F1

George Russell bounces back from heartache as he hits ‘another level’ ahead of Austrian GP

F1: George Russell hikes during the off-season

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George Russell was all smiles after qualifying P9, on merit, ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix as Max Verstappen sealed pole position at the Red Bull Ring, with title rival Lewis Hamilton starting in fourth.

The 23-year-old has been known for his strong performances on a Saturday, often out qualifying faster cars in an underperforming Williams, however this weekend, the young Mercedes driver said he hit “new levels” during qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix as he slotted into Q3 for the first time.

The Briton impressed in Q2 by setting his fastest lap on the medium tyre, giving him a strong advantage over his rivals on Sunday.

“As Saturdays go, we usually do have some good Saturdays, but this was on another level,” said the Briton. “We were debating before the session whether to do that Q2 lap on the softs or on the medium.

“We were worried about getting into Q3 on the softs, because we presumed a lot of guys would be doing the mediums – and obviously with the tyre delta.

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“We managed to pull something out on the medium tyre. I’m properly, properly hyped up in the car, probably the most I’ve been in a long time to be honest. That was pretty special.”

“We’re in P9 – but I saw what happened with Sebastian, so we’ll say P8,” he said. “That position is a great place to be in any circumstances, let alone on the medium tyre.”

Russell was promoted to the top 10 last weekend at the Styrian Grand Prix, and was on course for his first points for Williams.

However, heartbreak struck when he suffered a mechanical issue that forced his retirement.

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And, with the immediate grid still yet to shake out, with drivers like Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel under investigation, he could find himself starting P9, if the German driver is handed a penalty for blocking Fernando Alonso in Q2.

“We have the AlphaTauris ahead of us on the softs, Sebastian and Lance on the softs as well. We’re in a really strong position. Let’s see.

“Qualifying is already behind us, now it’s looking forward to the race. Ultimately, that’s the most important.”

The result is Williams’ best grid start since Felipe Massa at the 2017 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Lando Norris meanwhile starts P2 for McLaren with the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez rounding up the top three ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday.

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