George Russell revealed that he had been feeling under the weather for the last few weeks, but he overcame his ailments to take a podium in Abu Dhabi and help Mercedes finish in second place the constructors championship.
Russell said he had been “probably coughing four times a lap” during the race, adding: “It was pretty miserable out there which which didn’t help things, but I’d say it’s just massive relief to have brought the car home in P3.
"I’ve let the side down a couple of times this year, so I'm pleased to have brought it across the line today.”
The team went into the season finale just four points ahead of Ferrari. With Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz starting outside the top ten and Charles Leclerc on the front row, everything was on Russell's shoulders on Sunday.
It wasn't the greatest of starts for the Briton, who slipped behind Lando Norris when the lights went out to get the race underway. But he was able to recover the lost spot from Oscar Piastri on lap 14 before his first pit stop.
That allowed him to undercut Norris to climb into the top three, which is where he needed to be if Leclerc was to finish the race in second if Hamilton was unable to contribute to the points battle by staying in the top ten.
However as the race entered the final laps, Sergio Perez was able to surge past him into third place. The only silver lining was that Perez had incurred a five second penalty for hitting Norris, so Russell simply had to stay within that.
His task was complicated by some rare team work between Ferrari and Red Bull, with Leclerc allowing Perez to pass him in bid to help the Mexican get far enough ahead to claim the podium. In the end he fell a second short.
That meant Russell finished on the podium with Verstappen and Leclerc, his second top three finish of the season after taking P3 in Barcelona in June.
“I can’t believe it’s only the second podium of the year, but really happy to end the season this way," he commented in parc ferme after the race.
“It was tight with Checo at the end,” said Russell. “I thought Charles was going to back me up, but respect to him for keeping it clean. We can chill out now."
Russell admitted that without the Perez penalty, there would have been no chance that he could have done anything to stay ahead of the Red Bull in those closing laps.
“I came out of the pits on the second set of hards, I was managing a bit and then Checo just came from nowhere," he said. "I don’t know what happened there, they had great pace.
“It was really tense at the end the tyres were dropping off, but I'm just really pleased to have secured P2 for the team. We’re going to have a few drinks tonight!
“There’s so many people back at the factory in Brackley and Brixworth who worked so hard to to achieve this," he acknowledged. "It has been a really challenging season.”
Russell said that he was already looking forward to next year and a hopefully improved Mercedes allowing them to take the battle to their rivals from from the start.
Hamilton did manage to win his battle to stay in the points, crossing the line in ninth place despite losing out to Fernando Alonso in the closing laps.
Overall, Mercedes team principal said he had been confident that his drivers the engineers would be able to deliver what was needed today, praising Russell on his 'exceptional' performance in Abu Dhabi.