George Russell was struggling to breathe at the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and felt relieved at the flag when he could finally get out of his Mercedes, after finishing third to secure their constructors’ championship position.
The Brit was locked in a fight with Charles Leclerc throughout the race as the pair carefully traded lap times in a bid to close and maintain the gap to each other across the majority of the event at the Yas Marina Circuit.
But it wasn’t an easy race for Russell, as he bagged his second podium of the season, due to an internal physical battle with his own body rather than a rival or his own machinery.
“I’ve been really ill over the last two weeks,” Russell said to media. “Firstly, in Vegas with a big fever, I couldn’t sleep and was just feeling awful.
“Then I had a horrendous cough that stayed with me all week and in the car I was coughing every single lap, but when you’re when you’re strapped into the car, you can’t breathe.
“You can’t take a deep breath in to get the cough out so it was just constantly with me and it was it was pretty miserable. I was pleased to bring it home when I saw that chequered flag.”
Russell survives late Leclerc trick
The 25-year-old did just enough after Sergio Perez’s Red Bull slipped by to keep his third place after a penalty was applied to the Mexican, with the Mercedes remaining within four seconds despite a late trick from Leclerc to attempt to back him up.
The Monegasque driver slowed down at Turn 5 as an intentional ploy to give Perez DRS and to get out of his way to attempt to allow him to build up five seconds to stay ahead of Russell, with the Ferrari aiming to remain within the gap.
Had that happened, the Mercedes would have been shuffled down to fourth, whilst Leclerc would have finished second creating the three-point swing Ferrari needed to claim second in the constructors’ championship via the countback method due to their win at the Singapore GP.
“It was a great weekend and really pleased to finish on this high,” Russell said, glad to get the team over the line with the necessary points. “Because it’s been a really challenging season one as a team but on a personal side, just not getting the results that we probably deserve.
“The pace has been really strong on so many occasions but just results kept on slipping through our fingers. So lady luck was maybe on our side slightly today with Checo’s [Perez] penalty, but I think that more than made up for the other races this year.”