George Russell says his wheel-to-wheel battles with Sebastian Vettel in the thick of the midfield last season “drastically” helped him improve his race craft.
Williams’ performance limitations in 2020 didn’t allow Russell to deliver a top-ten finish to the British outfit, but that didn’t prevent the Briton from pulling out the stops in qualifying and on race day, and enjoying many good scraps in the midfield.
While Russell was most often surrounded by a Haas or Alfa Romeo contender on Sundays, the Williams charger also frequently engaged with Vettel, taking away some good lessons from his encounters with the Ferrari driver.
“I’ve improved as a race driver, drastically, because we were in wheel-to-wheel battles all season with Alfa Romeo, Haas, and often with Vettel,” Russell told Motorsport.com.
“I was talking about it recently, and Sebastian, he is probably the driver who I battled with the most this season.
“When I think back to the Nürburgring, to Mugello, to Austria at the start of the year. Even Abu Dhabi [there were] a few laps battling.
“Portimao, maybe? Imola, maybe? We’ve just been together on track the whole season, which, if you told me that the middle of last year, I’d have thought you were absolutely bonkers.
“So that experience, wheel-to-wheel racing in a Formula 1 car, has helped me so much – because it is different. It’s so different to the junior formulas, purely because the downforce is so sophisticated.
“When you lose downforce, the car transforms. And learning how to cope with that and deal with that has been great for me.
“Obviously, it gave me that opportunity when I jumped in the Merc to really be on it when I was coming back through the field.”
Reas also: Russell has ‘duty to stay true’ and not change in 2021
Addressing his expectations for 2021, Russell anticipates spending another season in the third tier of F1’s midfield, but nevertheless hopes to leapfrog Haas and Alfa Romeo in the pecking order.
“I’m confident we can beat Haas next year,” he said. “I think we’ll be on a par with Alfa Romeo but I’d like to think we can jump them as well if you look at the progress we’ve been making.
“We want to be scoring points next year, we’re not suddenly going to be in the midfield fight because of the regulation stability.
“But definitely we have to be aiming to beat Haas and Alfa Romeo.
“I think it’s continuing the form, continuing the positive attitude internally with the team and externally not getting frustrated with the poor performance here, and continue to try and push Williams further forward.”
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