George Russell impresses as late puncture costs chance of Grand Prix win in place of world champion Lewis Hamilton
Late misfortune denied Lynn-born racer George Russell a podium finish and even a potential race win on his debut for the Mercedes Formula 1 team in Bahrain this evening.
The 22-year-old finished ninth in the Sakhir Grand Prix won by Mexico's Sergio Perez - collecting his first World Championship points in the process.
But, having led for much of the 87 lap race, a late puncture finally cost him hopes of victory, after a hugely impressive showing in place of world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Having qualified on the front row of the grid yesterday, Russell passed team-mate Valtteri Bottas at the start and built a lead of more than eight seconds following the first round of pit stops.
Shortly after that, though, the former Wisbech Grammar School pupil reported a problem with his power unit as Bottas began to reduce the deficit.
A disastrous second pit stop, taken during a safety car period ironically caused by a crash involving the Williams car that Russell would otherwise have been driving then dropped him to fifth place with less than a quarter of the race to go.
But he climbed back up to second, only to drop out of contention altogether when he was forced to pit again by a puncture and climb up from 15th to eventually finish in the points. He also collected the extra point for the fastest lap of the race.
It is not yet clear whether Russell will keep the Mercedes seat for next week's season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Earlier today, Mercedes reported Hamilton was recovering after testing positive for coronavirus, but indicated it was unlikely he would be fit to return.
But Russell's performance will undoubtedly have impressed Mercedes team bosses, as well as increasing calls for him to be Hamilton's full-time team-mate next year.