Formula 1 managing director Ross Brawn was so impressed with George Russell’s scintillating performance in the Sakhir GP that he has labeled the Briton “world championship material”.
Russell was loaned by Williams to Mercedes for last weekend’s second round of racing in Bahrain to fill in for a COVID infected Lewis Hamilton.
Before the race weekend got under on Sakhir’s outer loop, team boss Toto Wolff said his protégé’s unexpected outing with the Brackley squad was first and foremost an opportunity to learn, but Russell spectacularly surpassed expectations from the outset and likely only missed out on a sensational debut win with Mercedes because of a costly and rare pit stop mistake by the German outfit’s crews.
“George should be very positive about this weekend, despite the disappointing final result,” commented Brawn in his Sakhir GP debrief.
“He delivered an exceptional performance in pretty challenging circumstances.
“I always thought he was a good Grand Prix driver. We’ve commented in this column before how good he has looked, but you never know if he has that last little bit of speed that marks you out as brilliant driver.
F1i’s Driver Ratings for the 2020 Sakhir GP
“George demonstrated that he has got that extra little bit – and a star is born.
“There is now no doubt that he’s F1 world champion material.
“He didn’t make any mistakes in a challenging situation and all the problems were the team’s, not his. And he drove impeccably until he had the win taken away.”
“He will be very frustrated not to have won but I don’t think he should be. He’s registered on the scale now. Any doubts anyone had, will be gone. Clearly he’s exceptional.”
While Russell was voted 4driver of the Day’ by F1’s fans, the other man of the day was race winner Sergio Perez who charged from the back of the field after being spun by Charles Leclerc on the race’s opening lap to a resounding maiden win in F1 with Racing Point.
Brawn was equally impressed by the Mexican’s performance, but like most in the paddock, the F1 boss can’t wrap his head around the fact that Perez may be left off the grid next year.
“This was a thoroughly deserved victory for Checo,” said Brawn. “I said in this column last week Racing Point may be feeling they underachieved.
“Well they corrected the scales yesterday – big time. And all credit to them. They were there and picked up the pieces and Checo just drove brilliantly.
“We all want to see him next year. It’ll be a tragedy if he can’t get a car. The team must be thinking about the decisions they have made, losing him when he’s driving so well.
“His replacement Sebastian Vettel I’m sure will come back stronger, as he’s in a bit of a trough at the moment, but Checo is a guaranteed deal.
“So that’ll be interesting to see how that develops. In a way, Seb has some fairly big shoes to fill now, even if he’s a world champion.”
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