Former World Champion Mika Hakkinen has hailed George Russell’s 'perfect' performance in his maiden win at Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix, saying the Briton's victory will be the first of many.
Having overtaken Max Verstappen to finish first in Saturday's Sprint race, Russell repeated the trick on Sunday with a victory in which he was never truly threatened at the front.
Russell also dealt with the pressure of two Safety Car restarts with relative ease, and Hakkinen talked up the consummate nature of the Briton's performance.
"The racing was brilliant this weekend and George really deserves the win after putting in such a strong performance," Hakkinen told Unibet.
"He was the quickest Mercedes driver in Friday qualifying, then won Saturday's Sprint race in a very impressive way.
"To be clear, he drove a perfect Grand Prix on Sunday – made a fantastic start, opened up a gap and did not allow Safety Car periods to interfere with his confidence.
"He had quite a lot of pressure to deal with, especially when Lewis Hamilton came to within 1.5 seconds of him, but he managed his lead perfectly."
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Russell 'full of motivation', says Hakkinen
Hakkinen, who won 20 Grands Prix and two World Championship titles across a ten-year stint in F1, added that Russell's win was the first of many, referencing the Briton's early F1 days in uncompetitive machinery.
"This feels like the first of many wins for George. He is at the right moment in his career, still only 24 and full of motivation," said Hakkinen.
"He did three years at Williams, learning F1 in a less competitive car, and he very nearly won his debut race for Mercedes when Lewis [Hamilton] missed the Sakhir Grand Prix [due to COVID] in 2020.
"He has had to wait until this weekend to have a competitive car again, but as soon as he had the right equipment he delivered the win."
Having been off the pace at the beginning of the season as they struggled with bouncing and porpoising issues, Mercedes have closed the gap to the front of the field throughout 2022, and Hakkinen said the Silver Arrows' return to form in Brazil laid the foundations for a stronger future ahead.
"One of the most impressive things to watch this year has been Mercedes' recovery," said Hakkinen.
"Their car was not working well at all during the first half of the season, but they never gave up and have developed it to the point where, in Brazil this weekend, it was very competitive.
"That's important for them, but also for Formula 1, because it means that Mercedes has understood the issues with this year's car and should be much stronger in 2023."
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