George Russell gave Williams their best qualifying performance since 2018 at the Portuguese Grand Prix on Saturday and said the struggling former champions had a real chance of ending their scoring drought on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 – Portuguese Grand Prix – Algarve International Circuit – Portimao, Portugal – April 29, 2021 Williams’ George Russell during the press conference Pool via REUTERS/Gabriel Bouys

REUTERS: George Russell gave Williams their best qualifying performance since 2018 at the Portuguese Grand Prix on Saturday and said the struggling former champions had a real chance of ending their scoring drought on Sunday.

The team, who were dominant in the 1980s and 1990s, have not scored a point since 2019.

“I’d say our race pace looks stronger than our qualifying pace, to be honest,” said Russell, who will start 11th on the grid at the Algarve circuit.

“We’ve got the quickest car in a straight line which will help us to defend or attack.

“We need to make a clean start. We qualified 12th last time (at Imola) and were in a points-paying position for the majority. We’ve got a chance, so let’s see what happens,” he said.

Russell crashed out of the previous race in Imola after trying to overtake Mercedes Valtteri Bottas, on pole in Portugal, for ninth place. The pair collided, ending the race for both of them.

The Briton has yet to score for Williams but did open his account last year when he finished ninth for Mercedes in Bahrain as a stand-in for Lewis Hamilton after seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton tested positive for COVID-19.

He might have won that race but for a bungled pitstop by the team and then a late puncture.

“We’re on the medium tyre for the start tomorrow,” said Russell. “The rivals around us who are ahead will be on the softs, which is not a great race tyre. So we’re in a great position.

“We have the straight-line speed. The guys behind us will really struggle to overtake us, so eyes forward and maximum attack.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)

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