George Russell described Formula 1’s Portuguese Grand Prix as Williams’ “most difficult race since 2019” as he regressed through the midfield on Sunday.
Williams explained prior to the campaign that it expected the performance level of its FW43B to fluctuate through the season after a design decision to chase peak downforce.
It came after Williams made gains through 2020, despite failing to score a point, having been cut adrift of the pack during its awful 2019 season.
Russell had been seventh in FP1 on Friday, before slipping down the field in FP2 and FP3, though rebounded to capture 11th on the grid – Williams’ best outcome since 2018.
However Williams lacked pace throughout the race at Portimao.
Russell slipped to 16th, 42 seconds behind nearest rival Yuki Tsunoda, while Nicholas Latifi was overhauled late on by Haas rookie Mick Schumacher.
“It was an incredible struggle, probably the most difficult race we’ve had since 2019,” he said.
“I said it since the beginning [of the year], we know the strengths and we know the weaknesses of our car, [as it is] incredibly sensitive aerodynamically.
“We saw at Imola when conditions are calmer the performance was there, we saw yesterday in qualifying, conditions calmed down for that Q2 run and the performance was there, as it was in FP1 and the performance was there, and we saw today it was nowhere.
“Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the beast with our car at the moment. We’ve had three races now, two of which have been very gusty and at exposed circuits.”
Russell explained that the aerodynamic sensitivity of the FW43B means he and team-mate Latifi can get sucked into a negative spiral in situations such as Sunday’s race.
“It gives no confidence in myself or Nicholas to attack in those first laps,” he said.
“We’re constantly on the backfoot battling from behind and it was a race of survival, keeping the car on the track as opposed to actually racing and as I said one of the hardest races we’ve ever done.
“So it was a real shame, as the car has potential. Have we just been unlucky? I don’t know. Will this be the story of the season? Perhaps not, as we have had two of three races very gusty, very windy, everyone up and down the pit lane has been talking about it and Bahrain and Portimao are very exposed.
“Let’s see as the season progresses. It is clear there is pace in the car but the stars have to align for us else we’re going to be nowhere really, as we were today.”