George Russell says he can already tell that Williams’ 2020 Formula 1 car is “definitely an improvement” compared to its predecessor.

The Briton enjoyed a strong showing on the opening morning of pre-season testing in Barcelona as he racked up 73 laps and finished sixth in the timesheets with a time that was almost a full second faster than his qualifying lap for the 2019 Spanish Grand Prix.

Importantly for Williams, there were no signs of any reliability issues and Russell said he could immediately feel the gains made by the Grove-based squad with its new FW43 challenger over the winter.

“It’s feeling good and it’s definitely an improvement on last year,” Russell said following his first run.

“It’s difficult to get a read so far but from within it feels nice to drive. Obviously lap times are the important thing and we’ll only know by the end of next week how that is.

“But it’s definitely faster than it was this time last time because this time last year the car was in bits. That’s one bonus!”

Russell was the first driver out of the pitlane when the session went green and revealed it was a “relief” to get Williams’ programme underway early.

“We had an intense morning planned and to get everything in it was important to get out from the beginning,” he explained.

“Also off the back of last year it was psychologically important for all of us and for everybody whose worked day and night back at the factory to see their car go out first.

“From the struggles of last year, it was incredibly tough times for the people back at Grove last year, when they are working absolutely flat out to try and make things ready and work in double time.

"So it was a relief for all of us and now we can get cracking with our test programme.”

After missing the first two-and-a-half days of running in testing last year, Russell said it was “massively important” for Williams to enjoy a trouble-free morning.

“Last year was far from ideal and the team have done a really great job to achieve that and the build quality of the car is so much better standard compared to last year,” he said.

“Things fit properly and the car looks better from a design perspective, so I think overall it’s been a very positive morning.

“Nevertheless going into next week and Melbourne, it all depends on lap times and we just need to focus on our programme and get the most out of these two weeks. 

“Everyone is pleased to be in this position,” he added. “Everybody was a bit lost year because they had no work to do with no car here. They are excited for the new season.

“It was definitely a character-building year last year and I’m confident we can go racing this year and have a bit more fun than last year and that’s what we are all hoping for.”

Russell’s new teammate, 2019 Formula 2 runner-up Nicholas Latifi, will get behind the wheel of the FW43 this afternoon in his first official outing as a full-time F1 driver.



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