George Russell showed his fighting spirit by battling into the points after qualifying problems in the latest round of the Formula Renault ALPS series at Spa-Francorchamps.A mystifying lack of speed struck the 16-year-old in qualifying, relegating him to 13th and 15th positions on the grid for the two races, but he fought through to finish eighth on Saturday, and then seventh on Sunday.Russell’s Koiranen GP car was right in the mix at the front in free practice, and the Wisbech racer was the fastest of those who had never previously driven at the long, 4.3-mile Belgian Grand Prix circuit. But he couldn’t get within a second of his free practice pace in qualifying.“We’re still a bit confused really why qualifying was so bad,” he said. “There were a few things to improve as it was only my second session on the track, but nothing stood out as to why I was losing so much time. We worked on a few things after qualifying and went for a completely different set-up for the races, including trimming out the wings for straight-line speed to help with overtaking.”Russell set the third fastest lap of race one as he fought through to eighth. “That was a really good race,” he said. “There were only two safety cars so we only got a few laps of racing, so to gain that amount of positions was good. Without the safety cars I could have made up more places.”
George made up even more places in race two, which ran without any safety car interruptions, to finish seventh. “It could have been even better,” he said. “I damaged the front of my car on the first lap – it was only the nose so it didn’t affect the handling too much, but it caused a straight-line speed issue. I was losing 2km/h down the long straight because it gave me a lot more drag. In the last two laps I could have gone to sixth place, but every time I went to pull out on the straight to overtake the momentum just stopped.“If everything was normal I could have got in the top six, but it was another good recovery to gain eight positions.”Those valuable points mean Russell retains third place in the championship, with a four-week break before the next round at the legendary Italian circuit on Monza on 5th/6th July.“Qualifying was quite disappointing but we made the most of it,” said George. “Qualifying is everything in Formula Renault, so considering where I started it was a good result. I’ve never driven Monza before either, but we have a test there next week so hopefully I can get back towards the front in qualifying.”In the meantime, Russell defends his BRDC Formula 4 Championship lead with the third round of that series, at Snetterton in Norfolk, on 21st/22nd June.