Motorsport Blog
Topic

Motorsport Blog

Britain’s next F1 star driver? Mercedes signs George Russell to its junior programme

Mercedes has signed up-and-coming British teenage racer George Russell to its junior driver programme.

Britain’s next F1 star driver? Mercedes signs George Russell to its junior programme

Mercedes has signed up-and-coming British teenage racer George Russell to its junior driver programme. He will work alongside Lewis Hamilton, Britain's three time F1 world champion, who turns 32 this month, Valtteri Bottas and two other junior drivers, already in F1.

So the prospects are good that he will make a name for himself and enter F1 in the next few years.

Russell, the 2014 BRDC Formula 4 champion and the winner of the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Award that same season, joins Sauber's Pascal Wehrlein and Force India's Esteban Ocon on Mercedes’ junior scheme.

Mercedes have been monitoring Russell for some time and he attended the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the end of last season for meetings. The engineers there rate the affable 18-year-old highly and he has already begun working in the world champion team’s simulator at Brackley. Russell will compete in the GP3 series this season, a championship that Ocon won back in 2015 before he was placed in Mercedes’ DTM programme for half a year before joining the Manor F1 team alongside Wehrlein. Bottas also graduated straight to F1 from his GP3 title win.

George Russell

Speaking as the news was announced, Russell said: “It's great to be part of the Junior Programme. It is an incredible opportunity to have the backing of the Formula 1 World Champions. I'm proud to have been given this kind of recognition for all the hard work that's gone into my career over the years so far."

"I've started doing some work with the team in the simulator and it's already become clear to me 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.

“Of course, my priority is to get the job done over the coming season in GP3 and I'm fully focused on that. But this opportunity is a huge motivation and I'm looking forward to the challenge. It should be an exciting year ahead."

George Russell

Russell will race for the ART squad in GP3 – the same team that ran Ocon and newly signed Mercedes works driver Valtteri Bottas during their title-winning campaigns in that series – and Mercedes’ motorsport boss Toto Wolff sees the championship, which is on the F1 support bill, as the perfect place to evaluate his progress.

He said: "George has shown impressive form in the junior categories and we've been keeping a close eye on him for a while now. It's still early days in his career but we see great potential in him.

"George's next challenge in GP3 will provide a good test of his credentials for the future. We have already seen with Esteban how effective this series can be as a training ground and, of course, this is the Championship which propelled Valtteri into Formula 1, so we will follow George's progress with great interest."

Russell has competed in the FIA Formula 3 championship for the last two seasons and scored two wins, ten podiums and three pole positions on his way to third in the 2016 standings behind new Williams recruit, Lance Stroll.

Pascal Wehrlein Esteban Ocon

A spot on the Mercedes junior programme is a good place to be for a driver at a similar stage in their career to Russell. Although today’s announcement makes no mention of him getting F1 practice session or test running in 2017, the manufacturer has found both Wehrlein and Ocon seats in F1, and, assuming he continues to be successful, if there are no free slots in the coming years then a race seat in the DTM championship would at least keep him racing at a high level.

Britain's next F1 star driver

When Lewis Hamilton eventually retires, British F1 fans will be anxious to ensure that they still have more top drivers to support in the future. Britain has had strong representation at the top level consistently since the 1960s and with money so important to driver development, finding the next great talent is very challenging. Italy has not had an F1 driver since Jarno Trulli and has not had multiple representatives since the demise of tobacco sponsorship in the sport, which funded many Italian F1 stars.

The good news for British F1 fans is that Russell is one of two highly-rated teenage talents knocking on the door of F1, with his fellow McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner Lando Norris expected to break into the championship in next two or three years. Norris is backed by McLaren team boss Zak Brown and has an F1 test and a season working in the McLaren F1 Simulator ahead of him, as well as his Euro F3 racing commitments.

What do you make of the news that George Russell will join the Mercedes junior driver scheme? Do you think he could be the next British F1 star? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JA on F1 Facebook page for more discussion.
shares
comments
Mercedes signs Russell as F1 junior driver

Previous article

Mercedes signs Russell as F1 junior driver

Next article

Ecclestone: My F1 future now in Liberty's hands

Ecclestone: My F1 future now in Liberty's hands
Load comments
How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential Prime

How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential

Yuki Tsunoda arrived in grand prix racing amid a whirlwind of hype, which only increased after his first race impressed the biggest wigs in Formula 1. His road since has been rocky and crash-filled, and OLEG KARPOV asks why Red Bull maintains faith in a driver who admits he isn’t really that big a fan of F1?

The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages Prime

The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages

OPINION: After Lewis Hamilton responded to reports labelling him 'furious' with Mercedes following his heated exchanges over team radio during the Russian Grand Prix, it provided a snapshot on how Formula 1 broadcasting radio snippets can both illuminate and misrepresent the true situation

Formula 1
Oct 14, 2021
How F1’s pole winner approach undermines drivers Prime

How F1’s pole winner approach undermines drivers

OPINION: Valtteri Bottas is credited with pole position for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, despite being beaten in qualifying. This is another example of Formula 1 and the FIA scoring an own goal by forgetting what makes motorsport magic, with the Istanbul race winner also a victim of this in the championship’s recent history

Formula 1
Oct 13, 2021
Turkish Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Turkish Grand Prix driver ratings

On a day that the number two Mercedes enjoyed a rare day in the sun, the Turkish Grand Prix produced several standout drives - not least from a driver who has hit a purple patch of late

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for Turkey glory Prime

The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for Turkey glory

Starting 11th after his engine change grid penalty, Lewis Hamilton faced a tough task to repeat his Turkish Grand Prix heroics of 2020 - despite making strong early progress in the wet. Instead, his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas broke through for a first win of the year to mitigate Max Verstappen re-taking the points lead

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
How pitstops evolved into an F1 art form Prime

How pitstops evolved into an F1 art form

A Formula 1 pitstop is a rapid-fire blend of high technology and human performance. PAT SYMONDS describes how the science of margin gains makes stops so quick

Formula 1
Oct 10, 2021
Why Mercedes' Istanbul edge is both stronger and weaker than it seems Prime

Why Mercedes' Istanbul edge is both stronger and weaker than it seems

Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton dominated the opening day of action for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, on the Istanbul circuit’s much improved track surface. But the Black Arrows squad’s position isn’t quite what it seems. Here’s why...

Formula 1
Oct 8, 2021
The rise and fall of Lotus as an F1 superpower Prime

The rise and fall of Lotus as an F1 superpower

On 8 October 1961, Innes Ireland claimed victory at the United States Grand Prix to herald the true arrival of a new Formula 1 giant. While Team Lotus endured plenty of highs and lows until the team folded over three decades later, Colin Chapman's squad made F1 history and helped shape the championship.

Formula 1
Oct 8, 2021