Mika Hakkinen: George Russell has potential to keep “incredible” Hamilton behind him in 2023
George Russell beat Lewis Hamilton in the F1 championship last season, and two-time champ Mika Hakkinen reckons he can do it again
George Russell ended his first campaign with Mercedes with a 25-point cushion over teammate Lewis Hamilton in 2022, and double world champion Mika Hakkinen has backed the 24-year-old to come out on top again next season.
Many wondered how Russell would fare against a driver of Hamilton’s calibre, but the young Brit - who raced with Williams for the first three years of his F1 career - adapted brilliantly despite the team’s W13 car suffering from extreme porpoising in the first half of the year.
Russell scored eight podiums from 22 races, including a maiden grand prix victory in Sao Paulo in which he held off Hamilton under immense pressure in the final few laps.
“What he did in Brazil, it was brilliant,” Hakkinen told TG.com ahead of the final race in Abu Dhabi. “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 1 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.’”
The momentum ebbed and flowed between the Mercedes pair as the season progressed, with Russell impressing with his early consistency as Hamilton tended towards more experimental set-ups in an effort to cure the car of its bouncing problems.
Meanwhile Lewis enjoyed a streak of head-to-head wins qualifying in the middle part of the year - interrupted only by Russell’s pole position in Hungary and an engine penalty at Monza - and ended with nine podium places to his name, including five P2s.
So where does Russell need to improve in 2023? “The list is unbelievably long when you start fine-tuning every aspect of being a racing driver,” explains Hakkinen. “But he has already a massively long career behind him.
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“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.”