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  • Emma Ridgway


George Russell, AKA "Mr Saturday", continues his roaring form in qualifying and set the scene for what would prove be a memorable day for British sport.

George Russell & Williams CEO James Matthews

When George Russell qualified P9 in the Austrian Grand Prix yesterday he said it left him feeling as elated "as he was when he last won a race, nearly 3 years ago". Earlier that day he walked into the paddock sporting an England jersey in support of the national Football side who would later face Ukraine in the Euros, unknowing then that he was about to display one of greatest performances in his F1 career. Already one of his best qualifying starts, he would later be promoted to P8 after a penalty was given Sebastian Vettel.

Williams have been on a slow but progressive rise after almost 5 years scraping the bottom of the F1 barrel. Russell, who joined Williams as a rookie in 2019, has been crucial to their development. Often setting lap times that exceed the imagined capability of the FW43B, the team have needed to continuously develop the car simply to match Russell's stunning qualifying pace. In the Styrian Grand Prix last weekend, Russell was running in P8 on merit before a mechanical failure sadly brought his day to an end much earlier than intended. In some ways, it's arguable that the car wasn't ready to run in the Top 10, and that the maximum pace and ability that is can run is still so far behind Russell's talent that he can no longer push the car to limit without increasing risk of more failures.

"To put this into perspective - both Ferrari's essentially opted to stay in Q2 in favour of having to qualify on the softer, less preferred tyre."

Nevertheless, this didn't seem to phase Russell as he pushed the car into Q3 for the first time on real match-for-match performance. Yesterday the car deserved to be in the Top 10, and as a bonus he even managed to qualify on the much more preferable (and slower) medium tyre. To put this into perspective - both Ferrari's essentially opted to stay in Q2 in favour of having to qualify on the softer, less preferred tyre. Aston Martin chose to gamble and push into Q3, but had to use the soft tyre to do so. Russell was able to outperform Stroll by beating him to P9 and a penalty for Vettel bumped him up another place to P8. Russell now starts ahead of both Aston Martins on the better tyre which will definitely give him confidence to achieve his first points as a Williams driver.

Sporting success continued in Wimbledon (above) yesterday

George Russell's day would have only continued to improve after his stunning qualifying performance if he decided to follow through on his intention to watch the England game later that day. The national team lay down a statement performance worthy of their fellow F1 countryman, breezing past Ukraine to line up a Wembley showdown next week. And as a bonus, yesterday also fresh newcomer Emma Raducanu stun Sorana Cirstea in the fourth round of Wimbledon. The wildcard entry to this year's competition moves into the second week and the only remaining British single to do so. She's already surpassed expectations, and now seems to be enjoying every single moment left in the competition.

Finally, word should be passed over Lando Norris, whose P2 yesterday (and marginal miss on pole) was worthy of all the orange fans who'd gathered in their masses supposedly to support McLaren. He has a real chance of a podium today, which will be his first repeated podium having come P3 in the season opener here last year. Norris is continuing to show himself worthy of his new deal with McLaren, and more performances like the one showed yesterday will see him continuing to fight for the top spots on the grid.

Today's race kicks off an Olympic-style sporting week worthy of reorganising your plans around. Saturday belongs to George Russell, but we have to wait and see if the momentum from yesterday's jubilations follow through into more sporting joy.

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