The Briton kept up his impressive qualifying record by advancing into Q2 for the seventh straight race at Paul Ricard but made a poor start, dropping places from 14th.

Russell recovered strongly by passing the likes of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and AlphaTauri rookie Yuki Tsunoda, as well as beating the fading Ferrari of Charles Leclerc to take P12 at the chequered flag.

While the result did not match Russell’s highest-placed finish for Williams of 11th, it was achieved on a day when no drivers retired.

"It was a really great race from within,” Russell told Sky Sports F1.

“I managed to do a couple of great overtakes and I did a really nice one with [Yuki] Tsunoda at the end which for us, finishing ahead of these cars, the Alfas, [Esteban] Ocon and overtaking Tsunoda on track and finishing 12th on merit, I would go as far as saying that is probably our best-ever race together [with Williams].

“It is a shame nothing happened in front because as I said 12th on merit is ordinarily quite a good result, but nevertheless I’m really pleased with that. It is a good way to start the three weeks.”

The result lifted Williams above rivals Haas to ninth in the constructors’ standings and Russell revealed their championship battle was on his mind during the race.

“I actually had this in the back of my mind,” he said. "If we’re not in the points, we need to focus on getting that P9 back in the championship.

“We obviously don’t know if Haas will score points this year or not but it’s about making sure we finish as high as possible. P12 today, back in P9 in the Constructors’, this is very important for the team.”