Charles Leclerc says finishing best of the rest behind Formula 1’s leading three teams at the Russian Grand Prix “felt like a victory” for Sauber.

Following up on securing Sauber’s best qualifying result of the V6 hybrid era, Leclerc made a brilliant start and pulled off a pair of stunning overtakes on Esteban Ocon and Kevin Magnussen to make early gains.

Leclerc - who will join Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari next season - ultimately dropped behind the recovering Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo but crossed the line a strong seventh as the only driver aside from those in the top three teams to finish on the lead lap.

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“I gave it everything today. Finishing 7th after the top teams feels like a victory. It was a perfect race for me and the team did a great job,” Leclerc said.

“I think it was very good that I could get past Esteban and Kevin very quickly because then we knew it would be very difficult to overtake on this track.

“To be in front of them was a huge advantage. They straightaway lost a bit by being behind, they couldn't really follow. It was great to see and it was a great race for us today.”

The result marked Leclerc’s second consecutive top 10 finish and moved Sauber within three points of eighth-placed Toro Rosso.

Sauber team principal Frederic Vasseur added: “It was a great event for us. We had good starting positions, and both drivers did a consistent job throughout the race.

“Charles showed some impressive overtakes in the opening laps of the race, and delivered when it was important. He was strong in managing his tyres and overall had a very strong race.

“It is a good sign for us as a team to have one of our cars finish in 7th place in a smooth race. We have to continue pushing and we will see what is possible in Japan.”

Marcus Ericsson was unable to join his teammate in the top 10 as his hopes of converting his best qualifying of the season into points faded, finishing 13th. 

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