Russell qualified in P19 just over 0.4 seconds behind Antonio Giovinazzi in P18. In the past four races, Williams was usually around a second slower than the car ahead of them. To make things even better, this came after a crash in FP3 that required the team to quickly repair Russell’s car.
“Overall our pace has looked slightly stronger this weekend than anticipated and I was feeling confident in FP3,” said Russell.
“But then obviously putting [the car] into the wall was probably not great for my confidence into qualifying. But I was pleased with that final lap.
“The fact that everybody has brought their big upgrades and we haven’t really brought anything to the car, just a few little test items to try to understand the car better, is encouraging.”
The Briton confirms the team worked on their qualifying pace and progress is evident.
“Perhaps we optimised for qualifying more than the guys just ahead of me did but there’s no reason yet we can’t be on the back of them in the opening laps and see what happens later in the race.
“But at the moment we’re just being realistic It would be silly to go out there and expect points or anything, so we have to go out there and use each session as a test session really and try to understand stuff for later in the year.”
Russell’s crash damaged his car’s rear wing, diffuser, rear suspension and gearbox. Upon inspection, the team decided the gearbox needed to be changed which incurred a five-place grid penalty for Russell.
“It was very frustrating. From a very small hit, we did a lot of damage.
“So that was a real shame, but nothing that will set us back.”
However, the 21-year-old says he is happy with his overall qualifying performance.
“I’ve had some really strong qualifyings at points this year, so from a personal perspective I left that session quite satisfied really.
“Obviously from a personal perspective you’re changing your goals slightly.
“You’ve got to be realistic and I’ve got to set myself goals and targets before each weekend and session and at the moment I’m pleased with the job I’m doing,” concluded Russell.