The Morning After: The gauntlet is thrown

George Russell

In topping both practice sessions on Friday, George Russell made it clear he’s here to win this weekend at the Sakhir Grand Prix.

From the back of the grid to the front of it, George Russell’s performance on Friday delivered entirely on the hype around him, with the onus now on Valtteri Bottas to respond.

So should Bottas be worried? Certainly, there were mitigating circumstances in both practice sessions that explained the deficit to his teammate, while Russell himself suggested he was realistically “a good tenth and a half behind” the Finn, but the fact remains he still has to go out there on Saturday and overturn a deficit to a replacement driver he knows he should be beating – he can say what he wants, but that’s pressure.

At the same time, as Billie Jean King once said: “pressure is a privilege”, and with the hype around Russell only further intensifying after his first day in the car, it also presents an opportunity for Bottas to prove his worth by showing up on Saturday and laying the smackdown on his would-be replacement. Certainly all the setbacks against Lewis Hamilton will look a lot better if he comes out on top starting tomorrow – he just has to seize it.

Friday Figures

0:54.713 seconds. George Russell’s session-leading lap time in FP2, the fastest in Formula 1 history. The previous best was a 0:58.79 by Niki Lauda at the 1974 French GP.

Six. Lap times deleted for Valtteri Bottas in FP2, two more than any other driver. If he was pushing the limits that often, I don’t think you can say he was taking Friday easy.

0:58.278. Session-leading average lap time for Max Verstappen on his soft-tyre race sim, per Toni Sokolov. Valtteri Bottas was second-best with a 58.443. Could the Bulls be in the hunt this weekend?

Quick Hits

A strange day for Ferrari on and off-track. Sebastian finished the day one of the slowest drivers in the field, whilst Charles Leclerc didn’t get to show anything at all. Then you have the Simone Resta news – if they were happy with his work at Ferrari, why move him to Haas? If they weren’t, why would Haas want him?

Definitely too early to pass judgement on either Jack Aitken or Pietro Fittipaldi, although I’d argue it’s particularly commendable for the latter to be anywhere near Kevin Magnussen given he hasn’t raced anything in eight months.

Interesting remarks from Christian Horner in revealing it’s Red Bull or bust for Alex Albon in 2021. Does that mean he’s already got the seat, or is he racing for his F1 career?