BRITON RUSSELL JOINS MERCEDES
F3 ace joins Young Driver Programme
George Russell insists that he’s not taking a Formula 1 outing with Mercedes as granted this year, despite being signed to the Silver Arrows’ successful Junior Driver Programme.
The 18-year-old Briton was unveiled as the newest Mercedes junior last week, and will dovetail his F1 duties with a full campaign in the GP3 Series with title-winning team ART Grand Prix.
Russell, who finished third in last year’s FIA Formula 3 European Championship and won the prestigious Mclaren Autosport BRDC Award in 2014, joins Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon in the driver training scheme.
With both Wehrlein and Ocon stepping up to full-time F1 seats this year, Russell is the only young driver on Mercedes’ roster that fits the criteria for the official young driver tests this year. Rules mandate that teams run drivers who have competed in two or less grands prix.
Despite him being Mercedes’ leading candidate to test, Russell played down talk that a run in the car was all but guaranteed.
“It’s true that I’m the only driver in the scheme who isn’t in F1, but anything could happen,” said Russell, from Wisbech.
“I’m in the frame, definitely, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve made it. I still have to do the job. I’m preparing myself physically to be ready if I get chosen to go in the car, but it’s not high on my agenda. My full focus is on GP3 and going out to win the championship this year.
“I’ve started doing some work in the simulator and it’s already clear that I’m working with people who are the best in the business, who I know will help me develop as a driver and as a person. This opportunity gives me huge motivation.”
Russell adds that success in GP3 this year is vital if he is to continue his chase for an F1 breakthrough. The series has proven a successful feeding ground in recent years, with Ocon and new Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas both recent graduates from the class.
“I think Mercedes are the best as far as looking after their young drivers who perform,” Russell said. “Just look at Esteban and Pascal, who have both been given amazing opportunities, but they still had to perform.
“Esteban won GP3 and Pascal won the DTM, so for me it all depends on this year really. If I do a good job I know Mercedes will take care of me. Obviously F1 is the target, but the short-term target is winning the GP3 Series. If I do that there’s no reason why I couldn’t jump straight from GP3 to F1.”
Mercedes’ Toto Wolff added: “George has shown impressive form in the junior categories and we’ve kept a close eye on him. It’s still early days in his career but we see great potential in him. GP3 will provide a good test of his credentials for the future.”
seat George Russell (above) joins Mercedes F1 team and gets GP3