Damon Hill said Lando Norris showed his true potential when leading in Russia last week, calling him the “star of the weekend”.
Norris had started on pole, led for the majority of the race and only a choice to stay out as the rain came down in the final laps stopped him from claiming his first Formula 1 victory.
The McLaren driver, who was understandably “devastated” after his win slipped away, received plenty of support from fans and from within the Formula 1 community after the race.
Double World Champion Mika Hakkinen said the 21-year-old should not be blamed for taking a “brave gamble” to try and hold onto the lead late on, and 1996 title winner Hill agreed that the McLaren man showed himself in a good light at Sochi.
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“The star of the weekend was Lando Norris,” Hill said on the F1 Nation podcast. “He didn’t win the race, he got pole position, but he drove absolutely magnificently under quite a lot of pressure from a seven-time World Champion behind him.
“And with Carlos [Sainz] as well, he had a lot to deal with. I loved it when [Will Joseph, race engineer] came on the radio and said: ‘How much pace have you got in these tyres?’ and [Norris] said: ‘Well, what do you want? I can give you whatever you like’.
“He was very cool on the radio. I know he got a bit shirty at the end, but that’s because he didn’t want to be talked to when he was trying to concentrate on driving slicks in the wet, but you can understand that. I think he was a star.”
After taking his best ever finish in Formula 1 the race before in Italy, Hill added that Norris would have probably been left slightly wanting after team-mate Daniel Ricciardo took victory.
Nonetheless, Hill feels that, if anyone hadn’t taken notice of his quality by now, they’ll know just how fast he can be.
“He missed out in Monza, Daniel [Ricciardo] stole the show there and I think that Lando probably felt slightly aggrieved that he’d done so well all season, and it wasn’t him to win the race,” Hill explained.
“Then there he was, leading in Russia and, sadly, didn’t quite get to the line but he’s made his mark, hasn’t he? He really has shown what he’s capable of.”