Williams Head of Vehicle Performance, Dave Robson, speaks up on the F1 race start situation with George Russell, as he lays down the ‘instinct’ importance and more.

Russell is on the up and little by little, his performances are improving race by race.  He was cruelly robbed of a point in F1 Austrian GP at the Red Bull Ring finishing 11th having held 10th for a long period. Nobody would have begrudged him or the team a better result. Even Fernando Alonso felt guilty passing him for the final point.

Russell started the race eighth but dropped to 12th on the opening lap. It wasn’t the first, nor is it really a major issue, but at the same time its something that is happening and the less of it the better. After the French GP, the Brit admitted to having problems with his race starts, whether it is due lack of preparation on the formation lap or in general being conservative, it is hard to determine.

When asked by FormulaRapida.net, about the general race start situation with Russell and also Williams teammate Nicholas Latifi, the team’s Head of Vehicle Performance, Robson, admitted that it is an area which he has had issues, but he noted that it is very difficult to pin point one factor on his troubles, especially when in a mid-pack like he is in.

“The actual race starts are normally fairly even between the two drivers,” said Robson. “Sometimes Nicholas Latifi is a little better, sometimes George Russell is a little better. And I think, to be honest, that’s kind of where the regulations of the FIA have imposed over the last couple of years. And that’s kind of what they wanted that little bit of variety and that’s what we generally see. I think in France, George was a little bit poor off the line.

“Actually, that’s not true, immediately off the line, he was okay. I think he then got on the throttle a little bit early and aggressively and span the wheels up, which cost him. And then in the first lap wants to start itself, so with that he has tended to struggle a bit in some of those opening corners, and I think that sort of is the same wind sensitivity that we  mentioned earlier kind of plays its part because you’re in the wake of all those cars in front, which puts your angles on the car, it’s a bit like being in a strong wind.

“So that probably doesn’t help either,” summed up Robson, who agreed that ascertaining when to be aggressive and when conservative is an issue at the back of the field. In short, as it stands, it is difficult to put an exact finger on one thing, as he added on the starts from Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso, where experience plays a handy role.

“I think it is really tough,” said Robson. “And it’s one of those things, it’s hard to analyse this, there’s so many variables and it also dynamic. I think also, you run the risk, if you start overthinking it, that, that’s potentially a problem as well, because I think there’s so much of it, that is his instinct. And I think there’s a lot of experience as well, where probably being towards the back of the pack is a bit different to some of Russell’s past experiences.

“I am fascinated watching Raikkonen, who is always normally extremely good on the first few laps of the race. And you’ve got a lot of that just directly to Kimi. And similarly at the restart in Baku, when there’s any one or two or three laps left, Fernando was astonishing. Okay, maybe he got lucky. But I think there’s an element of a sort of wily old fox in there somewhere, those two examples. So again, I think it’s something that he will improve, but a lot of it just has to be done on instinct.

“I mean, once he has a couple of good old laps, and starts to forget about it to some extent, and let his talent deal with it, I think it’ll be a lot better off, I think once you hook up on that spot, he will improve quite quickly,” summed up Robson, who clarified that it is not down to Russell doing a whole lot different at the race start.

“I don’t think so it is on Russell,” said Robson. “I think if you look at the pattern overall, all the starts, he’s done, he doesn’t tend to be involved in, in many incidents, he doesn’t crash on the first lap. So you might argue he’s kind of somewhat on the conservative side, but then you see that play out generally, to be beneficial.

“In France, for example, he had a tough first lap, but actually he quickly got over that by keeping out of trouble and he had a really good race. So you can’t particularly criticise that. But yeah, there’s no obvious thing he’s doing wrong. I think it’s just really tough, instinctive battle, you’ve just gotta get involved and you got to have the confidence that the car will allow you to do that,” summed up Robson.

The key issue could be Russell’s conservatism when the lights go out, especially not wanting to have an incident and lose a chance to make the most of a situation, which may happen later in the grand prix. Even though the Williams is results wise the ninth best car on the grid, they are heading in the right direction.

Russell being a bit careful on his starts, could also be the company he has with the likes of Raikkonen, Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Antonio Giovinazzi, etc, not pushovers. Some like these around him are lightning quick at the start and the Brit could be having a plan to avoid any troubles, whereby he may have some extra trouble here and there.

The story was written by Neil Farrell

Here’s George Russell and Fernando Alonso on their fight