RACE DEBRIEF

    What a year it’s been for George Russell. The Mercedes junior has already secured a 2019 Formula 1 drive with Williams, where he’ll partner the experienced Robert Kubica - and he’ll head to Grove as the F2 champion after a superb Feature Race victory in the season finale in Abu Dhabi…

    Russell had one hand on the trophy after landing pole in qualifying on Saturday, a result that extended his lead over Alexander Albon to 41 points with just 44 left to claim, meaning he only needed eighth in the opening race of the weekend to secure the title. He duly delivered, holding his nerve to produce a mature performance, claim the race win and, with it, seal a memorable title for ART Grand Prix in his rookie F2 season.

    It was by no means a straightforward victory, the Briton recovering from a slow getaway to beat Russian Time’s Artem Markelov and third-placed Luca Ghiotto.

    It was a tough evening for Albon, who stalled at the start and could only recover to 14th, while his DAMS team mate Nicholas Latifi also failed to get away and was hit from behind by Arjun Maini – a scary moment but one from which both drivers fortunately escaped unharmed.

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    An action-packed race under the Abu Dhabi floodlights had plenty of incidents, but it’s Russell who deservedly takes the plaudits after a performance that was truly worthy of a champion.

    “I don’t know what to say to be honest,” was Russell's reaction moments after stepping out of his title-winning car. “The team have job a fantastic job, it’s probably been the quickest car out there since the second race of the season. It’s not just myself.

    “I’m over the moon to get it done now. I’m extremely ready [for Formula 1]. I’ve had an amazing two years with Mercedes. Now is my time.”

    Williams will no doubt have been geed up by Russell's championship win too, given their struggles this season, with Russell's strong performances all year suggesting that they've backed a very talented driver indeed.

    Russell now has seven victories to his name, equalling the tally of current F1 drivers Stoffel Vandoorne and Charles Leclerc from their respective GP2 and F2 title-winning seasons – and he’ll have a chance to go one better in Sunday’s Sprint Race too...

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