George Russell felt pleased that he “held my own” fighting Fernando Alonso despite ultimately losing out on a first F1 point for Williams in Austria.
An excellent qualifying saw Williams’ Russell start from eighth after Sebastian Vettel incurred a penalty and although he was overtaken Alpine’s Alonso with a handful of laps remaining, he remains upbeat, about the progress made.
From his fourth row start, he dropped to 12th, having to avoid Yuki Tsunoda, who had a moment and forced Russell to jam on the brakes. In the overall scheme of things, he was competitive throughout the day and his fight with Alonso for 10th was one of the more competitive battles on track.
“It was so close but so far, I didn’t get the best start,” said Russell to TV media. “I got Tsunoda having a lock-up and clearing just in front of me, so to avoid crashing into Gasly, I had to slam the brakes when couple of guys overtook me. That didn’t really came down to us as they were the faster cars and were always going to finish ahead.
“After that, I was driving as hard and as fast as I could. In the end, if you choose any guys to have, you probably wouldn’t choose Fernando. It was very tricky with all of his experience and speed as well. In qualifying, he was really fast and he should have finished inside the Top 5.
“So, I was trying to keep him behind with the speed he’s had, it probably wouldn’t have happened. I’ve been in F1 for three years now, but that was the first time I’ve really battled with anybody. I’ve had a couple of overtakes here and there, but I’ve never had a wheel-to-wheel battle, so I’m pleased that I held my own and didn’t do anything crazy or silly.
“For what it was worth, it was quite good fun. If you could choose anybody to have behind you in that situation, you wouldn’t choose Fernando. He didn’t make it easy. Ultimately you get what you deserve, and those guys were faster than us. We did a great job over one lap, but they were inherently that bit faster than us and were always going to come through.
“It’s another race where we finished just outside the points with no top cars retiring. It almost seems typical, P11, every single car finished bar [Esteban] Ocon, who was behind us. So, to get P12 in France, P8 before retiring in Styria and P11 in Austria, it is coming but it is frustrating at the same point,” summed up Russell.
The British driver showed within this battle that he is getting better and better all the time. Two very good showings at the Red Bull Ring certainly have the F1 world sit up and notice him. The focal point for Russell being that he recognises in his own eyes and words that he was competitive, batting and a prime part of the weekend.
For Russell and Williams, their search for a point goes on. Meanwhile, for Alonso, it was a bittersweet weekend, held up during a Q2 run by Vettel saw him denied a genuine chance at Q3 and he was forced to start from 14th, which resulted in 10th place finish.
One point was all he could do after thinking of more. The point itself was very much earned the hard way. Post-race, Alonso admitted that he didn’t wish to take away a point from Russell of all, but he acknowledged the good fight and his own points streak.
“It was very intense unfortunately for only one point but it felt like it was the lap of the championship for us,” said Alonso to written media. “At one point it is gold for him and for ourselves after starting 14th. It was nice. In a way when I saw it was George I felt a little bit sad the battle had to be with him.
“I think he will have the opportunity to stand on the podium and fight for race wins I guess in the future if he goes to Mercedes. But I enjoyed. One point starting 14th was not expected as our simulations this morning there were a little more pessimistic than P10. I will take the point,” summed up Alonso.
Adding more, Alonso realised he was in a battle with the Brit and one would judge from his comments that he has nothing but respect for him. A week previous, he already realised that Williams themselves are on the up and bridging the gap to their rivals. He sees their progress but also believes Alpine can up their game too.
“I think they have made a step forward but also we checked last year in Austria they started 11th so it seems a circuit they performing really well,” said Alonso. “I think we need to wait a couple of race to see if they fast or not. But here last weekend they were closer to us and this Weekend we had a little bit more margin.
“I’m happy with the progress in these two weeks. It is up to us to keep it going into Silverstone. If we can repeat this kind of performance it will put us in top seven or top eight and that is a step forward for sure,” summed up Alonso, who was competitive and usually around the 10th to 12th mark.
He sees a lot of light at the end of the tunnel for him and the team going forward to Silverstone and the rest of the season. Judging by his comments and his near miss for Q3 on Saturday, he sees no reason why they can not be challenging thos who are regularly in the Top 10.
The story was written by Neil Farrell
Here’s George Russell and Fernando Alonso in parc ferme: https://twitter.com/F1/status/1411715675958226947?s=20
Here’s George Russell reacting on radio: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2021-austrian-grand-prix-russell-reacts-after-chance-for-points-finish-slips-away.1704370337912706092.html
Here’s how F1 Austrian GP panned out