Leading the race in Bahrain in car 63. Picture: georgerussell63.com

MOTOR SPORT: George Russell came within a whisker of clinching a debut Grand Prix victory when he stood in for Lewis Hamilton at the weekend.

The West Norfolk racer put on a spectacular performance for the Mercedes Formula 1 Team at the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain, coming agonisingly close to victory before he was foiled by a combination of an error by his pit team and a late puncture.

Russell did, however, score his first World Championship points after finishing in ninth place.

Afterwards Russell said he was “gutted” not to have notched the overall win.

“I don’t quite know how to sum up the mixture of emotions I’m feeling at the moment,” said Russell.

“On the one hand, I’m proud of the job we did this weekend. 

“I had a great group of people around me that was working very hard and diligently to get me prepared and ready for qualifying and the race.

“But today was absolutely gutting. I’ve had races before where I had a victory taken away from me, but it felt like that happened twice today, I still can’t quite believe it.

“I had everything under control after the start and was managing the race, looking after my tyres and keeping the gap to Valtteri.

“Then we had that mess-up during the pit stop, I think there were some issues with the comms.

“That put us on the back foot, but I think we still could have won. And then the car was starting to feel a bit funny; I didn’t want to believe it was a puncture, I just wanted to power through, but that obviously was not an option.

“I’m gutted, but also proud of what we have achieved and very happy to have had the opportunity to drive this car this weekend.”

Starting in second on the grid, Russell made a flying start to lead into the first turn ahead of Mercedes team-mate for the weekend, Valtteri Bottas.

After leading for most of the race, Russell looked set for an impressive win, only for the Safety Car to disrupt proceedings on lap 63.

Mercedes opted to bring both drivers into the pits and a tyre error forced Russell to make an additional pit stop one lap later.

Despite this setback, Russell fought back and was set to challenge Sergio Perez for victory in the final laps.

But a late left-rear puncture forced him into another stop, dropping him out of the top 10.

Undeterred, Russell fought back to finish ninth and take his first points, plus an additional point for the fastest lap.

Russell will be back for the final race of the Formula 1 season in Abu Dhabi this weekend.