George Russell on form at Mugello Formula Renault ALPS

Fifth and seventh places for George Russell on return to Formula Renault

George Russell showed good form to take two strong finishes on his return to the Formula Renault ALPS series at Mugello after missing the previous round due to illness.

The 16-year-old, who was forced to sit out the Monza weekend with chicken pox, scored fifth place in the first race on the Tuscany circuit of Mugello, and backed that up with seventh in race two.Wisbech racer Russell’s return to the cockpit of his Koiranen GP car could have gone even better. He qualified sixth for both races, but reckoned a higher position was definitely on had it not been for a strategy mistake in qualifying.“I was second in my group on my first set of tyres, but we went out too early on the second set,” he said. “The track was getting a lot quicker, and on these tyres and this abrasive track surface you only get one lap with the tyres at their peak. As I got to start my lap, there was a load of cars coming out of the pits and I lost six tenths of a second in sector one. I went faster on my second lap, but from the end of sector one to the finish line it was three tenths slower than the previous lap because the tyre life had gone. It was still OK, but a bit disappointing, because qualifying is everything at Mugello.”

The fast corners around the rolling Italian countryside make it very difficult to get close to the car in front without losing downforce, and this proved a frustration for Russell in race one. He got past Russian Matevos Isaakyan at the beginning for fifth, but then spent most of the rest of the race behind Brazilian Pietro Fittipaldi.“I made a good start, but I was stuck behind Fittipaldi,” said George. “From the exit of Turn 9 to the entry of Turn 8 on the next lap I’d gain a whole second, but then I’d get to Turn 8/9 – which are flat-out, 130mph corners – and all the downforce would go and I’d lose the time again.“Before I caught Fittipaldi, I was lapping on the pace of the leaders, but afterwards my times were slow and it was all because I was being held up. At any other circuit I’d have been able to pass him and fight for third.”In the second race, Russell again got up to fifth on the opening lap, but got boxed in at Turn 2 and lost places to Dennis Olsen and Egor Orudzhev. “I was a bit annoyed with that, and after that it was similar to the first race,” he said. “We did a set-up change but I think we went the wrong way.”Russell actually rose to fourth place in the closing stages, only to be denied that position when officials red-flagged the race. “With five minutes to go it started raining at Turn 1,” he said. “Three drivers ahead of me went off, and if only they’d put the safety car out instead of red-flagging it…”With some of those finishing ahead of him being wildcard entrants from the Eurocup who were ineligible for points, George actually finished fourth in the ALPS classification in both races. This means that he is very close to securing a top-four championship position with just one round remaining, at Jerez in Spain on 4th/5th October. Before then, Russell defends his BRDC Formula 4 Championship lead at Donington Park on 20th/21st September.

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