Russell won the F1 Sao Paulo Grand Prix, the first win of his career, by leading a Mercedes 1-2 ahead of Hamilton.

Team orders were issued for the teammates to “race but be respectful” with the finish line in sight.

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Russell said: “There was a moment in the race when I looked in my mirrors and saw Lewis…

“I realised: ‘I just need to look forward now - the only way I win this race is if I look ahead, drive as fast as I can, and make no mistakes’.”

Asked if he was surprised by Mercedes orders to race his teammate, Russell said: “Yes and no. We have always said that we are free to race.

“Toto Wolff and the team put a lot of trust and faith into Lewis and I.

“We’ve had a few side-by-side moments and it’s always been respectful. We have huge respect for each other.

“I just wanted to understand our position. Because I knew how important the 1-2 was for the team. So if we weren’t racing, then bring the car home. If we were? Every lap, risk at every corner, because the laps have to be perfect.

“I was happy to win it this way.”

Russell won Saturday’s sprint race then, from pole position, won Sunday’s race at Interlagos to give Mercedes their first win of the 2022 season at the penultimate opportunity.

“So many emotions,” he reflected. “I have dreamt of this moment many times. You never know how it will pan out.

“The race was well-managed. Everything was under control. I knew how quick Lewis was.

“I put together a strong string of laps, very few mistakes. The pressure Lewis put me under was immense!

“I knew that having Lewis alongside me, and Max in my mirrors, it would not be a straightforward race. But I believed.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has won back-to-back titles, and clashed with old rival Hamilton at Interlagos.

Mercedes’ improving performances and Russell’s victory have teed up a fascinating title battle next season.

Hamilton said: “This is a massive boost to the whole team’s morale. We are still the best team. We will get back to being more consistent next year. I am excited for that battle.”

Russell: “If this is what Lewis and I are capable of when the car is suboptimal, who knows what we can achieve.

“We lost so much time trying to solve the porpoising issues. That really hurt our development. This is why we are seeing a jump in performance. Because we are no longer focused on porpoising - we are focused on performance.”