George Russell needed permission to attack Lewis Hamilton

George Russell's podium charge was ruined by a five-second time penalty and a botched pitstop by Mercedes.

It was a season finale to forget for Mercedes, who suffered their first technical-based retirement of the season late on, following an issue for Lewis Hamilton.

After locking out the third row in qualifying, Hamilton made an electric start to the race and overtook Carlos Sainz into Turn One.

The Spaniard was eventually back ahead of the British driver, though, after Hamilton was forced to give the position back to Sainz after cutting across Turn Seven.

As they went into Turn Six on the opening lap, Sainz dived down the inside of Hamilton, with the 37-year-old opting to go across the next corner rather than attempt to make it.

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He also decided initially to stay ahead of Sainz, before being asked by Mercedes to give the Ferrari driver P4.

It didn’t take long, though, for Hamilton to take the position back; however, he then began to bizarrely struggle.

Sainz easily got ahead of Hamilton once again, after the seven-time World Champion’s pace disappeared.

Hamilton then quickly found himself being caught by George Russell, who asked the team how they wanted to play the situation.

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“What’s going on?” Russell asked Mercedes.

“You’re free to race,” replied Russell’s race engineer.

It wasn’t then long until Russell was also ahead of Hamilton, who then set his sights on Sainz.

Ferrari’s pace was clearly a shock to both Mercedes and Red Bull, with the Scuderia having been absolutely nowhere up until qualifying.

Russell’s podium chances soon disintegrated at his first pit-stop, following a very unsafe release by his side, who let Russell leave the pits right as Lando Norris was going past the Mercedes garage.

The former Williams driver was given a five-second time penalty as a result, something he served at his final pit-stop.

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This did, though, make for an uneventful race for Russell, who was overtaken by his team-mate towards the end of the season finale after he found some considerably better pace.

Hamilton actually retired with a few laps remaining following Mercedes’ first technical reliability of the season, meaning Russell finished P5 at the end of the race.

This sealed him fourth in the Drivers’ Championship, making him just the third team-mate to finish above Hamilton in a Drivers’ Championship.