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Concerns for Hamilton, Russell after ‘challenging’ season for Mercedes

Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton (L) and teammate Mercedes' British driver George Russell participate in the opening ceremony for the Las Vegas Grand Prix on 15 November 2023, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP)

George Russell and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton breathed a sigh of relief on Sunday after steering Mercedes to second place in the constructors’ championship, three points ahead of Ferrari.

Their third and ninth-place finishes in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix secured the points that eased their team into the runners-up spot.

“This day, it feels like you’ve won and that’s great,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff. “We’ve got to be happy about that.”

Russell praised the “sporting” driving of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc who could have slowed him down to allow the Red Bull of Sergio Perez to make a late charge on the Briton’s third place which would have resulted in the Italians sneaking the second spot in the constructors’ championship.

“It was tight with Checo (Perez) at the end,” he said. “I thought Charles was going to back me up, but respect him for keeping it clean.”

But both Russell, who finished eighth in the overall standings, and Hamilton, who was third albeit 341 points behind the champion Max Verstappen, had regrets and concerns when they looked back on an underwhelming season.

For the two British drivers, it was a winless season and more broadly, the first barren one since 1952 without a British driver or a British team winning a race to prompt a rendition of the British anthem.

“It’s been a massive relief to bring the car home P3,” said Russell. “I can’t believe it’s only the second podium of the year.

“It’s been such a challenging season and I’ve let the side down a couple of times this year so I’m pleased today.

Hamilton, who holds the F1 record with 103 wins, has now gone two years without a victory.

“It hasn’t been a great year and there isn’t a lot to take from it,” he said.

“The fact that I survived it is about all.

“Next season? At this moment, I really don’t know.

“For Red Bull to win by 17 seconds in the end – and they haven’t developed their car since August – is definitely a concern.

“We’ve learned a lot about our car and it is down to the team now.”

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