Russell said he lacked confidence in the car during qualifying, which led him to take a cautious approach and not add an extra front wing for his last run in Q1.
As a result, he had more understeer than he wanted, and after a choppy lap that saw him run wide at one point, he had to settle for 17th place on the grid.
Russell stressed that he and his team had to put everything in place to progress to qualifying, and this time that did not happen.
“I think the main thing to remember is, like I said on the radio, that we can’t do it right every time,” he said. “I feel like we’ve probably excelled every Saturday so far this year.
“Today we did a good job, but it’s not enough, and you will be eliminated by doing a good job. So this is the position in which we find ourselves.
“And I just didn’t have the confidence today to attack the car. I was always on the back foot. And certainly a lot to consider. Because before this year I would have said it was our best opportunity to score points. However, this is the first time that we go out in Q1.
Russell admitted that the crucial choice of wing configuration turned out to be costly.
“Usually you can afford to put more front wing flaps in the car as the session progresses. I didn’t have the confidence after the first run.
“So I decided not to do it, then I got a lot of understeer. So I think that’s the key, is that it takes confidence to be able to push the car. And today the car was driving me, I wasn’t driving the car, and that made me back down a lot.
Asked by Autosport why he hadn’t made the change, he replied, “I didn’t have the confidence to do it. Usually in qualifying everything speeds up, I build confidence and we seem to be able to do it when it matters.
George Russell, Williams FW43B
Photo by: Motorsport Images
“But as soon as I made turn 1, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it. I just didn’t have a good feeling with the car.
Russell noted that the level of strong wind, which affected the shape of the car this year, was also a factor and “did not favor the characteristics” of the FW43B.
Williams’ vehicle performance manager Dave Robson also added that ‘Malaysia’ heat levels also caused problems for the team as the tires reacted to temperatures in unexpected ways.
“We thought it would stay cool this afternoon. But it isn’t; the clouds have obviously broken down and it was just as hot this afternoon in qualifying as it was yesterday.
“The reported track temperatures are incredibly high – it’s similar to what it was the last two years in Malaysia after they resurfaced. So that makes it difficult.
“Obviously it’s the same for everyone – so we can’t use that as any excuse. I think the tires behaved in these conditions not quite as we expected.
“There was a lot more understeer so the front tires seemed to be more affected than expected. Normally you come here and it gets really hot, and it gets limited to the back pretty quickly. It didn’t seem to be the case.
“But, to be fair from what I could understand from what the other pilots were saying on the radio yesterday, most teams found the same thing.”