George Russell says closing the performance gap to the rest of the Formula 1 teams while also outqualifying teammate Robert Kubica at every race are the “small victories from today” which Williams can enjoy after a tough season.

The British driver has pulled off a 21-0 qualifying record against his Williams teammate, matching Fernando Alonso’s feat which he achieved last year at McLaren versus Stoffel Vandoorne, and was pleasantly surprised by his qualifying pace despite having to settle for the familiar back of the grid position.

Russell’s 1m 38.717s was almost half a second faster than Kubica, while the F1 rookie was just 0.334s off Kimi Raikkonen in the Alfa Romeo when he had expected the gap to the next team to be around one second.

“It was good, prior to the weekend and after yesterday we were anticipating to be a second from the next car and I think we ended up being three-tenths off the next car and one second from Q2 so you’ve got to take the small victories from today,” Russell said. “I guess that is a small consolation in 21 qualifyings.

“You have to take the small victories and be pleased that we did the maximum with the car. Tomorrow we will do our best, it is our last opportunity until next year.”

It marks encouraging signs for Williams after its nightmare start to the 2019 F1 campaign with its uncompetitive car which arrived late at pre-season testing. Russell’s first qualifying of the season in Australia put him 1.3 seconds off the next nearest driver.

The 21-year-old also appears to have recovered from feeling unwell at the start of this weekend in Abu Dhabi.