Russell takes Spa podium thanks to stunning quali lap

In motorsport, it is said that rain is the greatest leveller of them all. It separates the good drivers from the great drivers and the history books are the proof of the pudding.

Michael Schumacher was known as the ‘Regen Meister’ for his masterful command of wet conditions in comparison to his rivals. Ayrton Senna’s opening lap at Donington Park in 1993 is a thing of legend and the great Scots Jim Clark and Sir Jackie Stewart beat the field by over four minutes at Spa Francorchamps and the Nurburgring respectively in the perilous 1960s.

At Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday, 29 August 2021, George Russell wrang every ounce of competitiveness from his Williams FW43B to incredibly put himself on the front row of the grid alongside Max Verstappen and ahead of his likely Mercedes future teammate Lewis Hamilton. It was a simply stunning lap on intermediate tyres in borderline torrential conditions for that tyre. And to do so at a circuit widely known as one of the toughest examinations of driver skill shows just how good it was.

It is well known that the Williams is still some ways to being where it wants to be, to have a car capable of challenging for victories. But it is also well known that Russell is a future F1 champion in the making, the former F2 champ never having been outqualified by a teammate in three seasons and coming close to victory in his one outing for Mercedes but for outrageous bad luck.

“The team did an incredible job to have me on the track at the right time, on the right tyres, with the right strategy,” commented the man himself in his team’s post qualifying release. “The driving is one thing, but you need to have everything right around you and often in these moments, that is what it’s all about.

“I knew my last effort was a good lap. It was so tricky out there but because we’re not in Q3 every week, I had the luxury of really being able to put everything on the line and go for it. I had a really good feeling from lap one in FP3 in the wet and when it mattered, we put everything together and that was exceptional. This feeling is exactly what Formula One is all about.”

And with Sunday’s race day washes out but three laps completed behind the Safety Car, it meant that Russell bagged his first podium in F1 and stood on the podium with his trophy earned from that stunning qualifying lap.

It may already be a done deal that Russell will be joining Hamilton for what will be a mouth-watering partnership in 2022 and possibly beyond. And that stunning lap will be a lovely reminder for Toto Wolff that he has made the correct decision.


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Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.