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Russian GP: Qualifying team notes - Williams

NEWS STORY
25/09/2021

George Russell qualified third and Nicholas Latifi 14th for the Russian Grand Prix.

George continued to improve throughout Q3, setting his initial laps on intermediate tyres before boxing for the soft Pirelli compound to post a fastest time of 1:42.983. Nicholas set his fastest time on his final flying lap of Q1, setting a 1:48.252 on intermediate tyres to progress to Q2. However, the Canadian will start at the back of the grid due to a Power Unit change.

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance: The weather dominated today as we had all expected. We were happy with what we had done yesterday so didn't lose too much by FP3 being a washout.

With qualifying taking place in damp conditions we were in a similar position to Spa with little to lose and a lot to gain. Both drivers were outstanding throughout, with Nicholas in particular excelling in the difficult conditions of Q1. He was quick throughout and did a great job. Unfortunately, we had to replace his Power Unit overnight and so he will now start the race from the back of the grid. We therefore opted to let him run in Q1 as it gains him valuable experience in these conditions and increased the pressure on our rivals, but in Q2 we decided not to risk the car further. It is a massive shame for Nicholas and his car crew that he couldn't get the most out of his excellent pace today, but he still starts the race tomorrow with a decent car and an opportunity to make good progress. His excellent pace was good reward for the huge effort that his mechanics put in to rebuild his car with the new PU last night. They didn't get the grid slot that they deserved, but the pace was there, and they can take great pride from that.

George had a slightly more precarious transit to Q2, but once there he did an excellent job to make the most of the situation. The car was working well, and he bided his time and was cool throughout. Although we were confident that slicks were the right tyre for the closing stages of Q3, he was instrumental in supporting the decision and recognising that it was the last lap that would be the key lap. As in Spa, we were happy to put everything into one final lap in the best conditions and again it paid off. Tomorrow will be tough in the dry as we have many quicker cars starting behind. However, the car was working quite well at high fuel on Friday and we have a good opportunity to fight with the McLaren and Ferrari; holding on to a top three place will be very difficult, but we are going to give it a damn good go.

George Russell: P3 is an incredible result and the team did an amazing job once again. We're riding a wave at the moment and it feels pretty great! It's high risk and high reward in situations like these but I knew it would be slicks for the end of the session. I managed to get the tyres in a good window and was building up to the limit to give it everything I had on the last lap.

Many people have said in the past that third is the best place to start in Sochi. I won't be doing anything crazy but if there's an opportunity there tomorrow I'll go for it. It's going to be a very tricky race but I'll be defending hard and picking my battles. We've got to look forward but also be realistic as we've got some very fast cars behind us. It's not going to be easy but I will be doing my best.

Nicholas Latifi: The pace felt very strong today. You never know how well you'll be able to switch on the tyres in the wet weather, but when I first hit the brakes I could tell the grip was there and it felt good, which clearly wasn't the case for everyone. Even on a track that was constantly improving, the lap I set in the middle of Q1 was enough to get me through to Q2. Seeing what was possible in Q1 makes it more frustrating to be starting from the back of the grid due to the Power Unit change, but that's racing sometimes. I'll be pushing hard tomorrow to make up as many positions as I can in the race.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Sochi, here.

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