At the end of the first qualifying session, Russell missed out on his first Q2 appearance by just 0.05s from Romain Grosjean, having been in the midfield mix throughout the weekend.
Russell explained that, although he felt that his fastest lap in third free practice was strong, initial predictions from within the Williams team suggested that the car was still some way off its competitors.
Regardless, Russell spent a large portion of Q1 nestled in the top 15, only dropping into the elimination zone at the end of the session.
“I felt like I did a good lap in FP3,” said Russell, “and I think we were a few tenths behind the guys around us.
“I wasn’t sure if they were making mistakes or what was happening; prior to that session, from the strategists and everything, we believed our true pace was about four tenths behind the next slowest.
“I’m absolutely satisfied with the job I’ve done. Every driver on the grid, even Max probably after qualifying, probably knows there’s half a tenth on the table but considering the circumstances, how much the track has changed, I really felt that we truly extracted the maximum from the tyres, from the car and from myself.”
This has been the first time Williams has qualified off of the back two rows this season, and Russell’s previous best was 17th in China – albeit aided by neither of Alex Albon or Antonio Giovinazzi being able to partake in qualifying.
Russell labelled his qualifying result as a morale boost for Williams, and that it was a culmination of the team’s efforts throughout the season.
“The mood is quite electric at the moment, and considering our whole season to this point it’s been an incredibly tough year from so many aspects, especially for the race team.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re at the front of the grid or the back, you still work the same hours and put as much effort.
“These guys only four years ago were getting on the front row at places and on the podium week-in, week-out. And they’re working harder now than they’ve ever done before and they’ve had nothing to show for it.
“But that performance has gone so far and especially now going into the summer break, it’s really what we all needed as a team. This performance isn’t just from my side, we really did this together.”