Newly-crowned Formula 2 champion George Russell admits it is a “huge relief” to finally seal the title in Abu Dhabi, following what he described as a “tough” year.

The ART Grand Prix driver recovered from a number of set-backs early on in the campaign to convincingly beat Alexander Albon and Lando Norris to the championship, which he wrapped up with a race to spare thanks to his seventh win of 2018 in the Abu Dhabi feature race.

Russell, who matched previous champions Charles Leclerc and Stoffel Vandoorne’s joint-record of most victories in a season, also replicated the achievements of Ferrari-bound Leclerc in winning back-to-back titles in GP3 and F2.

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“It’s a huge sigh of relief to be honest,” Russell said.

“It’s been a very long and tough year for myself and ART, and we’ve worked really hard and probably from Baku we’ve been one of the quickest on track every single time.

“We’ve had a number of issues that have been hugely frustrating, but others have as well and it’s been a little difficult to get this across the line.

“But that pole yesterday you saw the emotions there, and obviously we knew what we had to do today: to win it in style, and that’s what we did.”

Following his impressive rookie season, Russell will graduate to F1 next year after the Mercedes junior was signed by British squad Williams, where he will partner the returning Robert Kubica.

He will be joined on the F1 grid by fellow Brit Norris. The new McLaren recruit led the F2 standings for the first half of the season as Russell suffered from a series of reliability issues that put him on the back foot in the title race.

Russell said he was grateful for the tough situations he faced early on in the season as he believes it ultimately helped him become a stronger driver, citing his poor race at the Bahrain opener as a key learning curve.

“It’s certainly taught me is that there’s no negative race, because any poor race you have you learn something from it and take it forward,” he explained.

“I think that’s something looking back that I’m glad that our first race in Bahrain was so poor, because we had bad race pace, the car wasn’t good and I was driving the wrong way to get the most out of the tyres.

“We came away from that race learning so much that we put into good use in the following races, whereas if I’d had a better race we might have thought we’re almost there and not learnt as much.

“So if it’s a good or a bad weekend, there’s always something to take out of it.”