Williams’ George Russell was closer to securing his maiden championship point than ever before in Brazil, where he was within two seconds of a top ten finish.
Russell is the only driver in this year’s line-up not to have picked up any points in the 20 races so far. His team mate Robert Kubica had been handed a single point in Germany after Alfa Romeo were penalised for using driver aids.
But Russell remains far from downhearted, and insisting that he was happy just to have been properly in the mix in a thrilling race on Sunday.
“The first lap was good, I was able to fight with some quicker cars and the first stint was not too bad,” he said. But afterwards I just lost the pace.
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“Especially on the hard tyres, the front end was not working and we have to save the rears. While saving the rears we couldn’t put energy into the fronts and the fronts were just ice cold and no grip.
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“Additionally it was quite windy, and with this aero configuration – a mixed car, the old package and a new front wing – the car feels very strange to drive when it’s gusty and windy.”
He had dropped behind Kubica at the start of the race, and the short nature of the Interlagos track meant that he was passed by the leaders on lap 23.
But fortunately for the rookie driver, a late safety car enabled him to unlap himself and put him right back into the midfield battle.
“It was quite a long lonely race to start with, then suddenly it was all kicking off in front,” Russell recalled. “It was definitely crazy in those last few laps and that gave us half an opportunity.
“It was nice to finally be in the mix and within that battle, but everyone’s pace when they are battling is our pace when we go flat out.
“I gave it my everything to try and get an overtake here and there and try and salvage everything we could, but it wasn’t meant to be. That was the maximum we could do.”
Russell ended up crossing the line 1.668s behind Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, who secured tenth place ahead of Kevin Magnussen and Russell himself.
But Russell did have the satisfaction of finishing ahead of Roman Grosjean, Alexander Albon, Nico Hulkenberg, and Kubica who was the last man still running at the line in his penultimate outing with Williams.
“The first lap of the race was good,” said the Pole. “I was able to fight with some quicker cars in the first stint. Afterwards I lost the pace, especially with hard tyres.
“We had to protect the rear tyres, but, by saving these, we were unable to put any energy into the fronts, making them ice cold with no grip.”
While Kubica won’t return to the team in 2020, Russell is assured of a sophomore season although his new team mate is yet to be confirmed.
The Briton now has just one more chance remaining to break his duck in the championship by picking up a point at the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi on December 1.
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