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Russell surprised by ‘crazy’ rise to second place in F1 standings after podium

G

eorge Russell described his rise to second place in the Formula One Drivers’ Championship as “crazy” after securing his first Mercedes podium in Australia.

Sunday’s race saw the Brit benefit from the timing of a safety car, before his first pit stop, and he held off teammate Lewis Hamilton following Max Verstappen’s retirement.

A consistent if unspectacular start to the season has made Russell the de facto main challenger to Charles Leclerc, according to the standings, although he is looking for more out of his Mercedes car.

He told Sky Sports: “It’s a credit to everybody back at Brackley and Brixworth – it doesn’t matter how fast your car is if you’re not there at the end to pick up the pieces.

“This weekend we were probably the fifth-fastest team behind McLaren and Alpine, yet here we are standing with P3. I only just realised I’m P2 in the championship, which is just crazy.

“So we’ve got to be really proud of the job we’ve done so far with the lack of performance we’ve had. We believe we can get there but it’s not going to happen overnight and it will be a number of races before we close the gap.”

Hamilton trailed home Russell to wrap up a solid haul of points for Mercedes, who sit second in the Constructors’ Championship.

“It’s a great result, this weekend we’ve had so many difficult moments with the car so to get ourselves fifth and sixth in qualifying then progress like we have, with the reliablity, we definitely didn’t expect third and fourth,” Hamilton said afterwards.

“George did a great job today. I got to see a bit of the battle of him racing Perez and I wish I could have been in it – but nonetheless we take the points and keep pushing.

“I couldn’t fight [Russell] for third because the engine was overheating, so I had to back off. But we’ve bagged as many points as we could as a team, so that’s great.”

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