Russell in Italy and Russia, giving him a final total of 16 for the season to mark the most successful year for a Williams driver since 2017 and help the team to finish eighth in the Constructors’ Championship. .

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