Jolyon Palmer has hailed George Russell's qualifying lap at the rain-affected Belgian Grand Prix as a "once-in-a-decade" performance. Russell solidified his reputation as a 'Saturday man' during the 2021 season, having often put his Williams into Q2 and on some occasions Q3. This happened at Spa-Francorchamps, where the car seemed to thrive in the wet conditions. Russell set an impressive lap that very nearly secured him pole position, but instead placed him second on the grid, splitting championship rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. Former F1 driver Palmer remains in awe of what Russell achieved that day, and has named it as the best qualifying lap of the year. "A once-in-a-decade stunner from Russell that almost landed him on pole in a Williams at a sodden Spa - the ultimate drivers' conditions," Palmer wrote in his column for Formula1.com . "The Williams wasn't a bad car in the wet in Belgium, but it never should have been able to split the title contenders on the grid - Russell out-qualifying everyone bar 2021 champion Verstappen, himself a supremo in wet conditions."
An earned podium
Sadly, Russell did not get the opportunity to compete in a full race after his strong qualifying performance. The heavy rain did not abate on Sunday, meaning that the start of the Grand Prix was delayed for some time. Eventually it began behind the Safety Car but, after just one full lap, was abandoned due to the conditions. However, half points were awarded and a podium ceremony was still held, meaning that Russell was able to celebrate his second position. Despite the unusual circumstances in which this happened, Palmer thinks that Russell's qualifying lap was deserving of an accolade. "If a podium was ever going to be awarded for qualifying brilliance then this was it - and so it was the case when the rain never abated on Sunday," Palmer explained. "A tough day for the fans, but a great day for George and Williams." The Belgian Grand Prix marked one of three points finishes for Russell in 2021, meaning that he ended the season in 15th place in the Drivers' Championship with 16 points to his name. Now the Briton will embark on a new challenge as he moves to Mercedes for 2022, replacing Valtteri Bottas as Lewis Hamilton's teammate.