George Russell doubts Williams will fail to qualify for the Australian Grand Prix despite a difficult first day of practice for the team on Friday in Melbourne that saw it finish adrift from the rest of the Formula 1 field.

Williams arrived in Australia already on the back foot after missing the first two-and-a-half days of pre-season testing due to delays in the build of its new FW42 car, leading to technical chief Paddy Lowe taking a leave of absence from the team.

Russell and teammate Robert Kubica finished in the bottom two positions in both practice sessions on Friday at Albert Park, with Russell lapping 1.7 seconds slower than the next slowest driver - McLaren's Lando Norris - in FP2.

"Obviously we didn’t have the best of days. The lap time is stating the fact that we’re quite a long way off the rest at the moment," Russell said.

"But we knew what we were in for. We know what this weekend is going to be about, and we just need to build on that.

"We knew what we were in for at this race and probably the first couple of races, and we just need to focus on building on that, and ensure come mid-season and the end of the year that we have something better."

Williams' best time in FP2 was 3.853 seconds slower than the fastest lap overall, set by Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, sparking some suggestions the team could fall foul of F1's 107 percent rule and fail to qualify for the race.

All cars are required to lap within 107 percent of the fastest time set in Q1 in order to qualify, with the last team missing out on a starting slot as a result of the regulation being HRT back in 2012.

Although he had not looked at the lap times, Russell said that he doubted Williams would be at risk of such a fate.

"I’ve been driving the car, I’ve not been seeing what the lap times are, or who’s at the top and the lap time," Russell said.

"I didn’t have my calculator with me, so I don’t know. I doubt it."

Russell's best lap in FP2 was 104.7 percent of Hamilton's benchmark, with Kubica's coing in at 104.9 percent, putting both comfortably inside the 107 percent requirement for the time being.

'WE HAVE TO STAY AWAY FROM THE KERBS'

Friday's practice running marked Robert Kubica's first appearance at Albert Park since finishing second at the 2010 Australian Grand Prix, officially starting the Pole's comeback season after eight years out with injury.

While Kubica said he was pleased to return to Australia, he conceded that any positive feelings were slightly limited by the struggles with the FW42 car.

"It’s a great achievement and a good feeling. Unfortunately the feeling is compromised a bit with the difficulties we are having, and especially the second free practice, there was quite a lot of compromise with some damages we faced in the car," Kubica said.

"We tried to fix the parts, but unfortunately we don’t have a lot of spares, so we have to do the maximum from what we have. The car, it is difficult to drive, and if you face damages, it is even more difficult.

"I think it's good to be here. I know it sounds strange because normally when you are so slow, it’s difficult to find positives, but I think as always you try to do the maximum from what you have."

Asked to clarify the "damages" he mentioned, Kubica explained that he was referring to the team's lack of spare parts as it continued to feel the effects of its late car build.

"We faced similar issues in Barcelona. We have to stay away from kerbs," Kubica said.

"It is not easy, especially when you are fighting to stay on-track. The positive thing is the afternoon felt better.

"But unfortunately it’s quite compromised with what is happening."

 

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