George Russell, Mercedes and Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Yas Marina, 2023

Unwell Russell calls second in championship for Mercedes a “massive relief”

Formula 1

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An unwell George Russell said he was coughing throughout the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but was relieved to help Mercedes secure second place in the constructors’ championship.

Russell, who started the race fourth, had to fight with both McLaren drivers in the early phases of the race, before shaking off Lando Norris after their second pit stops and hunting down second-placed Charles Leclerc.

He had to stay close to Leclerc in to seal Mercedes’ second place in the constructors’ championship. But in the final laps of the race, Leclerc allowed Sergio Perez past him, knowing the Red Bull had a five-second penalty, hoping that would allow the Red Bull driver to finish ahead of Russell.

Leclerc’s tactics did not work, however, as Russell managed to stay within five seconds of Perez. “It was tight with Checo at the end,” said Russell. “I thought Charles was going to back me up but respect to him for keeping it clean and can chill out now.”

The pace of the Red Bull was unbeatable, without Perez’s penalty, Russell said. “I came out of the pits on the second set of hards, I was managing a bit and then Checo just came from nowhere. So I don’t know what happened there, they had great pace.

“It was really tense at the end the tyres were dropping off, but just really pleased to have secured P2 for the team. And we’re going to have a few drinks tonight.”

Russell had also been ill for two weeks prior to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, saying he was “probably coughing four times a lap” during the race.

“It was pretty miserable out there which which didn’t help things. But I’d say it’s just massive relief to have brought the car home in P3.

“I can’t believe it’s only the second podium of the year, but really happy to end the season this way.”

Securing second place in the championship for Mercedes “means a huge amount”, said Russell, “there’s so many people back at the factory in Brackley and Brixworth who worked so hard to to achieve this, it has been a really challenging season.”

“I’ve let the side down a couple of times this year, so pleased to have brought it across the line today.”

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2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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2 comments on “Unwell Russell calls second in championship for Mercedes a “massive relief””

  1. It all seemed to be hanging on Checo’s penalty which was too harsh if you ask me.

  2. And Sainz having the temerity to rip up part of the billion dollar track at LV.
    90 days hard labour! ⚒️⚒️
    I mean 10 pos grid penalty.

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