George Russell, Williams, Sochi Autodrom, 2021

Russell reveals misunderstanding over gamble on switch to slicks

2021 Russian Grand Prix

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George Russell revealed his pivotal switch to slick tyres during qualifying came about because of a miscommunication with his team.

The Williams driver was the first to gamble on changing from intermediate to slick tyres as the track dried. However he said his team misunderstood his instruction to prepare the slicks and called him in immediately to fit them.

“I came on the radio to say to [tell] the guys let’s get the slicks ready because it’s definitely going to go slicks. And they replied saying, ‘okay let’s box this lap’. So I thought they may have misunderstood what I meant by that radio comment.”

He decided to go with the gamble and went along with the change of tyres.

“I said, let’s go for it. We’ve got to go for it in these sessions. High risk, high reward, especially in these conditions.”

He had a scare when he returned to the track with the slick tyres fitted. “When I came out of the pit lane on the slicks I almost crashed straight out of the box,” he said.

He eventually secured third on the grid behind Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jnr.

“It was only on that last lap, I kept getting a little bit of traffic in there, I couldn’t complete the lap. So that was a bit frustrating.

“But as it was for everybody, I knew that last lap was going to be the killer lap. So we saved it all for then and here we are. It’s a bit surreal, second top-three in four races now.”

Russell’s qualifying position is his second top-three start in the last four races, following his second on the grid at Spa. He said he used a similar approach, preparing his car to ensure it was in the best possible condition for the final lap when the track was at its best.

“I saw the dry line appearing and I knew if there wasn’t an interrupted session, it definitely would have been slicks. So I was pretty relaxed.

“I was pushing the limits but I wasn’t going too crazy because I knew that on that opening lap or the out-lap I could have easily ended up in the wall if you’re half a metre too wide and you get a wet patch. I was sort of saving it for that last lap and making sure I had the right track position.

“I had a bit of traffic here and there, I still wouldn’t have been quick enough to fight for pole at that point. So I thought, let’s just save it and make sure we’re in a great position for that final lap and go for it. So it’s similar to Spa to be honest.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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7 comments on “Russell reveals misunderstanding over gamble on switch to slicks”

  1. Very well done, George!
    P2 in Spa was sensational, but this time P3 almost feels kind of “normal”.
    We know that he can deliver in this conditions.

    1. If both Lando and Russell have good starts (both are on the clean side) and stay on the track, then it’s going to be very hard to pass them, especially if the new forecast of light drizzle all day is to happen. If the conditions are similar to todays F2 race, then it will be even harder to pass. FIA gave them a rolling start and no DRS. The main drive line was drying up well but the passing lines were way too wet to drive in them making it a procession race with almost no passes. Horse P. will be more equalized in the drizzle.

      1. @redpill yesterday’s rain means there will likely not be much difference between the clean and dirty sides.

  2. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
    25th September 2021, 16:45

    I was surprised to hear his radio as the lap times were stable at that point and no one was really improving. His first sector was 1.5 secs off the pace, but eventually the slicks turned out to be the right call for those who could do 2 laps.

    Can’t wait to see him in that Merc and what he can do with the right machinery.

    1. Can’t wait to see him in that Merc and what he can do with the right machinery.

      Indeed. With the curse on the second RB seat, it may prove an easy win in the WCC for Mercedes.

      1. @x303

        With the curse on the second RB seat, it may prove an easy win in the WCC for Mercedes.

        This very true, this year will be RB’s best chance.

  3. Sounds like he kept a cool head, but could be all talk of course

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