Williams Formula 1 driver George Russelll says he was “relieved” to put a nightmare Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend behind him.

The British rookie started the Baku weekend battling illness and saw his running hampered when he hit a loose manhole cover just 15 minutes into Friday’s opening practice session, which forced him to sit out of FP2 while Williams carried out repairs to his heavily-damaged FW42.

Despite his lack of mileage, Russell was able to out-qualify teammate Robert Kubica before enduring another lonely race on his way to finishing two laps down in 15th.

“It was as good as could be really,” he said. “We knew coming into this weekend that it would probably be the hardest weekend of the year for us.

“Put that on top of myself being really ill since the start of last week, and then Friday with the manhole cover ruining the whole of Friday and the guys having to work all day and through the night to get the car fixed, I was quite relieved for the weekend to be over.”

Russell faced an interesting end to the race when the squabbling race-leading Mercedes pair of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton came up to lap him.

“I was aware they were racing,” Russell explained. “I had put on the soft tyres at the end and just couldn’t get them working so I felt like I was driving on ice.

“And I was like ‘Bloody hell, I hope I don’t get in the way here or do anything stupid!’ Especially being Mercedes and everything.

“They flew by and before I knew it I couldn’t see them anymore, but good TV time, eh?"

It was a miserable weekend all-round for Williams, as Kubica “paid a high price” for a hefty qualifying crash by starting the race from the pit lane, only to be handed a drive-through penalty for being sent to the end of the pit lane nine minutes too early.

His race was plagued by braking issues throughout, leaving him low on confidence in a car that was “uncomfortable” to drive.

“It wasn’t an easy race,” Kubica said. “I made it more complicated yesterday by putting the car on the wall.

“Thanks to the guys, they did a very good job, I was able to start the race, we chose to start from the pit lane for technical reasons.

“I was nearly on the wall already on the first braking, it was a good warning. Unfortunately, I suffered all weekend with some issues on braking, the pedal of the car was pulling to one side, I got this big warning which was kind of wake up [call] and tried to bring the car home.

“It wasn’t easy as following cars on opening laps was not giving you at all confidence, and with walls next to you and with poor grip we are having it’s really uncomfortable to drive. Stayed positive in the end and we managed to finish the race. Was a long race but thanks to all the team we were able to do it.”

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