RACE DEBRIEF

    George Russell has brushed away suggestions that winning an F1 race for the first time has changed him as he returns to action in Abu Dhabi this weekend following his Sao Paulo triumph – although he admits his confidence and his Mercedes team’s morale are now sky-high.

    Russell led home team mate Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes one-two at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, marking a return to the top step for the Silver Arrows after a challenging campaign trying to understand and improve their W13.

    Asked if he arrives at the season finale as a different driver, Russell said: “I don’t think so, to be honest. I always believed I could achieve victories, and you believe you can become a world champion.

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    “For sure, confidence is high and the morale within the team is booming. But I don’t suddenly feel transformed overnight. I still feel [like] the same driver as I was this time one week ago.”

    Pushed if a repeat result is on the cards this weekend, Russell stated: “We’ll be going for it. I think since [the updates in] Austin the car has been performing really, really well, and probably better than we could have ever hoped for.

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    Russell and Hamilton claimed their first one-two as Mercedes team mates last time out in Brazil

    “For sure, Max [Verstappen] and Red Bull are going to be fast here. I think the combination of the low-speed corners and the long straights are going to suit their car really, really well. But we saw even in Brazil on a circuit that we didn’t expect to be quite as competitive [at], we were still very quick.”

    On the other side of the Mercedes garage, Hamilton will be marking a milestone as he reaches 200 races with the German manufacturer – an outright record and 20 more than the next-best set by Michael Schumacher and Ferrari.

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    “It’s been an amazing journey, one that I’m incredibly honoured of with Mercedes. I’m proud of it. It shows that loyalty continues to be at the core… [and] one of the many pillars of the values that we have as a team – and I’m looking forward to extending it,” said Hamilton.

    As for the result he might be able to achieve on this landmark weekend, he added: “Who knows? We are still improving the car. We don’t believe that this track will necessarily be our strongest. We think it may suit the others a little bit better, but I won’t know until I get out there to be honest. I hope that it’s like the last race!”

    Mercedes head into the Abu Dhabi finale looking to overturn a 19-point deficit to Ferrari in the battle for P2 in the constructors’ standings, with 44 points up for grabs in Sunday’s Grand Prix.