George Russell impresses in F1 practice debut at Interlagos
Mercedes-AMG F1 Junior Driver George Russell impressed on his maiden Formula 1 Free Practice session with the Sahara Force India Formula 1 Team.
The newly crowned GP3 Series Champion completed 29 laps for the Force India Team, setting a personal best time of 1:11.047s to give him the 12th fastest time of the session- putting him just 0.6s behind regular race driver Esteban Ocon.
Russell had never driven the Interlagos Circuit or the Force India VJM10 car before the weekend, coupled with it being his debut appearance on an Formula 1 weekend meant it was going to be a challenge. The Mercedes-AMG F1 Junior Driver and BRDC Superstar however coped with it very strongly, easing into the session before putting in a strong performance on short and long runs for his new team.
As the session went on, Russell trialled the Medium, Soft and Supersoft compounds - continuing to improve his time as he settled into his new machinery, getting laps under his belt around the 4.309km Autódromo José Carlos Pace Circuit.
Russell hooked up a series of quick laps, setting his personal best time on the Supersoft tyres to put in the 12th fastest time of the session.
The 19 year old Briton had put in a performance that impressed the team and pundits alike - receiving positive plaudits on a job well done as he completed his F1 bow at Interlagos.
George Russell "First and foremost I want to thank Force India because I really enjoyed today. It’s something I have been working towards for a long time and even though it feels normal right now, it’s a surreal feeling to know I have been driving in a race weekend. It’s a huge step up for me, but I have been prepared as well as I could be:
I have done days in the simulator with both Mercedes and Force India and I feel that, after my days at the test in Budapest, this was the next step. I didn’t know the car or the circuit and I wanted to learn as much as I could to review and take to Abu Dhabi, a track I know.
We did some aero running early in the session, then some proper runs to change the set-up to my liking. All tyre compounds felt good and I got up to speed quickly. I was very happy with the car.
The final half of the session was quite difficult: I was still doing fast laps while others were doing longer runs: it’s a short circuit and it’s difficult to find space. You end up compromising your warm-up procedures because you’re looking in the mirrors all the time, but it’s something from which I learnt a lot."
Russell fitted in with the team immediately, settling into the environment of Force India very well as they started their first of two FP1 sessions together, finishing off a very successful 2017 season for both driver and team:
Robert Fernley - Force India Deputy Team Principal "George performed admirably, especially considering he had never driven our car or at Interlagos. As we expected after his good work in the simulator, he slotted straight in with the team."
Otmar Szafnauer - Force India Chief Operating Officer "Very impressed. First time in the car, he did a really good job. We’re definitely talking to him about doing some more with us next year. We’ll see how he goes in Abu Dhabi but I expect he’ll be as good as here, if not better because he’ll be used to the team and the car.
Next year, although he’ll be doing FIA F2, he’ll do some stuff with us. He’s definitely on our radar.”
Russell will be returning to the wheel of the VJM10 at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi on the 24th November - as he will replace Esteban Ocon for the opening Free Practice Session at the season finale of the Formula One World Championship.
After completing his FP1 session, he will then be returning to his GP3 Series duties with ART Grand Prix for Free Practice, Qualifying and the last two races of the 2017 Championship - of which he was recently crowned Champion at the previous round at Jerez.
Quotes: Courtesy of Force India F1 Team
Images: Courtesy of Force India F1 Team