George Russell says Williams was surprised by its “huge lack of pace” in race trim compared to its qualifying performance at the opening two rounds of the 2020 Formula 1 season in Austria. 

Russell excelled in treacherous conditions on Saturday to land a career-best qualifying result of 12th and hand Williams its first Q2 appearance since the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix. He missed out on a place in Q3 by just 0.009s but on Sunday his pace fell away. 

The Briton was in equally-impressive form during the first qualifying session of the year at the Austrian Grand Prix but faded in the race before he ultimately retired from the 2020 season-opener. 

Russell battled for 11th place in the early stages of Sunday’s second race at the Red Bull Ring but a mistake while defending from Kevin Magnussen dropped him down to 18th.

"I completely hold my hands up for that, it wasn't good enough from my side but nevertheless it was a very difficult race from then on in, with a huge lack of pace in comparison to our qualifying speed," said Russell.

"We approached the weekend thinking we would struggle a bit more in qualifying and then have a better race pace in comparison, that's what we learned in testing, it's actually also what we learned on Friday of Austria round 1.

"Yet both races and both qualifyings have been the complete opposite. We've had a strong pace in qualifying and we've really struggled in all honesty in the race.”

Russell eventually recovered to finish ahead of teammate Nicholas Latifi in P16, but he was 15 seconds adrift of AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly - who struggled on a two-stop strategy - at the chequered flag.

“Our pace was particularly slow and it has been now for two weeks in a row,” Russell admitted. 

“Coming into these two race weekends we thought our race pace would be stronger than our quali pace and it’s absolutely turned out to be the opposite way. So we need to understand that and improve.”

 

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