The Williams F1 team was celebrating a strong performance in today’s qualifying session for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, with both George Russell and Nicholas Latifi surviving the cut at the end of Q1.
The last time that happened was at last year’s Hungary GP, the only previous occasion when Latifi has managed to progress to the second round.
Heading into Saturday afternoon’s session, Latifi had already put in a strong run of performances in free practice with ninth place in FP1 and 12th in FP2 putting him ahead of his more experienced team mate on both occasions.
It’s certainly a far cry from recent seasons when Williams has struggled to get off the back row, and further evidence of the progress made at Grove since the team was sold by the Williams family.
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“I am very pleased with today’s performance,” commented Latifi. “We had a good Q1 and I was really pleased with the lap.
“Overall, I am really pleased with the result,” he said after qualifying in 14th ahead of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso. “[But] I was a little disappointed as I didn’t get the improvement I needed to [in Q2] due to a little mistake at the beginning of my second lap.”
Latifi did have some good fortune when Q1 was paused by a red flag for Yuki Tsunoda spinning off, which allowed the Williams mechanics to finish repairs to his car for damage sustained at the end of FP3.
“We nearly didn’t make it out for qualifying due to my little bump with the wall in FP3,” Latifi admitted. “Even though we did get back out on track we still had some residual things that the team needed to check over.”
“Nicholas had a small snap of oversteer on one of his laps this morning, which caused some minor damage to the car,” said Williams’ head of vehicle performance Dave Robson.
“Although we were able to get him back out again during FP3, we needed to complete some more thorough checks between FP3 and Qualifying. This took a little longer than anticipated.
“But some excellent work from the full team of mechanics, as well as the red flag early in Q1, meant that he was able to complete a full run programme.”
As for the teams’ overall form in qualifying, Robson said that “Both drivers did a great job of extracting the lap time under pressure,” adding: “The pace of the car was good, and the new parts that we tested yesterday are working well.
“Based on our experience last October, we thought that this track would be better suited to the car than Bahrain. However it’s nice to have seen this confirmed today.”
Despite today’s success Robson was careful not to get ahead of himself. “Although we are pleased to have got both cars into Q2, there is a lot of work to do to crystallise today’s performance into a meaningful result tomorrow.
“The weather for the race looks a little uncertain, but we hope that we can use any doubt over the conditions to our advantage.”
“I am expecting the car to feel good in race trim,” added Latifi. “It is a notoriously difficult track to overtake on, but fingers crossed for a good one.”
As for Russell, the Briton was narrowly able to extend his unbroken record of out-qualifying his Williams team mates despite Latifi’s strong showing.
“Personally I was off the pace all weekend and Nicholas was faster than me in every session,” he conceded. “I was struggling and I didn’t have the confidence, but in Q2 we made it work.
“We got through Q1 by the skin of our teeth and then did a really good job in Q2 when it mattered. I am really happy with P12.
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“The car is looking quick in a straight line which is going to help us tomorrow on a track that is difficult to overtake. I think it’s going to be an exciting one.
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