In a mightily impressive rookie Mercedes campaign, Russell became the first teammate to outscore Lewis Hamilton in six years, finishing fourth in the F1 2022 drivers’ standings, two places and 35 points clear of his seven-time world champion teammate. 

Despite what proved to be a hugely challenging season for Mercedes with a car that was largely not competitive, Russell claimed the team’s sole victory of 2022 with a superb drive in Brazil to beat Hamilton. 

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His performances caught the eye of two-time F1 world champion Hakkinen, who has backed Russell to come out on top again next season. 

“What he did in Brazil, it was brilliant,” Hakkinen told Top Gear Magazine. “The team has improved the car massively, so they can win races. Is he able to continue that trend?

“If he can keep with that experience what he has in Mercedes, and experience what he has in Formula One in general, he can keep Lewis behind. It’s really impressive.

“Because Lewis is incredible. Incredible personality, incredible driver. So if George can go for it, then I think England can look like ‘Wow, what a driver we have.”

And Hakkinen believes Russell, who starred in uncompetitive machinery at Williams for three years prior to joining Mercedes, has all the potential to become a future world champion. 

“The list is unbelievably long when you start fine-tuning every aspect of being a racing driver,” Hakkinen explained. “But he has already a massively long career behind him.

“Talking about karting, all those other categories, and his knowledge of data, his capabilities handling the car in extreme situations… I am confident he has all the potential to be a great driver, potential becoming a world champion.”