Dave Robson speaks on how George Russell was with Williams behind the scenes as he adds on his learning to come at Mercedes.
With Russell leaving Williams this year to move to Mercedes next season, the team’s Head of Vehicle Performance, Robson, reflected on the time spent with the Brit and if the relation between the driver and the team was always as rosy as it was depicted on screen.
Russell joined Williams at a time when they were on the lowest. They did try to fight back but with the regulations changing for 2022, they decided to focus on the long-term picture rather than short-term gains. This meant, Russell had to always push the car more.
By the end of his stint, Russell made Q2 finishes look very easy as they fought against Alfa Romeo and Haas. Williams eventually managed to score the crucial points to not end up 10th and also took a podium finish after a front row start – thanks to the Spa race.
From Robson side, he notes that discussions with Russell in briefings is normal as with every other driver, but if he has certain element which could make a difference especially when he is on track and works as the best sensor to the team in the garage.
He agrees that there are moments of disagreements and him being upset but it is all part of the game. “For sure, the decisions we make, certainly the ones we make in meetings before he’s actually sat in the car, then that we will come with what we think we should do based on our research and our expectation of what will happen,” said Robson to media including FormulaRapida.net. “And he will have his own opinion.
“And I mean, part of the arts of race engineering is both doing the right thing technically, but also, you have to manage the drivers psychology and you have to understand what their characters are, and they’re all a bit different. Do you put your foot down and force them on the journey and hope that they understand afterwards why you wanted to do what you do or do you say, well, actually they’re much more engaged if you follow their line of inquiry and sometimes they will be right and will be wrong.
“And so, again, it’s about experience on both parties, but for sure, we have some disagreements and he has some pretty strong opinions and beliefs about what we should be doing on Friday and free practice sessions. Certainly when it comes to the qualifying sessions, Saudi Arabia was a good example because the two compounds were almost indistinguishable at times. And exactly what you had to do for the tyre prep wasn’t immediately clear and there he had sort of fairly clear views.
“Run the tyres from the cockpit and actually in that situation on, we are prepared to say, he’s the best sensor on the car. What we see on the sort of true electronic sensors is only really a picture of what he is prepared to show us. So, I’ve got no problem allowing him to make those decisions. He’s the best position to do that. But sometimes particularly with regards to traffic when that goes wrong, that case really badly wrong and qualifying and it cost you a lap. And of course, he gets upset and emotional about that, but that is all just part of it,” summed up Robson.
Now with Russell moving on to Mercedes, the learning at Williams will be quite handy as he has got through the basics. But as ever, the situations with the new team will be totally different as per Robson. Looking back, he thought had they have a dry run in Spa, it would have been beneficial for him as with the German outfit, it will be totally different game.
“Probably not really my place to say, to be honest, but I mean, I think just in terms of the way the weekends pan out, obviously they’re quite different, for those guys Saturday, particularly, but then there’s the whole race dynamic is very different when you’re up at the sharp end,” started Robson. “I mean, I guess in terms of our championship, what happens in Spa was, was obviously good for us in terms of the points.
“But it actually would have been very good for George to have had a dry race on a Sunday in Spa from the front row. And he would have actually experienced what that was, what that was like [to start from pole]. We would’ve got a worst result, I’m sure. But that would have probably been a good bit of learning for him. So I think that’s probably the main thing he needs to come to terms with.
“On top of that, of course, he’s going to completely different car and potentially completely different tyres to get his head round and the pressure of over multiple world champion on the other side of the garage. So I think it’s not so much, maybe not so much things he needs to learn is just more experiences he needs to have, I think, and the kind of the passive learning that he will, he will get,” summed up Robson.
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