F1 managing director Ross Brawn believes that George Russell’s scintillating performance in qualifying at Spa leaves Mercedes with only one decision next year regarding its second seat.
Russell worked his way through last Saturday’s tricky qualifying session without putting a foot wrong.
But the Williams driver’s performance in the final shootout, when he held pole until a late flyer from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen denied him the fastest lap, was simply astonishing.
“We all know George Russell has a fantastic talent,” wrote Brawn in his post-race column on Formula1.com.
“We have seen it a lot at Williams, and we saw it amplified at Mercedes, when he stood in for Lewis Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix last year.
“George’s performance reminded me a lot of Fernando Alonso when he drove at a wet Spa for Minardi in 2001.
“He was mighty impressive in a car that clearly was not up to the job. In those conditions, the ratio of driver to car changes – and we saw that with George on Saturday.
“He doesn’t have a front row car but in those tricky conditions in qualifying, he trounced people with far better cars than he had.
“In my view, there is only one decision for Mercedes next year with regards the second seat.”
In his Belgian Grand Prix debrief, Brawn obviously addressed Sunday’s botched race and the prejudice suffered by all those fans who had braved the elements at Spa.
“I feel terrible for the fans, who turned out in their thousands and braved consistently wet conditions in the grandstands to support their heroes,” said the F1 chief.
“They showed such dedication and will never forget this weekend.
“Unfortunately, the weather worked against us. It was relentless. The FIA tried everything they could, sending the cars out twice behind the Safety Car to assess the conditions.
“It wasn’t so much the intensity of the rain that was the problem, more that it was consistent which led to very poor visibility.”
Brawn admitted that Sunday’s weather yielded conditions in the Ardennes that he hasn’t “seen in decades”.
“It’s pretty rare to see a weekend where the weather has been so intense, so consistently,” said the Briton.
“Every effort was made to get the race underway safely and normally, there is a window when you can bring the safety car in, but that wasn’t possible.
“At the end of the day, safety comes first. And it wasn’t safe enough to continue the race.
“So the FIA did the best they could in what have been very challenging circumstances, of which we’ve not seen in decades.
“Half points were awarded. It’s not ideal but if you can’t reward someone for the race, reward them for the bravery in qualifying.
“As I say, it’s not ideal, but it’s where we are. The weather just wasn’t in our corner on Sunday.”
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