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Apr 08, 2014 - 06:37 AM
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Debutant Russell Goes Top Three In Renault ALPS
Posted by: newsla on Apr 08, 2014 - 06:34 AM
Support Series News
Debutant Russell Goes Top Three In Renault ALPS

British motor racing starlet George Russell pushed himself into the limelight by ending his debut weekend in single-seater racing in third place in the hotly contested Formula Renault ALPS series.


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Only a few weeks after celebrating his 16th birthday, karting superstar Russell battled it out among a host of junior single-seater champions in a 40-car field on the Imola circuit, former home of the San Marino Grand Prix.

Driving for Finnish team Koiranen GP, Russell finished sixth and ninth in the two races. For this event several leading runners from the Formula Renault Eurocup were entered as a warm-up for their impending season opener and, with these ‘wildcard’ drivers ineligible to score, Wisbech racer George scored points for third and fifth positions in the respective races.

Making his job even tougher, a late team switch meant Russell had only enjoyed two days of testing with the Koiranen squad before the race weekend kicked off. To make matters worse, Friday’s free practice sessions and Saturday qualifying took place in the wet, meaning that Saturday’s opening race was the first time he had driven the Koiranen car in the dry at Imola.

George took 10th place on the grid for both races. “Qualifying was difficult because the track was wet,” he said after being forced to pit for wet-weather Michelins when it proved too slippery for slicks. “We were losing quite a bit of time in the last sector, and I was making a few mistakes, but we learned from that. I hadn’t driven Imola in those conditions before so I had to find out where to push and where not to.”

A terrific start took Russell into seventh place on the opening lap of race one, and then he moved up to sixth on the second lap. Unfortunately, an early safety car disrupted the rhythm of the race, but once it restarted he proved his ability to learn, turning quicker and quicker lap times to finish sixth, with the fourth-fastest lap of the race on the final tour.

“It was really good,” he said. “I had a great start and it was very close from then on. I should have finished fifth, but I was overtaken under a yellow flag. On a previous lap I’d ducked out of a move at the same corner because of yellows, and we complained about it but nothing happened. Still, beating a load of Eurocup racers in my first single-seater race was satisfying.”

Once again George converted 10th on the grid into seventh place by the end of lap one of Sunday’s race, but he was forced onto the grass while going for a move and dropped back to 10th again. Undeterred, he clawed his way up to eighth, only to get boxed in while pressurising Andrew Tang later in the race and fall to ninth when he was passed by ‘wildcard’ Eurocup racer Dennis Olsen.

“There was a lot of traffic in this race with everyone really close,” he said. “I tried to overtake someone early in the race and he just came across me, I got pushed onto the grass and got sideways, and that meant I had dirt on my tyres. It also meant I damaged my front wing, although to be honest I don’t think that affected the handling.

“I came back through and was up behind Tang – he was defending as Olsen came around the outside and I had nowhere to go. Still, I improved on my grid position, which was the main objective. The speed was good, and I’ve learned a lot from the two races and qualifying.”

With the next round of Formula Renault ALPS just over a month away, at the French street circuit of Pau on 10th/11th May, George and the Koiranen team will be testing at the Red Bull Ring in Austria in a couple of weeks. From there, he will head to Silverstone for the opening round of the UK-based BRDC Formula 4 Championship, which he will contest with Lanan Racing, on 26th/27th April.

“It’s great to end my first weekend in the top three in the championship,” summed up Russell. “We can work on what we’ve learned in our next test at the Red Bull Ring before heading to Pau. And I’m really looking forward to the first race weekend in Formula 4 – there are a lot of quick drivers, with some in their second year, so it will be tough!”

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