After pitting early on during the safety car period, Russell tagged on to the back of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and was in solid contention for a top 10 finish throughout.
In the end, the team’s push to get through the race with just a single extra stop did not work out, as the tyres went off and Russell fell down the order to finish 14th. However, he backed the team in its gamble in going for the strategy and, after a campaign where Williams has struggled at times with its race pace, he was hugely encouraged by how the car felt.
“I’m really pleased that we rolled the dice and we found ourselves in that position,” said Russell. “I think in those fine margins, who knows what would have happened had I cleared him [Alonso], but all in all I think we did a really good job.
“The car felt today the best it has ever felt in a race, and probably the best I can remember. That is what makes it so joyous to drive compared to normal, most of which I put down to a calm day. We know the beast we have.”
This year’s Williams is widely known to have a peaky aero characteristic, which means it produces overall good downforce but can suffer when operating in windy conditions.
Russell suspects that the calmer weather in Barcelona on Sunday played a part in helping deliver strong race pace.
“It was just a car on a consistent day,” he said. “The wind was less than 10km/h and there were minimal gusts, which made the car consistent to drive. And when it is consistent as a driver, you can drive around it.
“I think that is something Nicholas and I have really struggled with, especially in Portimao that was really exposed. It was incredibly inconsistent and, as a driver, you lose all the confidence.
“Then it has a negative effect on the tyres and you just get this downward spiral. Whereas days like today, where the car is nice and consistent as a driver, you can really push it to its limit and manage the car and its tyres as you wish and really optimise everything.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure a lot of people felt their car was a lot better. But we take a bigger jump when these conditions are favourable.”