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George Russell

SUNDAY’S Brazilian Grand Prix saw the UK’s George Russell score the first win of his Formula 1 career, starting from pole position and ultimately defending his lead from team mate Lewis Hamilton during the closing stages of the race.  After a difficult season, this was Mercedes’ first win of the year.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz drove well to finish 3rd, just ahead of team mate Charles Leclerc, while Fernando Alonso was a strong 5th for Alpine.

Red Bull Racing suffered a poor weekend. Max Verstappen was penalised 5 seconds for colliding with Hamilton at the start of lap 7, but after recovering to challenge Alonso for 5th place he refused to allow team mate Sergio Perez to repass despite previous assistance from the Mexican.

“The racing was brilliant this weekend and George really deserves the win after putting in such a strong performance,” said Mika Hakkinen.  “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.”

“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.  He did those three years at Williams, learning F1 in a less competitive car, and he very nearly won his debut race for Mercedes when Lewis missed the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain 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.”

“One of the most impressive things to watch this year has been Mercedes’ recovery.  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.”

Having won both the 2022 World Championship for Drivers and Constructors, Red Bull Racing endured a difficult weekend.  In the Saturday Sprint Race Max Verstappen faded from 2nd place on the grid to finish 4th – his car running on medium tyres while his competitors were running soft compounds.  In the Grand Prix the World Champion’s Red Bull collided with Lewis Hamilton’s car at Turn 2 on lap 7, sending both cars off the track and causing Verstappen to make a pit stop for a new nosecone.

“The Red Bulls struggled this weekend and it looks like a changing temperatures really affected their tyre performance. They decided to run Max on mediums on Saturday, but even on softs they did not have the consistency of either Mercedes or Ferrari,” said Mika.  “This shows just how sensitive even a World Championship winning car can be, circuit to circuit.  Max and Sergio were not able to produce the dominant performance we are used to seeing.”

“The collision between Max and Lewis looked like a racing incident, but the Stewards decided that it was mainly Max’s fault and awarded a 5 second penalty.  I thought that was tough because at Turn 1 Max was ahead, then Lewis stayed wide into Turn 2 and was ahead as they turned into the next apex.  No one was wants to crash, especially drivers who are used to winning races.  Max could have backed out, lifted the throttle, but we are talking about a fraction of a second in which to make that decision.”

“Two points came out of this incident.  The first is that Lewis drove brilliantly to come back through the field, finish 2nd and even push George for the win.  Really incredible, pushing his car all the way and getting a huge amount of support from the Brazilian fans who have taken Lewis to their heart because of his lifelong support for my former team mate Ayrton Senna.  The second is that Max’s pit stop for a new front noise section only cost him 10 seconds – that’s an incredible achievement by the Red Bull mechanics.  With his car working again he was able to drive flat out to finish 6th – not the biggest result of his career, but a fantastic achievement thanks to the team.”

Regarding Verstappen’s refusal to allow team mate Sergio Perez to repass him, Mika Hakkinen is clear.

“The team always comes first and if you have an agreement about how you and your team mate work together it is always best to keep to that.  None of us know the precise terms of Max’s agreement with Red Bull, but clearly he is the number one driver and in return he has brought them two world titles.  “

“However Sergio has been a big help to Max at times, and together they have won the teams’ championship this year, so it would be good to see Max help Sergio to finish 2nd in the World Championship for Drivers.  Particularly now that Sergio and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc are on equal points.  I see that Christian Horner has confirmed that they have discussed the situation, shaken hands and are focusing on helping Sergio finish 2nd in the Abu Dhabi in two weeks time, so it will be interesting to see what happens.”

“I am looking forward to the final race.  The battle for 2nd place in both the Drivers and Teams championships is still alive and it’s going to be fascinating.  Ferrari will want to beat Mercedes, Charles will want to beat Sergio, so there is still a lot at stake.”

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